What does depression feel like? – USA TODAY

Few mental health conditions are as misunderstood or as mischaracterized as depression. Among mental health professionals, it’s known to be a debilitating disorder that can rob people of motivation, happiness and even hope. But among others, the word “depressed” is often tossed about casually or is used synonymously with having a bad day, feeling bummed out or experiencing temporary moments of sadness or melancholy. 
Such feelings can, of course, be symptoms of depression; but occasionally experiencing such feelings when connected to a disappointing turn of events and being diagnosed with clinical depression are two very different things. “The impact of depression on a person’s emotional and physical well-being is enormous,” says Norman Rosenthal, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School. 
Indeed, clinical depression is often described as constant or frequent feelings of apathy, hopelessness, helplessness, or of feeling so overwhelmed or disconnected from other persons or events that it becomes difficult to even carry out day-to-day tasks or responsibilities. Some people with depression experience reduced feelings of pleasure or a loss of interest in hobbies or activities they used to be passionate about. “The patients I work with sometimes describe feeling empty, numb, or hollow,” says Natalie Christine Dattilo, PhD, a clinical & health psychologist and founder of Priority Wellness based in Boston, Massachusetts. “Feelings of deep sadness or despair can come in waves – sometimes unexpectedly – and envelope them,” she adds. 
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Other signs of depression that Rosenthal looks out for include no longer enjoying one’s life, a loss of meaning or purpose, feelings of pessimism about the future, persistent trouble eating or sleeping, trouble at work or within one’s personal relationships, or, at worst, feeling like life is no longer worth living. “Depression is a leading cause of suicide,” he says. 
“Many of my therapy clients describe depression as a ‘fog’ or ‘heaviness’ that lingers over them and makes it difficult for them to experience happiness or contentment,” echoes Jameca Woody Cooper, PhD, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Webster University in Missouri.
Such symptoms are even more worrisome when you consider how common they are. “Almost 30% of people are estimated to have been diagnosed with depression at some time in their lifetime,” says Rosenthal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the current number of U.S. adults suffering from depression to be at being nearly 1 in 5 – with women being more impacted than men by a difference of 24% to 13.3%.
And depression rates don’t seem to be slowing. Already, the World Health Organization recognizes anxiety and depressive disorders as the two most common mental health challenges, and the organization has “projected that depression will rank first by 2030,” says John Krystal, MD, a professor of psychiatry, neuroscience and psychology at Yale Department of Psychiatry.
Despite its debilitating nature and prevalence, there is hope for people suffering from depression. “There are many effective treatments for depression, and they often work best in combination with one another,” says Rosenthal. Some natural remedies include adjusting one’s diet, spending more time outside, journaling, socializing and exercise. Each of these and several other practices have been shown to alleviate at least some symptoms of depression. 
Professional help is another place to turn. “Many people seek help initially from therapists, counselors or religious leaders,” says Krystal. “For more severe and persistent symptoms, it is common for people to be treated with psychotherapy.” 
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one such form of psychotherapy that’s effective at challenging and correcting one’s reasoning behind negative thoughts, behaviors, or patterns. “CBT is an evidence-based therapy widely considered to be one of the most effective non-medication-based treatments for depression,” Dattilo explains. “For more severe cases of depression, medication therapy may be recommended.” There are several types or classes of antidepressants available that are proven to be effective against depression and have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Such drugs come with side effects and risks of their own, however, which should be weighed and considered with the help of a mental health professional. 
“Talk to your doctor if you think you might be experiencing symptoms of depression,” advises Datillo. “They can evaluate you further and make a recommendation for care.”
If you or someone you know needs support for mental health, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse call, text or chat:
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988 and 988lifeline.org
BlackLine: 800-604-5841 and callblackline.com
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860 and translifeline.org
Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 and press 1 to talk to someone; send a text message to 988or chat 988lifeline.org

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