Understanding What Depression Feels Like
1Understand the daily cycle of depression. For someone who is depressed, life is a series of bouts of dread followed by bouts of energy. Depression can be marked by exhaustion at the end of the day, which leads to a deep sleep, that despite the time is often not restful.  Then, the mornings are greeted with dread and anxiety that make it difficult to get out of bed. That dread and anxiety become a weight that holds onto the person, making just rising out of bed seem like an insurmountable task. This dread and anxiety gives the feeling that the person is suffocating or drowning in despair. It’s a heavy burden to bear.
- However, this can be followed by a burst of energy that can allow the person to accomplish a whole range of activities while it lasts. Following the energy burst there is a feeling of exhaustion once more which starts the whole vicious cycle again. It can seem like an inescapable cycle.
2Know that the emotional pain gives way to literal pain. Depression can manifest itself as a physical-feeling pain with no specific origin and no body part in particular. In fact, depression diagnoses can be difficult to make sometimes because patients sometimes only discuss their physical symptoms. 
- What’s more, this pain is often chronic and typically involves multiple bodily areas, meaning it tends to stick around for long periods of time.
3Learn that depression makes everything more difficult. With depression, any kind of movement can feel like a major chore. For some, it’s nearly impossible to handle day-to-day tasks. It becomes difficult to get up and to do more than just roll over in bed. It seems to require a veritable plan to even go across the room — the depressed person may need to work up the energy just to do so. 
- There can be a difficulty carrying on a conversation, because the effort to express oneself can seem too great. This inability to move physically manifests in just about any form — even mere thought requires work, much less conversation.
4Expect a change in perspective. The way the surroundings look can be affected by depression. When reality looks bleaker, it is difficult for one to maintain a sunny disposition. Even the sun can look less cheerful in its sheen and feel like it’s lost some of its warmth. Everything gets cast in a grayer glow. Those will less severe depression may experience something called “depressive realism.” People typically have a bias to see the world and themselves in a positive light, but this fades away with depressive realism.
- Dark days take on a more gloomy tone and mornings do not appear to have the gloss of newness with untold possibilities. Whatever optimism the person had, it’s now gone — regardless of what positive events ensue.
5Realize that enjoyable things are no longer enjoyable. This is also called anhedonia. It means that the things that used to be enjoyed, cherished and anticipated have much less of an impact for someone who’s suffering from depression 
- For example, nature lovers no longer feel that sense of calm and peacefulness when taking a walk in natural surroundings. Flowers lose their scent and music sounds discordant. Money, love, partying — it all lacks a certain glamour it may have once had for the depressed person.
- Everything becomes shrouded in cloudiness and a heaviness that is difficult to bear. It seems like one’s world is moving at a slower, duller pace than everyone else’s. Things just generally seem “off.”
6Grasp the seriousness of finding your own emotions disturbing. For the depressed person, there is a great sense of hopelessness and it may seem that nothing brings about positive emotions. This extreme emotional pain and lack of joyful feelings can be incredibly overwhelming. This emotional pain may seem to just get worse and worse, seemingly for no reason.
- A depressed person might have bouts of crying for no obvious reason. There may be feelings of irritation towards family and friends for simply doing the things they normally do or behaving the way they normally behave.
7Understand how it makes one virtually unemotional. Depression may cause the person to be empty, numb, and unable to feel emotionally. This lack of feeling can make one seem completely alone even when surrounded by family and friends.
- The feeling that one is in a cloud or a bubble away from others is also a possibility. The depressed person may feel as if no one around him can truly understand what he’s going through; that feeling alone might worsen the underlying depression.
8Know that death seems like a plausible alternative. The pain and trauma of depression can be so real and persistent that suicide seems like a logical, sensible answer. The depressed person might speak of and attempt on multiple occasions to commit suicide. This is because he can see no end to the feelings of isolation, worthlessness and despair except through the putative relief of suicide.
- When life has no real meaning, death doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It’s not so much that you want to die, but that you don’t want to live. The depressed person may feel no interest or may not take any joy in life, so life may seem pointless.
- If someone feels this way, has thoughts, and a plan to carry out the suicide — whether it’s someone you know or if it’s the you yourself — seek help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a therapist, friend, doctor, or family member for help.
9Know the difference between depression and the blues. Everyone gets sad sometimes, but depression is different. It is not just a typical bout of the blues. Instead, depression tends to involve:
- A bleak outlook on life wherein one feels hopeless.
- A loss of interest or joy for life wherein what used to be enjoyable isn’t at all anymore.
- Weight problems wherein a depressed person can lose or gain 5% of her normal weight in a very short amount of time.
- Sleeping issues such as insomnia or excessive sleep.
- Temper issues wherein the depressed individual may lash out or be irritable or easily frustrated.
- Feeling fatigued and sluggish and without the energy to accomplish even simple tasks.
- Feelings of guilt wherein the depressed individual berates herself or won’t let herself off the hook for something she perceives that she has done.
- Suicidal thoughts or reckless behavior wherein the thought of death is entertained and perhaps fantasized about or seen as a means of a convenient escape; this lack of caring for living can lead to impulsive or reckless actions.
Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Depression
1Know the etiology of depression. Although depression may not have a single cause, and it’s not exactly known what causes it, there are some factors that are predictive of an individual coming down with depression, including:
- The death of a loved one.
- Separation from a loved one.
- Financial loss.
- Dramatic life changes such as relocating to a different city, retirement, or changing jobs.
- Conflicts in personal life such as divorce, disputes.
- Additional responsibilities such as the birth of a baby or having to take care of sick parents or relatives.
- Conflicts in professional life such as changing roles and responsibilities that are not in sync with the person’s interests and skills.
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
- Debilitating diseases and illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, heart diseases, or cancer.
- However, a certain amount of depression is normal when bad things happen. If after six months the depression doesn’t go away, that’s when a bigger problem is assumed to be at hand.
2Realize how common depression is. Depression affects 6–7% of the total adult population in the US alone. The majority (70%) of diagnosed cases are seen in women — however this may be in part because women may be more comfortable than men in seeking treatment for depression and/or because of the higher risk of suicide in men.
- Suicide (a behavior associated with depression) is relatively common, too, being a leading cause of death nearly as common as influenza and pneumonia.
3Look for signs of insecurity that drive the person away from others. The person’s feelings of self-worth and self-confidence take a beating day in and day out thanks to his negative thought patterns. He os constantly pursued by thoughts which tell him he is not good enough, not lovable, wanted, or competent enough to be liked by others. He has persistent feelings that his company is not something people long for. So, in his mind, it’s better to avoid interacting or mingling with people no matter how close he has been to those people in the past.
- Depression affects the thought process and information processing facilities of the person which in turn slows down his thinking, response, and decision-making capacities. This inability negatively impacts his self-confidence which compels him to keep away from family and friends. This includes deliberately staying away from activities which the person once enjoyed as well.
4Notice if the person takes up bad habits. With a view to overcome this self-imposed isolation, anxiety and loneliness, the person tries to seek refuge in alcohol, drugs, and junk food high in sugars and carbohydrates. Alcohol, sugars and carbohydrates do the job of making her feel good, elevating her mood, but only for a brief period. However, it’s the same disastrous feelings once the good feelings wear off. Unfortunately, eating disorders and anxiety go hand in hand with depression.
- Some people go off the other end and don’t eat. The person just doesn’t have a desire anymore. Try to notice any weight changes and if the person eats around you. It’s not her diet, it’s just her mind thinking, “Why bother?”
5Expect changes in job performance. A depressed person’s information processing facilities, together with his feelings of inadequacy and low self-concept, can result in faltering concentration, productivity, performance and competence. Often, depressed people suffer at work or while attempting any activity that requires a keen mental edge.
- People with depression also have sleep problems such as insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much). Some health problems such as headaches, stomachaches, back pain, constipation, diarrhea are some symptoms which are common in people with depression, too. All of these can affect job performance, in turn.
6Look for weight changes. Depression is associated with weight gain or in some cases severe weight loss, which can be one of the consequences of depression. It is not clear, however, whether depression always follows from or causes weight changes. For example, someone may become obese and then become depressed at her new self-image and perceived lack of self-control. 
Understanding Differences Between the Sexes
1Understand men are more likely to hide their feelings. Differences do exist in the way men and women experience depression or in the way they present their symptoms and sometimes it’s in the most glaring manner. Specifically, men are less likely to show depression through their feelings and emotions. They are less vocal about expressing feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness.
- Instead, they might show their depression by getting angry and frustrated at the slightest provocations. They are more likely to present their symptoms in the form of being irritable. Men may also be more likely to complain of tiredness and sleeplessness regularly and show decreased interest in once enjoyed activities.
2Realize that a man with depression may avoid social connections. Because of this painful juxtaposition between how they feel and how society wants them to feel, men make great efforts to minimize their chances of having to spend time with family and friends as much as possible. They instead push themselves more and more into their work, or may turn to drugs or alcohol for relief. 
3Pay attention to a change in sexual habits. Depression in men can give rise to issues in their sex life. It can cause a loss of interest in sex and can contribute to causing erectile dysfunction. 
- Men prefer to use socially favorable and socially acceptable nomenclature to mask their symptoms of depression. They are likely to emphasize attributing their symptoms to stress rather than depression.
4Know how suicide affects men and women differently. Though women are more likely to attempt suicide, it is men who have higher mortality rates because of suicide. It is because men tend to act quickly, instantly, and hastily on suicidal thoughts and also use more lethal means, such as guns, to complete their suicide attempt. Women, on the other hand, are more open about their thoughts are are prone to less active or guaranteed suicidal behaviors, like overdosing on pills.
- Men are also less likely to indicate their intentions to others. Without any warning signs from them, friends and family are not likely to intervene.
5Understand that depression is more prevalent in women than in men. However, it is possible that more women are more comfortable reporting it, or that men assume they don’t have it when women do. However, assuming women are more likely to be depressed than men, the reasons could be any of the following:
- Hormonal changes.
- Chronic illnesses (Studies show that illness is comorbid with depression more often in women than in men).
6Know how hormones can affect women. Hormones have a direct relationship with the chemicals in the brain that are in charge of influencing our mood and emotions. Hormonal fluctuations are common during the menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy and post-delivery. This can start out as episodic (temporary, to make the explanation short) and lead to chronic depression (a lifelong battle). 
- To add to the hormonal changes, the additional responsibilities that come with the arrival of a baby are enormous and can be overwhelming for some women which can lead to depression — specifically postpartum depression.
7See how the pressure women are under can lead to depression. Psychosocial factors are also linked to high rates of depression in women. Women can feel pressure to be expected to handle more than their fair share of responsibilities such as in caring for family, working a part-time or full-time job, and taking on the stress and strains of keeping relationships strong and intact.
8Be aware that the seasons may affect women more than men. Depression that comes with the onset of a particular season, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is more prevalent among women. This form of depression passes with the onset of warmer seasons such as spring and summer but comes back with the onset of winter. Though the cause of this depression is different, the symptoms are the same — sadness, mood swings, anxiety, cravings for foods high in sugars and carbohydrates, and sleep problems are all prevalent.
- SAD is one such form of depression which is caused by lack of/exposure to adequate sunlight. This is mostly experienced by people living in cold places where winters and snow are intense and severe.
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- If you need to describe depression to someone, try also asking someone else who has experienced depression to talk with you about it.
- If you are trying to describe your own depression and are suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to try to talk things through: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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