Depression: When It Feels Normal

By Patricia Oelze|Updated July 29, 2022

If your mood fluctuates throughout the day, congratulations— you’re a normal person! Although we sometimes experience the unrealistic expectation that we should be happy all the time, the truth is that that just isn’t going to happen. No human being is happy all the time; it’s just not how emotions work! But sometimes emotions fluctuate in directions that are less than ideal. Sometimes instead of being happy all the time, you might feel disproportionately— and almost constantly— sad.

And if you’ve felt sad every day, all the time, for a period of two weeks or longer, there’s a good chance that you’re not just feeling blue. In fact, you might be experiencing depression. So, in this article, we’ll take a closer look at two common types of depression— situational and chronic— and learn about the options that are available to help you start feeling better.

The Difference Between Chronic Vs Situational Depression

When You're Used to Being Depressed You May Feel Like Giving Up. Don’t!

Let’s start by taking a look at depression and what it really is. Although people often use “depression” as a synonym for “sad,” you might be surprised to know that— in reality— sadness and depression are two very different things. Everybody feels sad from time to time; that’s just a normal part of the human experience. Whether we’re experiencing sadness as a result of circumstances or hormonal fluctuations, it’s common to experience brief periods of sadness throughout your life. For example, you might feel sad or lost as a result of losing your job or breaking up with a partner.

If these events have had a significant impact on your life, you may even go through a period of situational depression, where you experience prolonged feelings of sadness for two weeks or more as a result of your specific circumstances. If you think about situational depression through the lens of a movie plot, this would be the part in a film where the main character encounters a substantial setback and feels as though they are losing hope. But, crucially, their circumstances change or they find a solution and they are able to move forward with a new sense of hope and purpose.

This is often the case with people who experience a bout of situational depression. Although they are no less depressed than someone battling chronic depression, situational depression is more likely to dissipate when someone’s circumstances change. By contrast, however, someone who is experiencing chronic depression may not get a reprieve when their circumstances change. For people living with chronic depression, their deep and persistent sadness is caused by a chemical imbalance 

What Is Depression?

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America defines depression as a mental illness that affects 264 million people worldwide. The ADAA explains that depression is characterized by having at least five out of nine common symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • An overwhelming and pervasive sense of sadness that doesn’t go away
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicidal ideation.

Even if you don’t make specific plans to take your life, people with severe depression may spend a lot of time thinking that everything would be better if they were dead or that they just don’t want to exist anymore. People with severe depression also commonly experience a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy and a pronounced increase or decrease in appetite. They may also experience cognitive impairments such as significant memory loss or an inability to concentrate. When these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they meet the criteria for someone to be diagnosed with depression.

Sadly, if depression goes untreated for a long period of time, it may eventually start to feel normal. Some people who have experienced years of chronic, untreated depression have reported feeling that they can’t remember what it was like to be happy. Many others have asserted that they don’t think they will ever be happy again. Likewise, some patients have remarked that they draw a certain sense of comfort from being sad.

On the surface, that may sound like a logical impossibility; after all, most people don’t associate the feeling of sadness with comfort. But people who live with chronic depression— including the lead singer of the pop-rock band Icon For Hire— have often remarked that, per the lyrics of Icon For Hire’s hit song Iodine, “depression is like a big fur coat: it’s made of dead things but it keeps me warm.” When someone is living with chronic depression, the world can often feel unstable.

Many people struggle to maintain friendships and relationships as a result of their depression and this can be especially difficult if friends and family fail to understand the tough reality of living with depression. There are many common misconceptions about depression, including the belief that depression isn’t real or that you can just “snap out of it.” Neither of these things are true and saying that to a person who lives with chronic depression only makes them feel worse.

When You're Used to Being Depressed You May Feel Like Giving Up. Don’t!

So, because friendships, relationships, and careers can be difficult to maintain while battling chronic depression, it’s easy to understand why someone might feel that their sadness is the only normal or consistent thing in their lives. You might not want it to be there, and you might desperately want to feel different, but at least that one thing is always there. Sadly, this very feeling can be a tremendous obstacle when it comes to seeking treatment for chronic depression.

If a person has accepted that they’re going to be sad forever or that depression is their new normal, they might not feel motivated to seek treatment. But if you or someone you love is living with chronic depression, it’s important to remember that help and hope is always within reach. Depression may feel normal if you’ve been living with it for a long time but you don’t have to feel that way forever! And therapy is a wonderful first step to take on your journey towards a brighter future.

So, if you feel ready to reach out and seek hope and healing through therapy, you may want to consider BetterHelp! BetterHelp is an online mental health provider run by licensed counselors and therapists who are passionate about making mental health care accessible to all. With the advances in modern technology, many people have gravitated toward online therapy because this format is more convenient in our hectic, fast-paced world. Rather than needing to amend your schedule to attend an in-person therapy appointment, online therapy is literally right at your fingertips; you can chat with your therapist from the comfort of your own phone any time you want! You can also check out these reviews for some of our licensed counselors below!

Therapist Reviews

“Bailey is grounded, understanding, genuine, empathetic and experienced in a variety of different counseling and therapy practices. I feel like she meets me at my level, gives honest and helpful feedback, is reliable and has been more effective in her methods of teaching me viable coping mechanisms that aid in me living successfully with anxiety, bipolar depression and PTSD. In fact, her sessions have helped me more than any other professional’s have or other methods I’ve tried including psychiatrists, nurses, naturopathic doctors, homeopathic doctors, other therapists and medications. She’s able to give me weekly feedback in real time that I can use to address situations as they come up. I highly recommend Bailey for so many reasons, but my number one reason besides how knowledge she is, is her ability to meet me on my level. I feel like we’re equals in conversation instead of professional and patient. This facilitates me feeling able to talk about anything and everything with her without feeling judged. Because of this we’ve been able to tackle parts of my psyche that I have held back from other mental health professionals. I always look forward to our sessions. Even when they are difficult they are effective. I feel like I’ve made more progress in my overall emotional and mental health with Bailey in a handful of months than I had in several years combined prior to this. Thank you, Bailey. You chose the right profession to help others and I’m very grateful that I’ve found you as my counselor.”

“This is my first time ever talking to a counselor (about a month of sessions now), so I was a little apprehensive and scared of what to expect. After one session with Denise I felt like the world was off of my shoulders. She is so wonderful and does such a great job of making you feel warm and welcome in her presence even if it’s just over the phone. She makes you feel like you can breathe and talk to her and tell her anything without any judgment or fear of sounding ridiculous. She is so understanding and so polite. She has suggested great exercises and tips on how to decompress and get back on the right path when I am feeling depressed, overwhelmed, worthless, and/or anxious. My only regret is that I did not start having sessions with her sooner, because she really is helping me a lot and I appreciate her so much. The best trait about her is she never tries to insert her input before you explain what you have to say first. She’s so good at letting you get it all out there and saying why you need to and absorbing your words before offering her perspective and advice. She is just so respectful and compassionate. It feels so great to have someone who really listens to me and genuinely cares about me and my mental health. Even between sessions she will shoot me a quick message here or there checking in on me or just saying hi and asking how the progress is coming along. Denise is absolutely wonderful. Just a truly wonderful woman.”

References

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Lasserre, A. M., Glaus, J., Vandeleur, C. L., Marques-Vidal, P., Vaucher, J., Bastardot, F., … Preisig, M. (2014). Depression with atypical features and increase in obesity, body mass index, waist circumference, and fat mass: a prospective, population-based study. JAMA Psychiatry71(8), 880-888. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.411

Manos, R. C., Rusch, L. C., Kanter, J. W., & Clifford, L. M. (2009). Depression Self-Stigma as a Mediator of the Relationship Between Depression Severity and Avoidance. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology; New York28(9), 1128-1143.

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