Depression is often shrouded in misunderstanding. Some believe it means simply being sad and unmotivated, when really, the symptoms of depression often have a way of infiltrating everything, from the smallest, most unsuspecting details of life, to the biggest, most significant aspects of life. And trying to explain this often feels like trying to hold onto water — as soon as you start to grasp it, it slips from your grip.
That’s why we asked people in our Mighty mental health community who struggle with depression to share the worst symptoms of depression people typically don’t talk about. By opening the dialogue and trying to put words to these symptoms, we can continue to deepen our understanding and uncloak the misunderstanding that leads to the creation of shame and stigma.
Here is what they had to say:
1. “Wanting to say what’s on your mind, but you can’t even explain it.2 So you just cry because you don’t even know what you’re feeling.” — Brenda A.
2. “The exhaustion. Not only physically, but also mentally. Mentally exhausted from having to apologize for who you are. Mentally exhausted from trying to convince yourself you deserve to be here, be alive. Physically and mentally exhausted from living. I’m tired, so tired.” — Abbie K.3. “The black hole I feel in the core of my being. It sucks in life, motivation, concentration, etc. To use another metaphor: it’s drowning in the
3. “The black hole I feel in the core of my being. It sucks in life, motivation, concentration, etc. To use another metaphor: it’s drowning in the the ocean in the middle of a tempest.” — Mark M.
4. “Literally not showering for months. Not changing your clothes for weeks. Not combing your hair for days. Not brushing your teeth for weeks. With depression, hygiene goes out the window.” — Zoe S.
5. “When I’m having an episode but I’m not so far gone and part of my rational mind is still present telling me there’s no reason to feel the way I do, yet the dark part of my mind still won’t release it’s grip. So I’m crying and feeling like I’m unloved and worthless yet part of me is still conscious enough to know it’s a lie, but I’m just not strong enough to take back control. It’s the most confusing time.” — Steve H
6. “Feeling numb and that feeling of unreality, I can see and take my surroundings in, yet I don’t feel a part of it, like a dream sequence. So many people, but at that moment, they mean very little.” — Patricia Y.
7. “The ease in which you can become addicted to something. Your brain trying to cope so you resort to drugs, booze, food, sex, co-dependency.” — Greg E.1
8. “Apathy. When you’re depressed, your ability to feel joy from the things you normally love fades, but the worst days are the days I’m so numb I can barely even feel compassion or empathy. I’m just empty. Like someone disconnected my emotions.1” — Anastasia A.
9. “Feeling the aches in my entire body from staying still all day; whether that be from laying down or sitting still. People thinking I’m lazy for doing it and wishing they could do that when it’s actually from depression.” — Ayoung L.2
10. “Dissociation. Being so depressed and just gone — so consumed that you are no longer yourself. It begins to feel like you’re first person in a video game or movie. You have no emotional connection to reality because you’re not there. Literally just existing feels impossible.” — Cat K..
11. “Not being able to get to places on time because you’re so tired. It takes more energy to get up, get ready and go. I find myself procrastinating a lot because of lack of energy. I’m late everywhere I go.” — Mindy S.
12. “Not knowing that something is wrong in the early stage, and hurting other people with your behavior — not on purpose of course. As a consequence, they accuse you of many bad things that are caused by the illness you couldn’t really control. People make many mistakes out of fear.” — Asia R.
13. “Honestly, the chronic pain that may come with depression. I struggle with migraines when I go through a really deep depressive episode and it makes dealing with everything so much harder.2” — Frances W.
14. “I think it’s anger, agitation, irritability and that feeling of having no self-control. I hate when the intensity gets to a point where you can’t hold it in anymore and you fly off the handle over a super small thing because you can’t regulate this emotion. Often times, when people hear that someone is struggling with depression, they might think, ‘Oh they’re sad, tearful, anxious, hopeless, helpless or have no motivation to change.’ Some might not realize that anger is a symptom of depression. Depression is anger turned inward.” — Samantha C.
15. “The feeling that it’s never going to end, or that it’s genetic and I’ll pass it onto my babies. Not feeling like you can explain it because there’s not a tangible reason for it.” — Lacy M.
16. “Periods. Your period reacts to your emotional stress level and depression can cause you so much stress because people don’t understand, your period sometimes either stops or it just keeps going and becomes super irregular and painful.” — Harlie B.
17. “Mine was not being able to talk. Literally, I couldn’t voice any thought because depression made me believe my opinions didn’t matter. I forgot what my voice sounded like.” — Jane S.
18. “When you try to rationalize whether it’s your depression or something ‘normal.’ Sometimes I think: am I just exhausted because of my sleep schedule? Or because my mind hasn’t stopped working or stressing for days? That constant need to rationalize your mental health makes the depression symptoms even worse.” — Julie K.
19. “The internal frustration that you are too scared, guilty or embarrassed to speak out because there is still so much stigma and lack of services, and people who say they are there for you when actually they aren’t. So you just end up drowning in your own thoughts and your depression or anxiety worsens.” — Ebony W.
20. “Shameful ways in which I keep to myself or my house. It feeds my depression and causes it. The cycle of shame in every aspect of my life. How a dissociative episode can make me gain 10 pounds in three weeks because my stomach is numb and I can’t feel whether or not I am hungry or actually sad.” — Jennifer L.
21. “I get paranoid that people are getting annoyed with me and the awful symptoms that go along with it, I also feel guilty if I don’t do anything for days, like cleaning the house and self-hygiene. I get overly sensitive to what people might be thinking about me.” — Erin S.
22. “Depression is just another fuel on the fire because I have been diagnosed with multiple conditions. I have a lot of anxiety, and when the anxiety gets bad, the depression gets bad. When the depression gets bad, my self-harm gets bad. When the self-harm gets bad, the self-loathing sometimes becomes bulimia. The obsessive compulsive, borderline personality disorder and the PTSD also get bad. Not wanting to live and the not wanting to take my medicine, which makes everything 10 times worse. It’s like a storm, and when it hits, the depression is fuel for everything. It can be crushing at times.” — Robyn W.
23. “I think the worst is when I’m having fun with friends or family and it hits me hard and I begin to shut down with no explanation, nothing to have triggered it. Suddenly having trouble enjoying myself with people who I find enjoyable to be around.” — Maddy F.
24. “The foggy thinking was the main thing for me — making it almost impossible to concentrate or remember anything, I didn’t even know it was a symptom of depression until I told my doctor about it.” — Rebecca R.
25. “Promiscuity. I get so down and depressed that I just want to do anything to make me feel better, even though I hurt myself at the same time.” — Abel R.
26. “The anhedonia. There’s so many things I love doing that depression tends to dull the joy or even take it away completely. Even the smallest fun thing could become an absolute nightmare because of the effort it may take to even get out of bed to do it.” — Anna P.
27. “Gaining weight because you don’t know what else to do. Or the weight loss because you are just not hungry and don’t have the energy to cook.” — De C.
28. “The guilt. The guilt of hurting your family and friends. The guilt of lying about why you can’t do something or go somewhere. The guilt of not going to work. The guilt of staying in bed all day. The guilt of not taking proper care of your everyday responsibilities. The guilt of seeing the hurt in your children’s eyes. The guilt of failure — it is all consuming and never ending.” — Lorraine C.
29. “The uncertainty. The fact you don’t know if your going to wake up in the same horrible mood, a worse one or a better one. The not knowing if one day you’re going to stop being able to actually function. The uncertainty of whether you will be able to hold down your job while also trying to keep your head above water” — Chloe P.
30. “Canceling plans last minute and having my closest family and friends think I don’t love them when they are who keeps me going.” — Megan A.
31. “When all the symptoms mix. That awful combo of a lack of concentration, exhaustion and apathy that makes your brain stay in what’s like ‘the dial-up tone phase’ of waking up for extended periods of time. You can’t think straight, can’t form proper sentences, don’t know if you want social interaction or to be isolated, don’t enjoy what I usually would, but don’t have anything else to do and can’t focus on work when I have it. It’s like I’m just there and useless because I can’t function right.” — Charli J.
32. “Not knowing if your thoughts are real or just the effects of depression telling you lies. Feeling betrayed by your own brain and not being able to distinguish what thoughts are true and what thoughts are depression.” — Dani F.
33. “The need to put on an act so everyone thinks you are OK, but inside you feel worthless and like you want to run away. Sometimes you just want to shout that you are suffering and cannot cope, but you’re made to feel like you are not allowed to show weakness. The exhaustion and the physical pain caused by holding back tears because you have to appear to function well at home, at work and in social situations. The feeling like you are unworthy and unloved.” — Vickie B.
34. “Not being able to explain why I am depressed. People constantly ask, ‘What’s making you depressed?’ or, ‘Why are you depressed?’ and it’s very hard to keep saying that I don’t know. If I knew, I would definitely love to tell you and fix it, but the tough thing is that I just don’t why. I just am.” — Sharon C.
35. “When it starts messing with your memory/cognitive functions. I get so scatterbrained and forgetful, can’t focus and any memories past about three months are spotty at best and mostly feel like someone else’s, as if I read them in a book somewhere. You end up feeling so flustered all the time, like you’re falling apart and losing your mind. Any feelings of inadequacy are exacerbated, especially if you’re working and your job is demanding.” — Brianna M.
36. “Awareness. Awareness of all the things that are wrong, but the inability to fix any of it. Tired, but I can’t sleep, my brain is full of information and thoughts, yet I can’t focus and concentrate at work. The physical and emotional pain and weariness and feeling like I have to apologize for all of it. It’s exhausting.” — Jamie G.
37. “Wanting to put yourself in dangerous situations. Depression isn’t always about laying in your bed, it also can be the urge to be self-destructive. People don’t talk about this because it’s a kind of a grey space. You’re not really suicidal, but you have a kind of urge to put yourself in dangerous situation.” — Lotte S.
38. “When you’re typically a super responsible, organized person, and you slowly feel all of it start to unravel. You start showing up late to work, falling behind on tasks, stop eating, start praying that your kids won’t notice and you put on that fake smile and try to keep it all together. Through tears and self-doubt, you pull through for them because they need you.” — Taylor W.
39. “Thinking you’re no longer in love with the love of your life. Becoming paranoid of them thinking they’re bad for you. It causes the partner to feel unloved, no matter if you still say ‘I love you,’ they can feel it.” — Meryl D.
4o. “When every decision, no matter how small or big, becomes an insurmountable burden because of your indecisive mind. Then the guilt of having made a decision that always seems to be the wrong one. And then more guilt that makes me think I am useless to anyone in the world including myself.” — Paridhi C.
41. “The selfishness. When I am depressed, I tend to isolate and put my depression first. Everything else is second, even if it’s not fun or fulfilling, it still can be extremely selfish. It takes the spotlight. Friends and family take a backseat to the depression.” — Sarah E.
42. “The constipation. Whether it’s because of the bad food I’ve been eating, the medication or the fact is all I’m doing is sleeping. It takes me weeks to start getting regular again, and nothing prolongs the cloud in my head than feeling bloated and sick on top of the total lack of motivation and self-deprecation.” — Bethany R.
43. “Seeing your children growing up thinking you are grumpy and hate fun when you can’t explain what’s wrong with you. Knowing they are hungry or bored, but it takes you ages just to get out of bed to hand them a sandwich.” — Eman H.
44. “Preoccupation. My depression has made me preoccupy myself with game apps and simple things I know I can do or change because I feel that I can’t change or control anything else in my life.” — Lauran S.
45. “I’m constantly excited for the next day, never enjoying the day I’m currently in. Then a birthday goes by and I think what have a done with my life but wish for the next day.” — Jennifer R.
46. “How disgusting your house gets. And you hate it. And it smothers you. But the will to take the first step to clean is too overwhelming…..” — Amanda R.
This story was published on The Mighty, a platform for people facing health challenges to share their stories and connect.