How To Explain Depression to Someone Who Doesn’t Have It

June 16, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
This article was medically reviewed by Leah Benson, LMHC

Top points

  • Everyone experiences depression in different ways which can make it challenging to explain to someone who has not experienced it.
  • Letting your loved ones know what you are experiencing will better equip them to help you.
  • Using symbolism or metaphors for how you are feeling will help your loved ones understand what depression feels like.

If you struggle with depression or anxiety, it can be difficult to explain what it feels like to someone who has never dealt with it before.

It’s normal to feel like you can’t explain what you’re going through to someone who hasn’t experienced it — however, it is also important to be able to confide in your loved ones.

So, how can you explain your depression to someone who isn’t depressed?

How Can I Explain My Depression to Someone Who Isn’t Depressed?

Depression and anxiety are something that everyone experiences from time to time. However, everyone experiences them in different ways. On the one hand, symptoms of these mental health conditions can manifest themselves as passing emotions that may not even deeply affect you. On the other hand, they could be intense, crippling, and overwhelming.

So, if you are an individual who deals with crippling depressive symptoms, how can you explain it to someone, like a family member, who doesn’t know what it’s like?

If you can let your spouse, friends, and family know exactly what you are going through, it’s more likely that they can be patient with you and help you through trying moments.

Here are a few tips that should help you know how to explain your symptoms to someone who has never dealt with depression or anxiety before.

Use Broad Terms

When describing your experience with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions to someone that is close to you, it might be helpful to use broad terms like major depression, mood disorder, depressive episode, psychiatry, and so on. If these terms are unfamiliar to them, you can look up the definitions together. The more vocabulary they know, the easier it will be for you to discuss your illness.

Tell Them Depression Isn’t Just Sadness

Anxiety and depression are a natural and healthy part of life. For many people, they are simply a natural response to external stressors. This is why it can be so confusing for people to understand what you are going through. Many will confuse your experience with this mental illness with sadness.

It is critical for them to know that depression is a mental health condition. While sadness is certainly a symptom, depression is much more than that.

Explain that you do not necessarily feel sad because you are sad — you feel sad because your brain isn’t operating how it should, causing you to have emotions that do not necessarily reflect your external situation. Even if your external situation is challenging, depression is making it feel much worse, even debilitating.

Explain the Physical Symptoms

As you know, depression and anxiety can take such a prolonged and massive toll on your emotional life that they can cause physical symptoms and health problems. It is crucial for those around you to understand this.

Explain these physical symptoms and health conditions in a way that they can understand — let them know how tired it can make you, especially if you lie awake at night with racing thoughts caused by anxiety. If your depression makes you unable to carry on with daily life, voice that.

When the people around you have an idea of what the physical reality of depression is, they will be more equipped to help you in those times of need.

Tell Them How Depression Makes You Feel

Similarly to describing the physicality of having depression or anxiety, explain how depression feels by using analogy and symbolism.

For example, many people describe depression as a sinking feeling. You might tell someone, “Imagine you are in a large body of water with a weight tied to you. It feels like you are unable to move, so you have to sit there while you slowly fade away. That’s what my depression feels like.”

If you struggle with anxiety, you can use descriptors like racing heart rate or intense never-ending thoughts. Or maybe you could explain an anxiety attack as being in a high-stress situation when you know it is not one. You might say, “Imagine your mind thinking you are about to get into a severe car accident, and your body is energetically ready for the impact, but you are just sitting on the couch.”

Use whatever makes sense to you and will be easy to understand for the person you are talking to.

Tell Them How Depression Makes You Think

Being emotionally out of balance makes people think differently than those who are not. Your decisions may appear irrational and unwarranted to those around you.

So explain to them that severe depression can make you think as though you are in a high-stakes situation at all times. They will most likely be able to relate to what it feels like to make decisions while in an overwhelming situation. This should help them understand your experiences a little more.

How Do I Know If I Am Depressed?

It can be hard to discern whether or not you have depression. Many people go a long time simply thinking they are just not happy with their life, while in reality, they have a disorder that requires treatment. So, how do you know if you are depressed and not just dissatisfied with your current situation?

While depression affects people in a way that can look a lot like ordinary sadness, there are signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for. Here are a few examples:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Lack of energy
  • You find yourself avoiding friends
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A consistent state of hopelessness or worthlessness

What Causes Depression?

Many people describe major depressive disorder as a chemical imbalance of the brain, but it is more complicated than that. Clinical depression is a combination of things. It can be brought on by biological, social, and physiological factors. In most cases, it is triggered by stressful events like abuse or other forms of trauma.

While depression is often related to how your brain interacts with serotonin, it is also hereditary. Studies have proven that some people are more vulnerable to depression due to genetic disposition.

What Are Risk Factors for Depression?

Those around you need to know the risk factors for depression to get a better understanding of your situation as a whole. Here are a few of them.

  • It runs in the family. A person who has a family that has struggled with alcoholism, suicide, depression, or bipolar disorder.
  • Personality. Certain personality traits like self-criticism, dependency, pessimism, and low self-esteem are more susceptible to depression.
  • Life-threatening illness. Someone with a life-threatening illness or medical condition like heart disease or cancer may be more likely to experience depression.
  • Trauma: Traumatic life events like financial difficulties, troubled relationships, sexual abuse, and the death of a loved one can all trigger depression.
  • Alcohol abuse. The abuse of alcohol and drugs are risk factors as well.

How Can I Treat My Depression?

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or anxiety, you can rest assured that it is treatable.

Health professionals have prescribed antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression for years. For some, this type of medication is effective. For others, it is not. Furthermore, this type of medication can come with intense side effects from nausea to worsened depression. One alternative to traditional antidepressants is ketamine treatment.

What Is Ketamine Treatment?

Ketamine treatment has quickly become a leading holistic way to treat disorders like depression, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and many more.

Ketamine, originally FDA-approved as a surgical anesthetic, is a dissociative drug that, taken in small doses, can create new neural pathways and alleviate symptoms of depression. In fact, many people notice a significant difference after just the first treatment.

How Does Ketamine Treatment Work?

Ketamine treatment with Nue Life comes in the form of an oral lozenge known as sublingual ketamine. This means you can administer the ketamine to yourself, in the comfort of your own home, with virtual supervision each step of the way. This way, we can ensure you are feeling safe and comfortable during the entire experience, and you never have to set foot outside of your home.

What Does a Ketamine Experience Feel Like?

Once ketamine enters your bloodstream, you will enter into a dream-like state that is often calming and relaxing. This sensation often lasts for about two to three hours, and your friend or loved one, called a sitter, will supervise the entire experience to ensure your comfort and safety.

After your session, our experts will work with you to help you identify meaningful takeaways from the experience so that you can stay on the path toward mental wellness.

The Bottom Line

Major depression is not an easy illness to battle by yourself. It is important that you explain your situation to your loved ones in ways that they can understand. This way, they can be there for you and help you find a treatment plan that works for you.

You can explain depression to them by using broad terms, explaining your systems, how it makes you feel, and how it makes you think. It will also help them understand all of the factors that could cause or trigger depression and what treatments are available.

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, meaning that what happens after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the real insights that lead to real relief.


What is Depression and How Do I Know If I Have It? | ADAA

7 Signs of Depression You Shouldn’t Ignore | Geisinger

Depression symptoms, risk factors, and treatments | Medical West

How do you know when you’re depressed? | KPWHRI

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