How does depression feel?

Tearful person

Common symptoms include tearfulness, irritability and feeling helpless.
Image: Vasilchenko Nikita /

The experience of depression can be quite different from one person to the next, but feeling low or sad, feeling a loss of interest and enjoyment in life, as well as feelings of guilt and worthlessness, are the usual hallmarks. Other common symptoms of depression include tearfulness, irritability, withdrawing from social activities, loss of confidence, lowered self-esteem and feeling helpless.

Some people feel worst first thing in the morning, and gradually feel a bit better during the day.

Many people think about harming themselves or committing suicide, and some try to do it.

While depression may be triggered by events (e.g. a relationship problem, grief or financial problems), many people with depression feel low whether things are going well or not.

People with depression talking about their experiences

These are quotes from people who posted comments on an online depression forum, and who agreed to be part of a study about depression.

‘I am struggling so much and it just doesn't make sense... So much to live for but I have lost the will to live. Don't know what to do except to put one foot in front and the next and the next. Please help!’

‘Why is it I feel so alone and scared all of the time??? I have a supportive husband and 3 beautiful children but why does that not feel like it is enough. I know I have all of these things as well as more than some people, but why do I feel so alone??? Is it just me or is it just because I have to deal with this horrible illness that is slowly eating away at me from the inside and is slowly taking a hold of me and I feel it will not let go. I feel so alone.’

‘I'm very worried about the consequences if I tell them about my depression. I believe I was fired from my last job because of it. It's also destroying my confidence because I just feel so stupid all the time and it seems as if no one understands...’

‘I wish I could stop being so hard on myself, but I blame myself for being this way and no matter what I do or say, that feeling won't stop...I thought I was stronger than this, but obviously I am not...I know that there is a lot of love for me but I don't deserve it...I feel as though I am bringing everyone around me down and that is making me feel worse.’

See stories and personal experiences of depression and recovery in Australia at

Do you need a mood check-up? Take the quiz

Over the past two weeks, have you felt consistently:

Down, depressed or hopeless?

Yes             No

Little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy?

Yes             No

This doesn't necessarily mean you are depressed but it does show you need to be checked out. Go and talk to your general practitioner (GP) and tell them how you've been feeling. If you feel life is not worth living, call Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467).

Great! It sounds like you're OK, but if you are worried about your mental health for any other reason, talk to your GP.

Getting help

If you think you could be depressed, go and talk to your doctor about it. If you are not ready to go to a doctor, call one of the depression support services available for people. Talking to a supportive family member, friend, or another health professional (e.g. nurse or pharmacist) can also help.

Some people don’t seek help because they feel like nothing will help, or that they should be strong enough to solve their own problems. This may be the depression talking — feeling worthless, guilty and pessimistic about the future are symptoms of depression.

Share your own experience

You can write about your own experience, and communicate with other people who know what it’s like, on these online forums:

  • beyondblue, the national depression initiative
  • BlueBoard, from the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University
  • depressioNet
  • ReachOut, online crisis and mental health information for people aged 14 to 25, from the Inspire Foundation
  • headspace, for people aged 12 to 25, from the National Youth Mental Health Foundation

For more information

  • National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Depression: the NICE guideline on the treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2010. (accessed 9 February 2012).
  • Barney LJ, Griffiths KM, Banfield MA. Explicit and implicit information needs of people with depression: a qualitative investigation of problems reported on an online depression support forum. BMC Psychiatry 2011;11:88.