What is depression?
Depression is a commonly used word, often used by or about people to describe a particular feeling; feeling low or unhappy. It’s often used to describe a temporary feeling, feelings on a particular day, or feelings about a particular situation or circumstances. In most cases, these feelings lift of their own accord after a short time, or following a change in the contributing circumstances.
The use of the word in this way may make it difficult for some people to understand the concept or experience of depression when used in its clinical sense. While depression may be mild, moderate or severe, it is very different from just feeling low. It is something that is likely to interfere with daily life, with relationships, with one’s ability to work, to enjoy life and to experience oneself or others in an enjoyable or fulfilling way. It can last for long periods of time, with some fluctuation in the level and intensity of depression felt.
The changes brought about by depression are likely to be apparent to those close to you, particularly in moderate to severe cases. This is because of the extent of the impairment to your ability to relate to others, and to participate in everyday activities. To others you may appear quiet and withdrawn, possibly rejecting of friends and family.
Some people, particularly if they have had depression over a long period of time may learn to put on a ‘mask’, to present a lighter, brighter face to others than they actually feel inside. This may be because they feel they ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ show their real selves to others; that they may be rejected if they do so. This can make it very hard for individuals to ask for help, and make it difficult for others to recognise that you need help and support.
What does depression feel like?
Experiences of depression can vary from individual to individual, but it is often felt and described as a blackness, a heavy weight, an emptiness, as if the life source or spirit has been extinguished. You may feel removed from other people, aware that your experience of life is different, and uncertain about how or whether you can relate to others, or indeed if you want to relate to or engage with them, or with the world outside yourself.
When depressed, you may feel hopeless and unable to see any positives in life; this is a very difficult reality to live with, but for that time, it is your reality, indeed the only reality. It can also be difficult to realise that previously enjoyable or fulfilling activities may no longer provide any sense of pleasure or satisfaction. This may serve to isolate you from others with whom you may previously enjoyed sharing leisure activities or hobbies.
In severe cases, feelings of emptiness, bleakness, helplessness and worthlessness may be such you may lose any sense of a meaning in life, or begin to consider suicide.