What Is Depression Like? Understanding Depression From Both The Inside And Outside

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/10/2020

Depression can be expressed in many different ways, sometimes making it difficult to identify and overcome.

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As it stands, 16% of the US population will experience a depressive episode in a given year, making it more important than ever to unearth as much knowledge as possible concerning depression.

WHAT IS DEPRESSION LIKE?

It is perfectly normal to feel sad or bad about a situation or after a long workday. There is no way any individual can maintain a state of euphoric happiness for the rest of their life.

However, if a person feels sad, lost, and hurt for much longer than a day, sometimes even for weeks at a time, then there is a chance that they are experiencing either a depressive episode or are clinically depressed. This is what depression looks like.

Depression is a mood disorder that affects the way one thinks about themselves and the world. It can cloud their outlook on life, obscuring life’s positive things and replacing them with a negative outlook.

If symptoms of hopelessness persist for at least two weeks, then clinical depression may be the cause. Many have described depression like the feeling of having a black hole in their stomach, unable to escape its grasp. It may be a sense of feeling empty and alone in the world. Depression doesn’t have to last forever, and education about it is key to helping yourself or those you know with depression.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression symptoms are divided into two categories: physical and psychological. They are as follows:

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Physical:

  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or not eating enough)
  • Becoming overweight or underweight
  • Oversleeping or sleeping too little
  • Unexplained aches, pains, headaches, problems with the digestive system
  • Loss of energy and lack of interest in one’s passions
  • Feeling fatigued constantly
  • Difficulty in concentrating or not making clear decisions

Psychological:

  • Experiencing sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Seeing oneself as unworthy or helpless to others
  • Consistent low mood and negative outlook on life
  • Unable to find enjoyment in life

These are only a handful of symptoms as there are many more, and different people experience different things. There is a form of mild depression, in which those affected are low in spirit. On the other hand, those with severe depression may experience thoughts of hurting themselves or others. If you suspect that you or someone you love has severe depression, then contact a professional for support.

These symptoms may indicate depression, but a full evaluation by a mental health professional is the best way to determine if what you’re experiencing, or noticing is depression or something else.

Furthermore, some people with depression are not necessarily sad. They may be hiding their feelings, or other parts of their personality are affected, such as having low confidence or uninterest in the world around them. Some people suffering from depression even explain the feeling like an “emptiness.” People with depression may notice the lack of joy in places where they didn’t even realize they once found joy. For example, simple things like color, music, or the outdoors, may suddenly not make you happy anymore.

Remember that those with depression experience it in different ways. Even if an individual is experiencing one of these symptoms, then pay close attention to their behavior for any other subtle changes.

If you want to see if you have any depression symptoms, follow this link and take a quick screening test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/depression-test.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEPRESSION

Depression comes in many forms depending on the person and sometimes the season as well. Each type is different from the last, and in understanding each one, there is a greater chance of recovering from a depressive episode.

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  • Major Depression. This type goes by multiple names, but the most common one is simply “depression.” It involves having the symptoms of depression constantly, having a low mood, a loss of interest in one’s passions, and other symptoms. These symptoms are experienced for two weeks.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder. Unlike Major Depression, Persistent Depressive Disorder is when depressive symptoms last for more than two years. As such, these individuals may experience multiple episodes of major depression while also having periods of less severe depressions alongside it.
  • Bipolar Disorder. Once known as manic depression, Bipolar disorder is when an individual experiences mania and depression. For instance, mania can come with a feeling of exuberance, irritation, and more.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Those affected with this type of disorder experience depression depending on the current season. Experts believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is related to variation in light exposure, but the cause is still unclear. For example, many people struggle with depression during the winter season. Lastly, SAD is more prevalent in shorter days and longer periods of darkness, such as in the Northern hemisphere. For places such as Australia, SAD is not as prevalent.

As there are countless types of depression, another important factor to consider is how mental illness can affect different genders.

Depression in Men

Surprisingly, depression in men is often different from depression in women. The reason for this difference, in many circumstances, comes down to societal expectations for the masculine gender.

In JAMA Psychiatry, Lisa A. Martin and her team conducted a study measuring the effects of depression in both men and women. They concluded that men report higher rates of aggression when dealing with depression. Other symptoms men show more often include substance abuse and risk-taking.

According to Dr. Martin’s team, the reasoning for men’s violent reactions toward depression, involves society’s masculinity idea. Since the traditional symptoms of depression, such as feeling hopeless or lacking the energy to focus on one’s interests or passion, clashes with some social expectations for men, men may present with depression symptoms differently than women.

As such, the article discusses that men are more likely to react with anger, self-destructive behavior, and other violent means of expressing their depression. Males are also susceptible to being highly irritable, overreacting to minor annoyances, and having lower impulse control.

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Depression in Women

On the other hand, women exhibit more emotional symptoms of depression. These symptoms include outwardly experiencing guilt, excessive sleeping, and weight gain. Women are more likely to experience the psychological symptoms of depression between men and women, while men show the physical, behavioral symptoms of depression more often.

Beyond symptoms, there are a few specific types of depression for women that pertain to their physiology. Each of these types affects them differently and provides a more in-depth look into depression’s impact on a person’s body and mind.

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

While Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) refers to a change in mood and irritability in a woman weeks before menstruation, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a rarer, more severe form of PMS. Symptoms include irritability, breast tenderness, joint muscle pain, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.

  • Perinatal Depression

Perinatal Depression affects women during pregnancy (prenatal depression) and after childbirth (postpartum depression). During these two types of depression, women may feel extreme sadness, anxiety, fatigue. These symptoms make it a challenge for women to take care of themselves, and their newborns. In particular, postpartum depression impacts up to 1 in 7 mothers, making it all the more important in following up with a doctor if you or a loved one is experiencing this kind of depression.

  • Perimenopausal Depression

Women may also experience depression when transitioning into menopause (perimenopause). Their struggles include being irritable, loss of enjoyment at the time of perimenopause, and anxiety.

HOW CAN DEPRESSION BE TREATED?

Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to help treat depression. Here are a few ways you can beat your depression:

Share Your Feelings with Close Friends and Family

By being open and honest with trusted people, you minimize your feelings of isolation and increase support. Talking to somebody face-to-face helps confront your feelings of emptiness.

Engage with the world

Try to find interests and connect with other people that can benefit you. For instance, consider adopting a lovable pet and shower them with love and praise. Or consider a new hobby, such as hiking or biking.

Professional Help

Seek out a local therapist or use online therapy tools. Research has shown that online therapy can be just as effective as therapy in person.

CONCLUSION

There are many treatment options available for depression. The first step is to acknowledge and understand symptoms. To find out if you may be suffering from depression, take our quick online test. Talking with your doctor a licensed mental health professional can get you started on the path to recovery.