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longtresses's avatar

How do you know for sure you're depressed? What does it feel like?

Asked by longtresses (1327 points ) March 30th, 2011

I always thought of depressed people as permanently sad, sad-sad. I thought it was brain chemical and not situational, such as going through changes, having adjustment problems, or having low confidence and not realizing that there’s a choice to move forward, to turn things around, or to make bold changes. In other words, depression seemed to be something that if one had it, one would know it. It would be so obvious.

..not sure if I understood it correctly.

Back in college I had sessions with a college shrink. I went to see him only because I didn’t think I was coping well. Didn’t stick around long enough to learn anything. I only remembered that in college I rarely laughed, at occasions spoke in monotone, did not understand “normal people” my age, was annoyed by their enthusiasm, etc. The shrink asked me what I did for fun; I told him I didn’t really do anything for “fun.” My appetite was normal.

Even as a kid, at times I felt bored and meaningless and pessimistic. While my brother shared with me his dreams of doing this and that, I, as a kid, would tell him not to dream too much. I didn’t want him to have hopes; I feared that he would be disappointed. My “normal” could mean neutral or a little sad. Sometimes I realized I could be out there, letting myself go, though that seemed phony because I didn’t think it was going to last anyway.

Me today: I think happiness is a state which, if desired, you constantly create a condition for it to happen. It’s something you maintain. For example, eat well, drink water, exercise, get sunlight, maintain positive thinking, socialize sometimes, etc. The mundane.

I wonder: What would a real depressed person look like? What would it feel like? Are you super sad and all the time? How do you know for sure that you’re depressed, like your brain’s wiring is off, or that you’re just a tad bit on the sad/realistic side?

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20 Answers

YoBob's avatar

The way your know for sure is to seek the help of a medical professional that specializes in depression. They have diagnostic protocols that they can use to determine if you are depressed and can often offer effective medical treatment.

Cruiser's avatar

If you think you are happy but don’t feel happy you are probably depressed….if you know you aren’t happy and feel like crap you are most likely very depressed and time to get a new Kazoo. <<Disclaimer….Not a professional opinion what so ever…if you even question your state of mind see a Doctor asap>>

longtresses's avatar

Of course… seeking professional help… But just a few weeks ago I decided to meet this therapist and I told him very briefly about my conditions. He said I could either look into therapy or anti-depressants. I was like, whoa. Therapy or drugs? And counseling for $100 – $200 per session? That’s a whole new territory..

I don’t have things to be happy about, and I think it’s what you create for yourself, seek out, or find ways to fulfill. And then exercising helps.

I don’t know. That’s why I’m here to ask from people who have actual experiences or know about the subject. Those bullet lists I found online didn’t help.

theninth's avatar

I’m like you. I’ve never been what would be considered “happy”. I’m annoyed by perky and/or enthusiastic people. I am not a “team player” and I absolutely will not fake enjoyment in something. I’m very neutral, kind of stoic, largely unemotional and very practical. I’m not a perky person. I’m a deadpan snarker.

I knew I was depressed when I found myself standing in the middle of the kitchen in the middle of the night, sobbing about how wrong everything was, while at the same time I was thinking “but that’s not true at all.” I knew things weren’t bad, but I couldn’t stop myself from feeling bad. So I called the doctor, got an evaluation, and a prescription for antidepressants. Because in my case, it really is chemical and has nothing to do with situations or stress.

Now on medication, I’m back to being my usual, mellow, snarky, cynial, introverted, non-team-player self. I just no longer have uncontrolled sobbing events.

In short: if you’re not feeling utterly miserable and desparing about life while at the same time you know things are really not bad and you can’t understand why you feel so miserable, you’re probably not depressed.

I’m not a doctor, your mileage may vary, consult a medical professional for an actual diagnosis, blah-blah-blah.

mattbrowne's avatar

There are approved lists of questions. A certain number of answers can lead to a positive diagnosis. Feeling bad is not the same as depression.

answerjill's avatar

@mattbrowne – One such list is the Burns Depression indicator http://www.suicideforum.com/bdc/index.html
Again, you should not use this sort of thing to diagnose yourself. You should see a doctor to get a real diagnosis.

WasCy's avatar

It’s not necessarily “sadness”. Your mind is so facile that it can manufacture all sorts of reasonable-sounding “whys” for various things that may not make sense to a disinterested observer. So depressed people can rationalize perfectly reasonable explanations of why “things are hopeless” and “it’s a cold, cruel world” and “there’s no point in fighting it”, etc. I suppose this is manifested “most commonly” as sadness or other affects that mimic what those of us who don’t suffer from clinical depression can often feel when we are “sad” for reasons that are objectively obvious (loss of a loved one, for example, or a cherished pet, various reversals of fortune, etc.). It’s when these “sad effects” seem to be too pronounced and/or go on too long (in the minds of observers) that we start to think “there must be something more at work here”.

In addition, suicide attempts that sometimes seem to come “out of the blue” are frequently rationalized (when the attempt is unsuccessful) by people who have suffered silently with depression unknown to others. That is, the person didn’t appear to be “sad”, but he or she felt there was “no point to life, and no great enjoyment in it”, so why go on? Even many people who seem to outside observers to have “not much to live for” or are in great pain or hopeless struggles of one kind or another (and don’t suffer from depression) fight very strongly to survive.

I can’t say from personal experience “what it feels like”, but I’ve been a witness to the suicide attempt and the rationalizations (and fortunately, to the recovery, too).

KateTheGreat's avatar

I know that I’m depressed when things randomly spark my crying and I meet everything with a solemn attitude. All I want to do is sleep when I am depressed. It’s really weird because I’ll unconsciously wear black clothes.

There are many lists and tell-tale signs that are given to find if a person is depressed. I’m sure you can look into those.

marinelife's avatar

You can figure out more about depressions by taking this self-assessment from the Mayo Clinic.

downtide's avatar

I didn’t actually know I was depressed until I managed to escape from it. Turned out I’d been severely depressed for 35 years. According to my therapist I’m still “moderately” depressed but I don’t feel it, and I feel infinitely better now than I used to.

I think depression is something that’s extremely difficult to self-diagnose because whilst in a depressed state it’s just about impossible to give an accurate judgement about yourself.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I have only experienced temporary (a few hours, a few days) depression and it drained every ounce of energy from me. Clinical depression must be exhausting. @downtide mentioned that you can’t possibly self-diagnose when you are depressed. This is true – if you ask me about me or my life when I’m depressed, you would get the biggest gloom-and-doom story you ever heard. But ask me a few hours later, and I will tell you that all is well.

Seelix's avatar

Before I started taking meds, my depression didn’t make me sad all the time. It was more a lack of energy and motivation, lack of interest, hope, self-worth… Sure, I was more likely to be sad, but not all the time. A depressed person can definitely laugh and have fun, it’s just not as often.

Ladymia69's avatar

I am totally depressed right now, and it is definitely easy to tell.

ninjaapantz's avatar

I can only speak from my own experience. As a kid I was playful & happy but I still remember my first memory of sever depression, I was 4. I was just looking up to the blue sky on a sunny day & I had the biggest sense of dread ever & I didn’t know what it was. I was just sitting in the room on the floor, I think I went to the bed & slept for a few hours. Through my teens I cried every night but I had good times too. My life at the time was extremely stressful at home & at school. I think the other kids would have thought of me as the gloomy art kid that gets really happy too. I had learning problems & did see a psychologist. It helped tons. At 21 I got diagnosed with hypoglycaemia which is basically blood sugar problems & PCOS which means crazy hormones, which would explain my depression & blood sugar crashing. The way I treat it is through a whole food diet, vitamin D, other multi vitamins & I’m on diabetic meds now to help with the waked blood sugar. So yes you don’t have to take antidepressants & for me good nutrition, sunshine when there is & just walking really helps. Oh & doing things I enjoy too & having good friends to talk it out really helps.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Believe it or not, I saw the best description for depression in the Harry Potter series. Depression is personified in the series by the characters called Dementors.

mattbrowne's avatar

@answerjill – Absolutely. A doctor should ask these questions, because some answers need clarification. Self diagnosis is risky. If it helps reaching a decision to see a doctor there’s still some value in it.

Bellatrix's avatar

When I was suffering from depression, I just felt totally unmotivated (not a normal thing for me). I didn’t have the will or energy to do work I really love to do or anything really. I felt flat and emotionally and physically drained. I had lots of negative thoughts. I saw things from a very negative perspective (not normal for me). However, most people (and especially those who don’t know me intimately) would not have known this. In public I tried to put on a happy face and got on with what I had to do but when I got home, I was teary, irritable and just felt very lost and unsure. How do other people feel? I don’t know. However, I think if you suspect you are depressed, you should seek professional help. You deserve to feel good about your life.

chewhorse's avatar

It doesn’t ‘feel’ like anything, that’s why it’s so difficult to discover.. Only others can detect it (from the irratic ways that the depressed acts in relation to their character) but during these times a depressed person will not believe others thus they continue their ways until something clicks within THEM to seek help.

GracieT's avatar

It was hard for me to tell whether or not I was depressed. I felt VERY happy and on top of the world and invincible for months and I rarely slept. I also had a habit of spending money. Then I suddenly started to be upset most of the time, things which I used to be crazy about suddenly were not interesting in the least. I cried all of the time and thought of suicide. After I found out about manic depression (as bipolar illness was called back then) I ran to a doctor. She was pretty sure that I was sick. She put me on medication and I didn’t have the cycles anymore. Unfortunately medicine and bodies don’t agree forever. You may need to move to different medications or strengths, but there are appropriate medications for both conditions.

emeraldisles's avatar

Like you don’t want to get out of bed, you feel exhausted all the time, have no interest in anything. Everything feels like a lot.

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