Describing Depression To Those Who’ve Never Had It

We’re able to feel empathy and compassion for those who are in physical pain, even if we’ve not experienced that exact physical pain ourselves. We can appreciate that a broken leg must hurt like hell, that childbirth must be excruciating and we can even muster up compassion for those who are heartbroken – despite not being able to ‘see’ the pain THEY feel.

So, why then, is depression so different?


Perhaps it’s because it’s not a widely spoken about illness – despite being a common one.

Maybe its because the social stigma means that there’s already an existing prejudice about the illness which creates a culture of fear – for both the sufferer and their loved ones.

Quite possibly because the illness affects different people in different ways, it makes it confusing for those who desperately want to understand and support.


We passionately believe that those with lived experience of depression are the best qualified to educate about depression, especially the reality and impact if it – how it feels, what helped, what didn’t. This is why, we so often ask our community to contribute to our blog posts – it allows them to use their negative experiences in a positive way, to have a voice and an outlet for the things they have been through.

This is how depression feels for them, in their words

Christina McMellon I have been describing it recently as a guy inside my head shouting at me and telling me I’m shit 24 hours a day.

Charlotte ER Like the worst day of your life, every single day. It feels like everything’s falling apart and worthless even if it’s not.

Vicky Snaith Numbness. You want any emotion not just to be happy being angry or sad would be better than numb.

ANON Depression is like someone else having the remote control and constantly switching channels without asking you what you would like to watch.

Lorraine Knight Torture…hell actually exists but it’s inside your mind.

Heather Eyre A distance between you and the world. You cannot see any tangible future, so there is a feeling of hopelessness.

It takes extra effort to do anything because the world is so far away, and emotions rarely make it through the void either so you are numb and distant (and all to often using lots of energy to prevent people from realising how you actually feel).

ANON empty, lost living in a bubble,always tomorrow yet it never really comes.

Gareth Molyneux It’s like dragging round a massive stone, holding you back and weighing you down. Like when you’re at the gym and you just can’t see how you can push forward with even one more rep, and everyone else around you is doing fine.

Helen June Crumpholt When I was younger I described it as feeling as though I had been run over by a bus – not that it was painful, but that it was this huge weight on top of me that I couldn’t move. People were always saying I should “do this” or “try that” but they couldn’t understand that I was pinned under it and couldn’t get out.

Katie Ellen Sinfield I constantly have this invisible weight on my back but I always try and fight the exhaustion. Sometimes it’s too much though, and so my bed provides a safe and wonderful relief.

Sarah French Being surrounded by people that love you and say they want to help, yet feeling terrifyingly alone and lost.

Srebrenka Peregrin For me, depression means nothing is ever going to be right, because I am always wrong, whatever I do, or think, or am.

It is also the constant fear of destroying everyone and everything I love for my selfish choices and inability to face the world.

ANON When I’m in the absolute depths of depression everything is an effort. Everything. From something as big as going out and facing people to something as small as just moving. When I’m at that point, I don’t want to live but I don’t have the energy to do anything about it. It’s actually when I start to feel things again and get a tiny bit of motivation that I’m in the most danger.

Horace Hog Like living with a glass wall between you and the world that you keep hitting but can’t break through

Sarah FrenchDesperately wanting to be good enough for the people you care about, but never feeling like you can live up to your own expectations of what is ‘good enough’

Verity Smart As an analogy it’s a bit like being lost a sea, with rough waters, trying to tread water believing yourself entirely alone, no hope of rescue and knowing that your going to run out of energy soon, and eventually one wave is going to be enough for you to sink under.

Maddy Dilley Absolute exhaustion. Every movement needs to be carefully considered and relayed to your body and yet even the act of thinking is exhausting. It feels like wading through treacle with no end in sight, just as endless ocean of thick treacle with no visible landmarks and no place to stop and rest.

Sarah French Feeling hollow but heavy and dead on the inside, unable to remember what it feels like to feel the warmth of an emotional connection with another person.

Emma Walker In a glass jar full of invisible goo – you feel so detached and unreachable to everyone around you, and everything is too much effort to achieve

Lotte Lane Wading through treacle.

ANON it’s an iron fist pushing you down, into a tunnel, gasping for breath and wishing to be “normal” whilst your head tells lies and slows you down

Katie Prieto I think JK Rowling has it right. The dementors are such a great image, its like a creature sucking out the best and happy memories whilst telling you you’re rubbish and making you relive the bad. It then uses the bad as an attack against your self esteem to make you believe you don’t deserve better. Eventually you just become numb and disconnected.

Jo Savage It’s feeling as though there’s something amiss and you can never figure out what it is.

Depression tells you you are a failure because of your depression; no win situation.

Fiona CastleFeeling awful but no one can see it. So you get treated like your like everyone else expected to forfill the same demands and expectations which you can’t possibly do. It sucks!

Rachael Elizabeth Woodman Imagine your life is a computer game that you can’t ever switch off. There are game modes: beginner, intermediate, and expert. It’s a game that you’ve never heard of, and you didn’t even want to play it, but you’re forced to play the expert mode – and you don’t have any instructions. Others around you are playing on beginner’s mode, and they’re finding it really fun – there are challenges on all modes, but it seems it’s easy for others to complete them. They’re smiling and laughing and having a great time. They say “but it’s easy, you just have to …” but for some reason, even if you put in the same amount of effort as everyone else, you can’t do it.

Very quickly you lose motivation because you don’t want to play this game any more. But you’re not allowed to quit playing.

Maisy Karavidas It can be like having the top layer of my skin removed. Everything feels much more sensitive: for me it’s like everything people say points to me being disgusting or worthless

Tracy Goree It’s like someone is scribbling in your head, jumbling up thoughts, words, the ability to do things in a logical order. It’s like finger nails down a blackboard, screeching in your head.

Ollie Senior It feels like dark, pitch black. You can hear the muffled sound of the world around you but it’s dull and so far away that it might not even be there at all. You’re just drowning in the dark that’s your own mind.

ANON It’s like a grey veil. It separates you from the outside world and limits your perspective. Depression causes you to not feel “present” and affects the way you see and experience things. It saps the colour and vibrance from life, and even from yourself.

Nicola Foyle The biggest darkest pit where you cannot see the bottom. You know your falling towards it but not able to see how to stop it. Once your in it you cannot see the top or how to get out

Jane Sollory Like a black raincloud following you around constantly. Whenever you try to escape it just pours rain on you to remind you it will never leave and never let you escape and be happy.

Kate Elliott Depression is like walking around in a big bubble of tar. It slows you down and suffocates you, it’s a heavy weight and it seems all the way inside you. It makes everything feel like more of an effort or challenge and it’s exhausting. It stays there like a barrier between you and the world, but it’s invisible tar that you have to smile your way through and pretend isn’t there!

Jackie Campbell Climbing a mountain, with a very heavy backpack, always thinking your just about to reach the peak, but then don’t

Jackie Campbell Imagine your saddest moment; ( death of a loved one/pet, ending of a relationship. .) Remember the despair, anguish and anger. Now, multiply that by 100 and and feel for no special reason.

Sam Spoon Gonzalez A void that sucks in all your thoughts of being capable, worthwhile, and loveable and replaces them with a crushing fear of failure. A fear of being found out to be a failure and everyone turning their backs on you because you’re a failure.

ANON You are looking for that light at the end of the tunnel that people assure you is there but you can see nothing but blackness; so you turn round to see the light from where you came, only to find there is nothing but blackness again. And then you realise you are stuck because there is no light to help you find your way.

Darren Stuart It’s exhausting, thought processes are slowed down by a pressure pushing you down and holding you back, you have to work twice as hard to do normal thing you are battling your mind that just wants to close down but you have to keep fighting.

Lisa Heidinger It’s like wading through treacle uphill.

Judith Russell Just terrible sadness,dread, feel alone, alienated, you want to run and run but know you cant,you want to hide from everyone and everything,your emotions are numbed so its had to love and feel loved xx

ANON That you’re in the fog & lost in time/space & everyone else is in the sunshine with rainbows. Stuck in own cloud where it’s damp, dull & grey – no colour!

Rachel MelissaJust…. existing, not living…..

Sheena Mays It is like someone came along and stole all the pleasure in my life. The things I used to enjoy become empty and meaningless and it is a struggle just to exist. Every ounce of strength goes on just getting to the end of the day and I feel like a battery the never gets enough time to fully recharge before I am using the energy again.

Lauren Falvey Southern Like the weather. No matter what I do it comes when it comes and it goes when it goes!

Ellen Moore It feels like your downing but no one can see, and the ones that can see shout “just swim!”

Rebecca Cooper Like your own personal hell, specially tailored to you! It convinces you that you have a negative impact on everything you love, that you are incapable of bringing positivity and joy to anything and you deserve to be in this hell and all this comes without explanation or reason!

Barbara Pugh Like Gollum sitting at the mouth of a cave staring at a beautiful day and ‘knowing’ that you can never be part of that because everything in your head tells you that you belong in that cave and you’re too ugly and upsetting to be in the sun.

Deian Lye-Vella What does it feel like? Like being in a cloudy day that lasts for weeks on end. No blue sky, no sun, no, wind and, despite it sounding counter intuitive, no rain either. Just an empty nothing sort of feeling and tone to everything. Inside it can also feel like being an ice lolly that has had it’s essence sucked dry so that all that is left is colourless lump of ice devoid and empty of colour. At my worst it also hurts, physically. I become very tired and can barely move. Everything becomes a task in of itself, the main one being trying to switch my mind off, to cease that criticising voice that aims to beat you down for your ‘weakness’ and general uselessness after having to take to bed again because of it.

Rose Langridge An absolute evil nightmare of a living hell which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy which has completely wrecked my life and already stolen my future.

Andrew J Chisholm Every dark thought you can think of coming to your mind all at once ad you can’t switch them off. Even simple things seem as if you are climbing the tallest mountain when you do them

Raye Hames Depression to me is like someone has kidnapped my thought process and makes me think negative thoughts all the time.??

Becca Louise Hunter Living with depression is like existing on another plane of reality parallel to the one of those around you. On this plane time moves more slowly, things are heavier and everything is a little bit grey. I find this particularly painful when it comes to those I love because I can never quite seem to connect with them from where I am even though I can see them right there.

Carys Jones I didn’t realise how hard this would be to describe, I’ve been trying for the last hour and been getting nowhere with it. The best I can describe it is that I’m drowning in honey so everything’s slowed down and even if I wanted to I couldn’t move faster. Inside it makes me feel numb but at the same time incredible amounts of pain that never leaves you even if you’re doing something you once enjoyed. All the colours around you that once were really bright and pretty now all look a sort of dull grey colour. And no matter what people try to do to help you, you get stuck and can’t see any way out. The voices in the back of your head, wether they’re loud thoughts or even auditory hallucinations, all tell you that you don’t deserve the help you’re being (or not being) given and that no one wants you around. Depression is so much more than just sadness and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy xx

Naomi De Vries Dark fog in your head, something is pushing me down, everything just feels too much like an effort, exhausted, like an empty baloon, tiny smallest change it can make you blow up, angry, tearful, forgetfull. Keep smiling, but inside you feel you are crumbling, sadness and numbness are overtaking everything, everything is too much….. you just want to hide away from everyone, but dont want to feel alone. You cry out for help, but no-one knows how to help you except the people who had depression themselves. Depression is not only sadness, it is so much more

Suze Brown Sucks out the pleasure of everything that makes you happy. To do anything takes monumental effort and feels like walking through treacle.

ANON Depression is like being stuck on a treadmill. You work so hard to keep up but you’re not getting anywhere and you’re so so tired! It’s a never ending test of willpower and endurance that you didn’t sign up for.

Clare Mackey Like looking out on a world where you see everything happening at normal speed, it’s bright and sunny, you step outside and feel numb. You’re loved ones spend time with you, numb. You do something you used to love (when you have the energy) and feel, empty.

Lindsey Milling drowing without a life belt x

ANON it’s dark and heavy treacle. It takes too much to do anything, to wake, smell ans see. When you do it hits with a silent sledgehammer, that you are trapped, stuck, still whilst others buzz about and that is almost soul destroying. And around it goes, without anyway out. No magic wand. No magic tablet. No special words. A chemical overload or deficit. An emotional overload and a deficit at the SAME time. An illness not a person.

Shani Kotecha For me, it’s often trying to question everything to find some meaning and finding nothing. I start trying to figure out why I’m here, and what’s the point of even trying anymore when our existence is limited? Everything becomes empty and even believing in yourself feel pointless

ANON The feeling that I try so so hard and yet nothing is ever good enough – but the person that dictates it’s not good enough is me. These feelings leads to guilt as I judge others too. It’s wanting to be loved and understood but then being disappointed in others and myself.

Mandy Berger it’s like being at the bottom of a well where you look up the speck of light is so far away, like a dot and it does not reach you down here . All around you is dark and the ground is damp and you try to move/call out but get hit by unseen force to the point you don’t dare move or make a sound anymore . You just sit there at the bottom of the well unable to move or speak yet screaming inside for someone to just help you. It really is like a hell. So lonely.

If any of the above resonate with you, or you’d like to share your experience of what #depressionfeelslike, please let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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This content was originally published here.