What 'I Don't Feel Good' Means For A Person With Depression

By Corrina Horne

Updated March 20, 2020

Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC

"I don't feel good" can mean a lot of things. For a child, it can mean, "Please don't make me go to school today." For someone else, it might mean, "I have a headache." And for others, "I don't feel good" can mean, "I need help." When you have a depressive disorder, "I don't feel good" can cover a multitude of problems and should never be ignored.

It's Okay To Not Feel Good. The First Step Is Recognizing.
The Second Step Is Reaching Out - Connect With A Licensed Counselor Today.

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Depression's Ebbs and Flows

Although many would surmise that depression is a chronic state of "I don't feel good," this isn't necessarily the case. Depression can come with immense ebbs and flows. One minute you might feel relatively normal, and the next weighed down by pain, uncertainty, or apathy. "I don't feel good," then, should absolutely be listened to, rather than being discounted. Not feeling good can indicate that depressive symptoms are flaring up or worsening.

One of the hallmarks of depression is the tendency to move back and forth between feelings. Although Bipolar Disorder is characterized by more intense highs and lows, most people with depression can attest to experiencing a wide range of feelings-many of them overwhelming-on any given day. Depressive symptoms can include irritability, anger, and fear, which can manifest as lashing out, withdrawing from others, or constantly walking on eggshells, all of which can fall under the umbrella of simply not feeling well.

Why "I Don't Feel Good" Is Important in Depression

Though it is a common enough phrase, "I don't feel good" is an important phrase in the life of someone with depression. This phrase can help you set boundaries when you don't feel like imparting a long story or history of your condition. Revealing you don't feel well can be a way of indicating you aren't up for a night of partying, without having to divulge your depressive symptoms. Saying you don't feel well can give your employer an idea of your condition-not feeling well enough to work-without having to give an exact, distinct response as to what it is that doesn't feel well.

"I don't feel good" is an important phrase to have when you suffer from depression. Depression symptoms can leap up unexpectedly, and can be debilitating in carrying out everyday tasks-and that's okay. Everyone needs a break from time to time, even those without a mood disorder, so recognizing that you don't feel well, and that you need some space to process, rest, or even visit with your therapist is a healthy thing, and can be one of your greatest tools in making sure you are giving yourself the space and energy to heal. "I don't feel good" in depression can mean many things, but perhaps the most important one is this: "I don't feel good" means "I need help."

Help can come in many forms. If you or a loved one has depression and uses the phrase "I don't feel good," this does not mean you need to run out and find your provider or your loved one's provider, and immediately change medication dosages, or something similarly drastic. Instead, it can simply mean that you need to slow down, step back, and evaluate yourself and your state. Remember that you are not your depression: the things you feel do not dictate who you are, and "I don't feel good" can simply mean needing to reconnect with yourself, your goals, and your needs.

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The Light in the Dark

Although depression can be a debilitating disorder, it is not one experienced entirely in isolation; depression affects approximately 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Fortunately, of the people who receive treatment, approximately 80% notice a significant improvement in symptoms following treatment! This is good news. While it may seem hopeless when you're in the midst of depressive symptoms, there are safe, effective treatment options to help you manage your symptoms, so that "I don't feel good" is not a constant refrain, and serves as a reminder to engage in additional self-care.

Depression treatment can vary in terms of duration and techniques. Some people find their depression is best treated through various therapy modalities, while others feel more comfortable relying primarily on pharmaceutical intervention. Still others combine different forms of treatment, as well as enlisting the help of lifestyle changes, such as improving dietary habits, engaging in regular exercise, and taking on mindfulness practices in order to re-center themselves. Treatment is not a one-size-fits-all prescription, and is instead tailored to each patient's unique goals and needs.

Regardless of the exact treatment protocol, the fact remains: depression is treatable. For many, the most difficult part of treatment is actually getting out of the door, and getting to a therapist in order to begin a solid, consistent treatment regimen. This is, perhaps, one of the most insidious parts of depression: it can render you helpless in the face of your own illness, and can make seeking help extremely difficult. Many people feel as though depression is indicative of a personal flaw or failing, rather than seeing it for what it is: a legitimate, serious illness.

The Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression cover a large array of mental and physical processes. The illness can manifest through mood changes, apathy, irritability, anger, prolonged sadness, guilt, shame, or hopelessness. Physically, depression can show up in the form of difficulty sleeping, muscle aches, feelings of exhaustion, tension, as well as unexplained changes in weight, including both weight loss and gain.

It's Okay To Not Feel Good. The First Step Is Recognizing.
The Second Step Is Reaching Out - Connect With A Licensed Counselor Today.

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What Causes Depression

There is no single cause of depression. Family history, substance abuse, chemical imbalances, stress, and even medication can all be sources of depression. Just as depression itself is multifaceted in its symptoms, it is multifaceted and unique in its sources. Researchers are evaluating the possible causes of depression, and although they have continually identified risk factors, there is still no definitive reason for depression.

This is both good and bad news. The good news is it is highly unlikely you've done something that has led to your development of depression. Blaming yourself is not only unproductive, it is not backed up by research. Instead, understanding your background and environment can lend insight into why you have developed depression. Working through your genetic history and background can often also be a key to healing your depression and moving forward with your life.

Therapy and Your Environment

Because the complexities of depression include how it starts, where it comes from, and whether or not you are particularly susceptible, the ins and outs of depression are better navigated and worked through with the help of a professional. Therapists do not merely sit in a chair with a clipboard and pen and listen as you list all your thoughts and feelings. Instead, therapists act as guides through your own story and history, stepping in now and again to highlight a thought, idea, or memory that might be partially responsible for some of what you are feeling. Touching on these points in your thinking allows you to identify any potential triggers you have, and work on soothing those triggers, or eradicating them entirely.

While therapy was once considered an eccentric luxury, this antiquated notion is well on its way to extinction. Virtually everyone can benefit from some form of therapy or another, even if depressive symptoms are not extreme. Increasingly, childhood trauma is becoming recognized as common, rather than an anomaly, and working through this trauma, fears, and confusion is a powerful part of growing up, and learning how to live your life in a healthy, happy way.

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Although the treatment options for depression can include medical intervention, pharmaceutical intervention, and lifestyle alterations, therapy is one of the most effective and most useful ways to combat depressive symptoms, and is a worthwhile tool to have in your arsenal. Below, some users of BetterHelp detail their success in working with online therapists.

Client Experiences

"Karen has helped me challenge some long-held beliefs - stories I had been telling myself about my life's experiences. Stories that had kept me stuck for decades. With her help, I've cleared the path and began to move forward with greater compassion for myself. I'm grateful to her for allowing me to see my lifelong experiences in a much more useful way and cannot recommend her highly enough!"

"I have been working with Latise for several months and could not be more pleased. She is flexible with her schedule and our weekly sessions have made a huge difference with my anxiety and depression. I would recommend her to anyone that is in need of counseling."

When "I Don't Feel Good" Becomes Overwhelming

Depression can feel overwhelming, and the reasons for it are complex and drastically different from person to person. Despite this, there is hope: depression is one of the most treatable mood disorders. A diagnosis of depression need not be a life sentence. With time, determination, and plenty of help, your depression and corresponding "I don't feel good" can be the exception, not the rule, and you can experience contentment and joy in your life. Take the first step today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do I not feel well?

When someone says they don't feel well -- it can mean a variety of things. When someone with depression feels overwhelmed or tired, they often say they don't feel well. People don't feel well for a variety of reasons. In some cases, people feel ill or debilitated in relation to physical symptoms. Other times, they feel this way because mental disorders like depression are flaring up.

How do you say I don't feel well?

When it comes to managing your health and wellness, the best way to say I don't feel well -- is to just say it. Saying I don't feel well can cover a number of issues. This gives you and the person you're speaking to a clear idea that something is upsetting or hurting you and you need time to recuperate or seek medical help.

Is it not feeling good or not feeling well?

It really doesn't matter how you say it. The important thing is that if you're not feeling well due to having depression or another debilitating mental health condition like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder that you let someone know and take steps to feel better.

What does I dont feel good mean?

"I don't feel good" is usually an indicator that someone is feeling unwell and would like to excuse themselves from an obligation, conversation, etc. People aren't always able to communicate exactly what is causing them not to feel good. When someone tells you they "don't feel good", make sure they follow up with a medical or mental health provider to rule out a serious illness.

Why do I feel unwell all the time?

If you find that you're not feeling well more often lately, this can be a sign of something bigger. Ask yourself what's been happening in your life lately? Have things become more demanding at work? Are you feeling overwhelmed about the kids? It's important to get to the bottom of what's causing you to feel unwell. Start by contacting a licensed medical provider to rule out serious medical or mental health issues.

Can stress and anxiety make you sick?

If your body is constantly in a state of feeling anxious or sick, this can cause serious damage in the long run. Unchecked mental health issues can show up as somatic symptoms in the body. Indicators of potential mental or medical health issues are frequent headaches and unexplained aches and pains. Get help from a licensed medical professional if you've been feeling like this for longer than a few days.

Can stress make you dizzy?

Yes, if you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed -- it can make you dizzy. Some people who suffer from frequent bouts of anxiety and panic attacks experience dizziness along with other symptoms like fainting or blackouts. If stress has been making you dizzy lately, talk to a medical professional or therapist to learn more.


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