Depression: How it really feels and 5 ways to help a friend.

Depression is a word often used these days to mean different things and although that has helped with the awareness, there is a danger in that we may start not taking it seriously. For example, a friend told me that their bank balance is “depressing”. Another random tweet read that the rail replacement bus driver was very “depressing”.

I am not saying there is no truth to what they were saying but what I am saying is that Depression is a word that many people throw about willy-nilly these days. In fact, many say it to mean “low mood”. To know the difference read my blog about Depression and Low mood

Although there might be an overlap in the symptoms of ‘depression’ and ‘low mood’, the two conditions are different.

What is the difference between Depression and Low mood then?

A low mood that is persistent often may turn into depression.

The difference between both conditions is basically one of intensity and duration.

You see, as normal beings, we all feel down, sad, and fed up sometimes. This is life, and very important to acknowledge this.

When we experience a setback or a major loss, such as a loved one, pet, end of a relationship, or job –  it is so natural for us to grieve. During this period, grief may manifest in symptoms similar to those of depression; (anhedonia) loss of interest in things, hopelessness, worthlessness, low self-esteem, overeating or not eating, oversleeping or poor sleep, etc. Grieving is often normal and a very important stage of the healing process as you start to deal with emotional pain.

The above symptoms are usually brief and may last for a few days or weeks.

However, in depression, these symptoms and others may last for a substantial period and as a result, the ability to function may significantly be affected. Depression is itself common and some researchers predict that it will become even more common in the next 10 years.

How does it feel to be depressed?

From talking to several people who have experienced depression this is how they succinctly described it.

It is like getting stuck in a black hole with no way out

At times it feels like this dark cloud is hovering over you wherever you go and can’t get rid of it.

I felt like I was being locked in a very dark room and I find the door to get out of it.

Some days feel it feels like no one understands you or is prepared to listen to you.

You feel like you want to disappear for some time and return when this horrible feeling is gone.

So, you feel like you want to die but do not want to.

Hmm…You feel unwanted as though tucked in a corner disconnected and no one is interested.

You feel empty and alone, you cannot see any way out.

It’s like being terribly homesick but already being at home, so you know there is no possible way to satiate the feeling

What is unfortunate is that the feelings and thoughts when feeling depressed may change our behaviors in ways that may make the depression worse.

How to help a friend who is depressed?

Although there are no simple answers to this, it is important to know that most people who experience depression do recover. Yes, that’s right even though the feelings described above seem absolutely unbearable.

These are my tips to you:

  • If you can, spend time with them and try to show them that you are available for them.
  • Listen to them in a non-judgmental way and let them express their negative emotions and feelings. Feeling heard may help them feel understood, which is very comforting. Although you might feel like doing something practical to help, just listen to them.
  • Do not say words like ‘cheer up’ or ‘snap out of it’ they may be feeling a lot of guilt and self-blame already. Avoid saying ‘I know how you feel I have felt down too’ or words to that effect. Your friend may think you are not bothered about how he or she is feeling. They want you to see things from their perspective, not yours or your experiences.
  • Be patient with them and supportive. They may already have a lot of self-directed anger and may be irritable towards you to reduce this pressure. It is very common to feel that they don’t deserve your love and friendship and as a result, may push you away, you may find their behavior towards you distressing – continue to be supportive, don’t be put off by it.
  • Try encouraging them to continue doing the things they used to enjoy and offer to join them.

Last thoughts

While looking after your friend DO NOT forget to look after your mental well-being too. Try not to let your life become overtaken by your need to support theirs. Where possible let others play a part too and have some respite away from it. If you don’t, you may end up resenting your friend. Encourage and support them to seek support and offer to attend a GP appointment with them.


There is a lot of support available:

Support Services


I recently wrote this post for Psychreg, here is the link to the original blog

18 thoughts on “Depression: How it really feels and 5 ways to help a friend.”

  1. The ideas about how to support someone with depression are really useful (and the reminder about looking after our own mental health as we do this too). I think a lot of people dismiss or struggle to understand just how impactful depression can be on every aspect of life so it’s great to leave perception behind and listen carefully to those we want to help. Great post!

  2. I’ve never suffered from depression but I have friends who do from time to time. Your tips are spot on, it’s so important to be supportive, non-judgemental, and to LISTEN to them when they need it most.

  3. These are some really helpful tips for people to help loved ones experience depression. Thank you for sharing this helpful post.


  4. The everyday use of the word certainly has shifted over the years, which, as you’ve pointed at, can be a problem. A lot of people don’t seem to know the difference between having a low mood for a while, and being clinically depressed. This distinction needs to be a part of mental health awareness and education

  5. I have struggled with depression in the past, and thank you for sharing ways to help a friend who is depressed. It is good to have support without being judged.

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