Woman standing on a roof looking sad.

What does depression feel like?

If you’re depressed, you’re not alone. Depression impacts an estimated 16 million Americans each year.

If you’re among the group of people who have not experienced long-term or chronic depression, you might not understand what it feels like. Depression is not a choice to be unhappy or to have a bad attitude. Depression, and the suicidal thoughts that sometimes come with it, is a health issue just like the flu, pneumonia, diabetes, high blood pressure or a broken bone.

With time and support, depression can be treated and suicide prevented. Support starts with understanding. Here is some information to help you understand what your friend or loved one is may be feeling.

Depressions changes your daily routine

In addition to the common warning signs, depression changes your life in both large and small ways.

Depression may takes away your interest in the people and activities you once found enjoyable. You may isolate yourself and begin to slip out of contact with friends. You may seem okay at work or school, but sometimes you don’t have the energy to get out of bed.

Depression hurts both physically and emotionally, and it also begins to shape how you think. You become more sensitive to other people’s remarks and opinions. Or you might find ways to make their problems and hurt feelings your fault. Sometimes, feelings of hopelessness impact how you see the world around you.

If you notice a change in routine for your friend or loved one, speak up. Often, the simple act of reaching out will help someone with depression seek the help they need.

Loved ones often hide their depression

Often, someone struggling with depression does not want to burden others with their struggle. They may feel that asking for help would demand too much from a friend or loved one. Or they simply might be too scared to talk about how they feel.

So, people with depression will may retreat from social activities or, just the opposite,  act overly pleased to be in a social setting if they do venture out. Understand, that unusual or inconsistent behavior in social settings might be a sign that your friend needs help. Ask your friend directly how he or she is doing.

What you can do for a depressed loved one

  1. Ask questions. That’s the biggest way you can help. Start with, “How are you feeling?” Be ready to listen and don’t judge any answers they give you.

  2. Respect their feelings. Your loved one’s sense of hopelessness is very real. Don’t try to minimize their feelings. In other words, don’t say “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Comments such as this can come across as judgmental.

  3. Get help. If your friend or loved one expresses thoughts of suicide, get help! Do not promise to keep this a secret.  Your actions could save a life. Here’s how:

    • Call 800-273-8255 any time to talk to someone who can help your friend and advise you on how to be supportive. 

    • Text IN to 741741 to message someone who can help you or your friend.

    • Talk to other people who care about your loved one.

For more on the warnings signs of depression and how to help, visit Have Hope.