Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

How can I begin to describe depression to someone who has never had it?

38 Answers
Last Updated: 06/08/2020 at 4:57pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Monique Thompson, LPC, LPC-S

Licensed Professional Counselor

I am in my 21st year as a psychotherapist. I have worked with over 3, 000 people over the course of my career.

Top Rated Answers
Anonymous - Expert in Depression
October 2nd, 2015 6:49am
A funny but true metaphor: Depression is like peeling a potato with a potato. It's difficult, tiring, and feels pointless. But the worst thing is you see everyone else with a peeler. You try and try and try and can never quite get it. And you get frustrated and start to lose hope. You can't see a solution or a way out. Everyone around you tells you that you're over reacting, that it's all in your head. That you're not trying hard enough. They say "why not use a peeler?" And then they hand you another potato. And you either eventually succeed or you give up. And this is why depression is so hard.
June 14th, 2015 10:57pm
I find using this webcomic is a great tool to help describe depression:
August 5th, 2015 11:59am
well it's different from each individual, i;ts the cancer of the soul, it's like a dark place that you can't escape, it feels like falling down a dark bottomless shaft wondering if and when your fall will ever end or if you'll ever be caught and as you look back to where you fell from you can see it receding further into the distance and light becomes dimmer and dimmer while the shaft into which you are falling becomes deeper and darker. it's like standing underneath a floor of glass banging on it as hard as you can trying to get the attention of others but no one can hear you, it's like a state in which nothing tastes, smells, or feels right, and you are unable to take decisions yet you carry on and so much of the time you just don't have the energy or the desire but you still carry on anyway. its having multiple emotions like fear, despair, emptiness, shame, embarrassment, and inability to recognize the happy fun person you used to be. nothing is enjoyable you cant smile anymore its like you are an actor you have to force the smile to fake it, wanting to scream your lungs out and your head off but you don't know why, when you look in the mirror you only see dead eyes with no spark no joy or hope , you wonder how you'll manage to exist another day, it like drowning and you don't even need water to feel that, and feeling alone in a room full of people. in the end always remember you don't know HALF of it
May 27th, 2015 12:34pm
This video about the "Black Dog" Is a really good portrayal of depression, and gives people a new perspective on it: - - I'd recommend having a look, and maybe even linking them to it!
August 18th, 2015 1:57am
The best analogy I have heard used to describe depression is drowning. When suffering from depression you see everyone afloat and swimming well, but you feel stuck. It feels like you can't move no matter how hard you swim. But one day there will be a day when you get rescued. For some it takes longer than others, but you will rescue yourself.
March 27th, 2015 4:09pm
This can be hard, especially because those with depression may experience it differently than others. Could you begin by describing how it makes you feel, how it affects your daily life, and telling others exactly what you need from them to help you? Sometimes others do not know how to react. I like to say," I could use a hug now" or maybe another time, I will say," I need to be alone right now". It is great that you are open to discussing this with others. You are very brave because many do not talk about this. I am very proud of you for reducing the stigma of depression! You are amazing and inspiring!
April 1st, 2015 1:21pm
Sometimes you feel all alone, you see everything but feel's like you don't even exist in that place and no one will even notice that you are not into it. Utterly sad, nothing to do, no one to turn to... It feels like the end of every happy moment. Once in a while you will catch your self smiling at little things with some people but the moment you have only yourself for company you feel desolate...empty.. Even basic things that you used to like will feel annoying or downright unhappy. This is how I used to feel before I literally stumbled into 7 cups... It is surprising how just sitting quietly beside a person you trust can be confusing, scary and yet comfort and lighten your load. A HUG works wonders...
July 13th, 2015 12:16am
First of all, I should say that not everyone's description of depression is the same. To me, depression is feeling useless, a reigning sadness that never fades, incapable, and tired. Your experience might be different. Try to think about how you're feeling, maybe write it down first, and just relate your experience as honestly as you can.
February 16th, 2016 11:32pm
I really need this answer. I find depression word as a fancy way to tell I am sad. Sadness and depression are different things.
April 12th, 2016 4:45pm
If you want to say it simply, you can tell them "Depression is like a big void of sadness, emptiness, and sleepiness that just comes out of nowhere and you can't really get out of it until it leaves."
May 8th, 2017 9:01pm
Depression is different for everyone, so definitely tweak any advice you get to fit what depression means to you. For me personally, depression means this: Not being able to get out of bed for almost 24 hours because I just can't get myself to move. Skipping meals. Ignoring my friends. Getting into bed extremely early in the evening (sometimes even afternoon) and not leaving until I have to get up in the morning. Not being able to eat a meal with friends even if you enjoy their company. Crying every night. Feeling worthless because of a grade I got on an assignment. There are other things too, but those are some things that came to mind first. I hope that helps!
November 13th, 2017 4:21pm
All i can compare it to, to someone without depression is a similar feeling of grief after a loved one has died. Only a loved one is dying every day, or couple of days, recourringly.
November 21st, 2017 2:18pm
Depression can feel like your world gets smaller and smaller. It also can feel like a dark, heavy, wet blanket around the heart/mind/spirit that doesn't go away and that seems to feel tighter and darker and more and more uncomfortable as time goes on. Feelings of stuckness, helplessness and hopelessness are also common with depression. You can *know* what you "should" do to get out of it, but the motivation to just do it is not there, and the vicious cycle repeats. Depression can make us feel all alone in the world and even if that's not the reality, it sure feels this way, and changing it takes time, patience and work. The best first thing we can do for depression is to talk about it with someone who has an open mind and heart, who doesn't judge, and who let's us share how we feel without jumping to solutions. Depressed people don't want or need to hear "get over it", or "medication can help", or other things like that. Gentleness and presence and kind connection goes a long way for depression. One day at a time, and one foot in front of the other, is the way out of depression. No time limits and no conditions and lots of compassion and understanding - towards ourselves and from others - goes a long way. Be well and be YOU, because there's no one else like you in the world, and because you matter!
June 5th, 2018 12:13am
Depression mainly described as a state of losing yourself in many ways. Your feelings and ideas are going in the same direction over and over, there is not that many points of view of the situations, most of them are negative.
January 27th, 2015 1:20am
I usually describe it as a looming rain cloud that follows me where ever it is that I am. It persists and doesn't go away.
February 19th, 2015 1:55am
I would begin by making it clear that depression isn't about simply being "sad" all the time. Depression, instead, is a treatable mental disorder whose symptoms express themselves in a variety of ways, one of which includes being "sad." I would then go on to describe some of your other symptoms, such as feeling a lack of motivation, feeling like you can't enjoy the things you used to love, and possibly even thoughts/attempts at suicide. It's important to against differentiate depression from normal bouts of sorrow, which we all get. Depression is just as real of a mental disorder as schizophrenia, and should be treated with the same seriousness-- it's not simply "being sad." That said, remind the person that it -is- treatable, and that help is available (through drugs, talk therapy, behavioral modification, etc).
March 15th, 2015 2:52am
Describe it such as a rainstorm that does not stop, and explain the feelings that Depression brings to you on a daily basis.
April 2nd, 2015 9:03am
It's like a dark force always hanging over you and making you feel horrible about anything you say or do. You feel like everything is hopeless and nothing makes you feel happy anymore. You can get out of bed because what's the point. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
April 24th, 2015 7:46pm
Many people confuse depression with extreme sensation of sadness. But actually, I think it is feeling nothing, which is actually more worst than being extremely sad.
June 22nd, 2015 1:41am
One of the main things is the dopamine and serotonin is not balanced in your brain. Your emotions become more intense, especially sadness and anger if someone is depressed, and it's harder to regulate emotions like that.
June 30th, 2015 5:21am
You feel lost in a black hole which seems inescapable, dark, cold and hopeless. No light seems to be able to save you
September 29th, 2015 12:31pm
An absolute desire to get everything over with. You have no motivation and just feel like letting everything drift away. Absolutely no interest in anything, that includes sex, and you just feel like everything is over.
November 23rd, 2015 1:27pm
Describing depression to someone that has never had it is impossible. You cannot understand something you've never experience, you can only imagine. You cannot explain depression, you can however, explain that you need someone.
December 28th, 2015 8:11am
Depression can be described like a car without fuel. You want to do things but your body does not to
February 1st, 2016 6:04am
Winston Churchill always described his depression beautifully, so these are quotes from him. For suicidal thoughts: "I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand back and, if possible, get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation." For recovering from depression: "I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture." On depression, he compared depression to a black dog. But the black dog would not trail you around, but would leap out at you from corners of the room, it's teeth bared, hurting you, but never killing you...
February 29th, 2016 10:22am
Depression is like cancer, the difference is it's harder to label because it's a disease in your brain that no one else can see or feel but you. It's a cloud of gray and tired bones. It's just as bad as any disease out there because it will try and take your life.
April 12th, 2016 6:30am
Explain to them the dictionary definition of depression. Then explain to them how you feel and what your depression situation means to you, without disclosing any information you don't want them to know - unless you're speaking with a professional who's trying to help you!
June 13th, 2016 1:43pm
First of all, you need to tell them what depression is- an illness. Bring out some facts, provide reliable sources that talk about it and it's symptoms.
July 4th, 2016 11:55pm
It is like sitting under a well with the slightest bean of lights. Just sitting there, looking up, feeling like you are stuck in the well, in the darkness forever, and you just keep going in this cycle of depression, nothing feels enjoyable, until you've had enough pain and that's how the light gets in because we are all broken after all :)
July 11th, 2016 5:58pm
Explain it like you where to a child this is something that can be very touchy to many people so explain it carefully