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What does it feel like to have anxiety and depression?

What does it feel like to have anxiety and depression? This article looks at accounts of some people who have experienced these symptoms.
© University of Reading

To get a better sense of what it’s like to have anxiety and depression, it can be helpful to hear from those who’ve actually experienced depression and anxiety.

It’s important to remember that whilst these difficulties are associated with a specific set of symptoms, anxiety and depression can be very individual experiences. As we’ll see, there are different types of anxiety and depression, and people experience different combinations of symptoms, have different triggers, and cope in different ways.

Let’s take a closer look.

People who have experienced anxiety and depression

‘Depression is like going through life like you’re trying to wade through water. Everything is an effort. I just feel so sluggish and slow. And I’ve stopped doing all the things that I used to do – nothing feels good anymore.’
‘Depression to me is like drowning, while everyone else is breathing. It’s also kind of like life in slow motion. It feels like being shackled and having no power or sense of existence. Depression is like being on the outside of everything.’
‘It feels like you can’t breathe in a room full of people, because someone might stare at you if you make the tiniest noise. You feel like everyone is always talking about you, even though they usually aren’t. Depression is different for everyone, as is anxiety, but for me depression is the feeling of being utterly alone no matter what you do. Silently crying for help but no one cares.’
‘It’s shrunk my world to the point where I don’t want to do anything around other people because I’m so terrified of making an idiot of myself.’
‘I worry all of the time; thinking about if I’ll make the bus on time; messing up at work; my daughter having to get back from a club by herself; feeling like I’m going to forget something really important; upsetting a friend; worrying about the future; a cough that just won’t go away. Sometimes I just have a bad feeling, but I can’t even really put my finger on what I’m actually worried about.’
‘(Depression) It’s like stepping into quicksand. Slowly it takes you in, until you are submerged. Can’t breathe, can’t think. After you pass through the sand, you find yourself in a dark, never ending abyss.’
(Depression and anxiety) It’s like alternating between feeling stuck in the past and worrying about the future. Like feeling stupid for something you said, and ruminating in that, and then worrying about saying more stupid things the next time you have to go interact with people.’
‘Anxiety is the feeling that rushes through your chest when you are about to miss a step on the staircase or you catch your foot on a crack in the pavement, and you think, for a moment, you are going to fall. it is that feeling, but constant.’
‘My anxiety is like the feeling you get when you begin the swift descent from the highest point of a roller coaster, and your body can’t keep up.’
‘(it) feels incredibly lonely. And the frustrating thing is that things that could help make things better (such being physically active, talking to someone, going out with friends) are so much more difficult to do when you feel depressed and anxious.’
‘It feels like you’re scared of bad outcomes that you can’t change by yourself, it changes the person’s thoughts to negative ones that simply aren’t true.
‘It feels like there’s an elastic band round your brain every time you get frustrated. It skews the way you think and everything seems unclear. Your eyes hurt, you can’t really think about anything.’

In order to understand this more fully, we need to think about how we process and make sense of the world, and how this might look different in people with anxiety and depression.

This can help us to understand the cognitive behavioural framework a little better, as well as understanding these disorders more fully too.

If you’d like to learn more about understanding anxiety, depression and CBT, check out the online course from the University of Reading, below.

© University of Reading
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Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT

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