Occasionally having a depressed mood or mood swings is normal. Sadness and grief are natural emotions we all have from time to time. Often, these feelings will dissipate on their own. But when persistent feelings of hopelessness, distress, emptiness, or a general sense of intense sadness begin to interfere with life, it may be time to take a deeper look at what’s going on. 

Depression is a mood disorder that affects how we think, feel, and interact with those around us. It can have a significant impact on how we function in our daily lives. 

To learn more, including what depression feels like and how to identify the signs and symptoms of depressed person, read on. We’re covering everything you need to know, from how depression feels for both men and women, to how you know when it might be time to get help whether that’s through therapy or medication.

What Depression Can Feel Like

Understanding what depression feels like is key in recognizing whether or not you are actually clinically depressed. Many people have a certain perception of depression as being a mental health condition that’s totally debilitating or paralyzing. 

The truth is, depression isn’t always like that. There are smaller signs that may indicate that what you’re experiencing is more than just feeling down or having the blues.

What does depression feel like? Some people report the following feelings when they’re depressed:

  • You suddenly have difficulty focusing or concentrating on work or school.
  • You find it difficult to see the joy in life.
  • You feel stuck or like there’s no way out.
  • You begin experiencing disruptive sleep patterns.
  • You feel worthless or like a failure.
  • You can’t find motivation for self-care like showering, getting dressed, or brushing your hair or teeth.
  • You begin having actual physical symptoms like unexplained aches or pain.

“Depression can sometimes be a slow decline in functioning which is hard to recognize at first. So it is really important that we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings and get help and support if we start to have low moods.”

Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Signs & Symptoms of Depression

Depression can have many signs and symptoms. There are also varying effects of depression on the brain. Some may even overlap across the different types of depression. They can also range from mild depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to severe depression which can be intrusive on your life. 

Some of the common symptoms of severe depression can include:

  • Extreme sadness — When you’re depressed, you may experience intense sadness. Bouts of crying can be common and you might find it difficult to see joy in your life. Even things you once found satisfaction in may feel mundane and unimportant.
  • Excessive irritability — Irritability is one of the most common depression symptoms. Little things that once wouldn’t have bothered you may now irritate you or make you increasingly agitated.
  • Loss of interest in things or activities you once enjoyed — Activities, social events, or hobbies that you once enjoyed being a part of may now seem burdensome or like a chore that you just can’t take on.
  • Lack of energy — People who are depressed often have a difficult time finding a level of energy that allows them to complete daily tasks. 
  • Feeling hopeless, pessimistic, or worthless — A sense that things will not get better, or that you aren’t worthy of any of the “good things” in life can lead to a pessimistic outlook or feelings of hopelessness.
  • A significant change in appetite — Either a loss or significant increase in appetite, including binge eating which can also cause weight gain, are common depressive symptoms.
  • Losing interest in self-care — Seemingly simple and basic things like showering regularly, getting dressed every day, and even brushing your hair and teeth can feel overwhelming and like too much to take on.
  • Incredible difficulty concentrating — Having a hard time focusing or concentrating on work or school, to the point that it interferes with what you’re expected to finish, can be a sign of depression.
  • Difficulty making decisions — Indecisiveness or difficulty making decisions about even basic things can become intrusive and have a significant impact on your daily functions when you’re depressed.
  • Avoiding social activities or interactions — Avoiding interaction with friends, family members, coworkers, or even your significant other might be one of the depressive symptoms you experience. Losing interest in social events or activities that were at one time interesting is common when you’re depressed.
  • Cutting off relationships — You may find yourself cutting ties with former friends or family and walking away from or avoiding relationships, often for no reason. 
  • Thoughts of death — Extreme forms of depression may result in excessive or even just occasional thoughts of death or dying.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide — If you’re having suicidal thoughts or self-harm, it’s urgent that you reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional. 

How Men & Women Experience Depression

Like many things in life, what depression feels like for men and women can be different. Signs, symptoms, and reasons for depression can widely vary.

Depression in men

How depression feels might be different for men than it is for women. As noted, the causes can differ, too. One study shows that a common culprit of depression in men can stem from one of the following:

  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Drug addiction or substance abuse
  • Major life events that are stressful
  • A prior history of depression

Men may also experience depression as the result of low self-esteem, legal issues, feelings of failure, financial stress, or extreme career difficulties. Job loss and feeling like a failure as a provider are more common triggers for clinical depression in men than they are in women.

Studies show that there are a number of signs and symptoms of clinical depression that can differ between men and women. For example, men with depression are more likely to be aggressive and engage in risky behaviors than women are. They’re also more likely to have bouts of anger attacks. 

Depression in women

Not surprisingly, what depression feels like for women can result from different reasons than it might in men. One study shows that women often experience depression as the result of:

  • Differences in experiences 
  • Biological factors
  • Different cultural expectations   

Marital problems and issues with parents have also both been found to cause depression more in women than they do in men. 

Symptoms of depression for women and men can differ as well. For example, women may be more prone to panic and anxiety disorder on top of their depression. Some can also experience postpartum depression.

When To Get Help for Depression

If you’ve been experiencing multiple signs or symptoms of depression and feel like it’s progressing or has progressed to the point that it’s now interfering with your life, it might be time to get help. Your doctor or a mental health professional can help you identify if what you’re experiencing is truly depression. They can help you identify which, if any, form of depression you may be dealing with. They can also help you come up with a therapy or treatment plan to learn some coping skills and techniques on how to handle depression

Depression symptoms can increase, intensify, or worsen dramatically over time. If you’re wondering how does depression feel, and questioning your symptoms, take our free depression test.

Medically reviewed by: Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Reviewed On: September 23, 2021