For people with depression, it can be a truly difficult task to explain their condition. Because it is a disease that is more commonly associated with mental symptoms -- not outward, physical ones --those on the outside are often curious about what depression feels like. And it certainly feels like something: "In general, the worse the painful physical symptoms, the more severe the depression," researchers wrote in an overview of depression and physical symptoms in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. "Symptoms have been found to increase the duration of depressed mood."
In fact, patients often first complain of physical symptoms to a primary care physician, making depression more apt to be misdiagnosed.
That's what makes discussions about the physical experience of being depressed all the more important. In this regard, look no further than forums on Reddit, in which those who have struggled can commune over the truly all-encompassing physical reality of their illness.
We chose a few of their honest (and anonymous) descriptions and illustrated them in an attempt to gain some insight into the experience.
"When I'm on my lows, my girlfriend says it's like I'm on autopilot."
"Physically to me, it feels like someone with an army boot is pressing down on my chest."
"I always likened it to trying to run up a hill made of mud, every bit of progress you seem to make, you just slide right back down."
"I don't remember that last time I didn't feel like a tiny black hole."
"I feel really tight in the chest, like someone has grabbed my heart and holding on tightly."
"Getting off the couch to make a sandwich is akin to climbing Mount Everest, so fuck that."
"At the worst times I would describe it as, having my insides on fire while I slowly drown. It's overwhelming and exhausting."
"Most of you say you feel heavy.. Am I the only one who feels absolutely nothing at all? Physical and psychological. Just empty space."
"Each little action felt like climbing a dozen flights of stairs."
"Heavy. Claustrophobic. Like I'm moving through syrup, not air. It makes me feel much weaker."
What does depression feel like to you? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.