Subjective Perspectives on Depression

November 28, 2023

Subjective Perspectives on Depression

Am I depressed? Am I just feeling down?

Many people struggle with these questions. That's largely because the criteria for diagnosing depression are highly subjective. There's no blood test or imaging scan that can provide a concrete diagnosis. As a result, many people seek out 'depression diagnosis' or 'self-diagnosis for depression'.

Recently, an interesting article titled "The Lived Experience of Depression" was published in the internationally recognized psychiatric journal, World Psychiatry. The article tries to explain depression from a subjective perspective, using words from those who have experienced it. If you're not sure if you're depressed based on rigid diagnostic criteria, this article could be helpful. It includes descriptions related to the 'subjective world of depression'.

1. Overwhelmed by Negative Emotions

"I felt a horrific sense of guilt. But I was unable to connect such feelings with any specific memory or actions, or any part of me."

"Fears about change, death, failure, success, fear of being alone paralyzed me for years."

"I find it hard to listen to your problems today. I'm overwhelmed by just trying to keep myself together."

2. Not Being Able to Feel Positive Emotions

"Things that used to comfort me no longer bring me joy."

"My partner expects me to express love. But I don't know where to find such love."

"I got absorbed in myself and lost myself. I stopped caring about things like love, work, family, friends."

3. Drained of Energy and Heavy Body

"All day I'm tired, even after a full night's sleep. I can never feel refreshed."

"It feels like swimming in a churning sea."

"I feel like gravity is working harder on my body than anywhere else in the world."

"I am unable to eat or drink due to constipation."

4. Feelings of Being Detached from Mind, Body, and World

"The signals from my body are turned off. I'm just like a machine doing what I have to do."

"I feel completely cut off from the world. Like a walking corpse."

"I don't feel human. I hate myself."

5. Lack of Purpose and Hope

"All I could do was just existing at that moment, without any drive, purpose, or reason."

"I am just sitting idle, expelled, feeling like nothing matters."

6. Discordance with the Past and Current Depressed Self

"I just felt weird and alien."

"I no longer recognize myself."

"When I look in the mirror, I look the same, but something should be different… I've just… gone."

7. Trapped in Painful Prison

"Depression is like a dungeon. I'm trapped and cannot get out."

"I feel like a prisoner trapped in a prison called my mind."

"It feels like I'm walking through a dark tunnel. I can't breathe."

8. Loss of Control Over Thoughts

"My mind is in complete chaos, with hundreds of thoughts spinning around, with no order or function."

"Thoughts just come, even when I don't want to think. I can't help it. They just come."

9. Loss of Control Over the World

"I was unable to even control a few minor events."

"I couldn't decide whether to wear a green blouse or a white blouse from the wardrobe. Everything seemed of great importance."

10. Numbness, Emptiness, Non-Existence, Death

"Everything that used to make me happy feels like nothing."

"I'm just numb. Gone. Just existing. Not living. Nothing... in a state of insensibility."

"My head, body, and the entire world feel completely empty."

"I have a clear belief that I am nothing."

11. Death as an Escape

"I feel like I'm dead. But being 'dead' doesn't alleviate the unbearable pain."

"The only end I can see is honestly, really death."

"If I die, everything will end. The memories, the painful memories, the current pressures."

"I felt like dying could solve any problem."

12. Alterations in Body Rhythm

"Can't sleep well. Wake up from sleep, get a little sleep, sweaty, confused."

"I can't sleep. I wake from sleep, sleep a little, sweat, and become confused."

"My body just wanted to sleep. I often sleep up to 20 hours a day."

"I found myself eating just to survive. The food had no taste."

13. Overwhelming Past

"I can't get away from past experiences."

"I've just received what I deserved in my life."

"Guilty feelings about my past life suffocate me."

14. Stagnant Present

"Time has stopped and I can't remember days."

"Everything has stopped."

"I look out of the window. It's cloudy outside. The birds have stopped singing. The flowers have turned black. Everything is silent."

15. Impossible Future

"There seems to be a big hole in the future. There is a big empty space for me to enter, and it seems to be completely empty."

"I felt like I was existing in the dark, and I waited for the future in the darkness."

"I had a feeling that this would go on forever. That it will never end."

Mental health issues are not simply a matter of 'yes' or 'no'. If you notice similar patterns in your life as discussed above, seeking help is recommended. Whether through medication or cognitive therapy, early intervention often delivers better results than expected.


Fusar-Poli, P., Estradé, A., Stanghellini, G., Esposito, C.M., Rosfort, R., Mancini, M., Norman, P., Cullen, J., Adesina, M., Jimenez, G.B., da Cunha Lewin, C., Drah, E.A., Julien, M., Lamba, M., Mutura, E.M., Prawira, B., Sugianto, A., Teressa, J., White, L.A., Damiani, S., Vasconcelos, C., Bonoldi, I., Politi, P., Vieta, E., Radden, J., Fuchs, T., Ratcliffe, M. and Maj, M. (2023), The lived experience of depression: a bottom-up review co-written by experts by experience and academics. World Psychiatry, 22: 352-365.

Better Mental Health,
A science-based cognitive therapy
for depression and anxiety led by experts
start distancing
start distancing