What "I Don't Feel Good" May Mean For A Person With Depression

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

"I don't feel good" may have hidden meanings at times. For a child, it might mean, "Please don't make me go to school today. " For someone else, it might mean, "I'm sick" or "I have a headache." For others, "I don't feel good" can mean "I need help" or "I need a break." 

When you live with depression, "I don't feel good" may cover many mental or physical health symptoms. Reaching out to people for support when you feel the impacts of your condition, whether it's to a family, friend, or licensed psychologist, may help you figure out what is going on and create a treatment plan. They can provide positive guidance and advice, help explain the nature of your mental illness, and suggest strategies for dealing with negative emotions to restore a sense of happiness and control in your life.

Is depression causing you to feel unwell?

What "I don't feel good" may mean for someone with depression

"I don't feel good" can have varying meanings, depending on the situation and circumstances. In some cases, an individual may not be aware of how to label emotions and will use the phrase to communicate sadness, anger, guilt, or another feeling. In other cases, it may be physically related.

Additionally, "I don't feel good" may be a request for help. If someone says they don't feel well, ask for clarification about what they mean. If they're unsure, asking yes or no questions may make it easier for them to respond.

While they could feel physically sick, this phrase could signify a more significant problem or a cry for help. Staying sensitive to the situation and encouraging them to relax or engage in a calming exercise like a walk may allow you to make a logical decision and seek support for the individual. 

Symptoms of depression

Symptoms of depression cover an extensive array of mental and physical processes. The illness can manifest through mood changes, apathy, irritability, anger, prolonged sadness, guilt, shame, and hopelessness. At times, it may seem impossible to experience joy or a sense of calm.

Depression may also show up in the form of physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, dizziness, muscle aches, feelings of exhaustion, tension, or unexplained weight changes, including weight loss and gain. Depression symptoms may vary for each individual, and it's essential to be aware of the unique ways it can present itself.

Ebbs and flows in depression 

Although many may believe depression is categorized by constant sadness, that may not always be the case. Depression can come with ebbs and flows or changes in symptoms. Additionally, there are multiple types of depressive disorders, such as the depressive episodes that accompany bipolar disorder. 

You may feel content one moment and sick, weighed down by pain, uncertainty, or apathy the next. "I don't feel good" can mean you're experiencing a change or worsening depression symptoms. 

Although intense highs and lows can characterize bipolar disorder, certain depressive disorders may include changes in emotions throughout any given day. You may feel irritable, sad, guilty, or angry as your day passes. 

These emotional sensitivities might manifest as anger-fueled behavior, withdrawing from others, or constantly walking on eggshells, which may fall under the label of "not feeling well." Recognizing these patterns is crucial to seeking help and understanding the ability to pull through challenging times.

Why saying "I don't feel good" could be vital

Though "I don't feel good" may seem insignificant to some, it may have profound connotations for someone with depression. Additionally, this phrase may allow someone to set boundaries with friends or family when they don't want to explain extra details about their emotional struggles. It may also indicate a need for social support, which studies show is imperative to health and well-being.  Understanding the point behind these words and knowing what to expect can be an advantage when offering help or a listening ear to someone in need.

Similar phrases to "I don't feel good" may include:

  • "I feel sick."
  • "I need love and support."
  • "I'm struggling." 
  • "I need help."
  • "I feel down."
  • "I am upset."
  • "I feel sad."
  • "I am in pain." 
  • "I don't want to talk about it right now." 

Revealing you don't feel well may indicate you aren't up for a night of partying or socializing without divulging your depressive symptoms. Saying you don't feel well could also give your employer an idea of your emotional or physical state without giving an exact, distinct response or divulging a diagnosis. 

Depression symptoms may leap up unexpectedly and make carrying out everyday tasks difficult. Everyone may require a break from time to time, including those living with depression. Recognizing that you don't feel well and need some space and support to process your emotions, rest, or visit with your therapist can be healthy. 

Caring for yourself by communicating what you need may be a powerful tool in ensuring you give yourself space and time to heal. This phrase may mean you need time to reconnect with yourself, your goals, and your needs. "I don't feel good" in depression can signify many aspects. 

How to find hope when you don't feel well 

Although depression can be a challenging disorder to live with, you are not alone. Depression affects approximately 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of the people who receive treatment, approximately 80% notice a significant improvement in symptoms. 

This example shows how potentially powerful and life-changing seeking help and support can be. While you may feel emotions like hopelessness when you're experiencing depressive symptoms, there are safe, effective treatment options to help you manage your symptoms. You don't have to go through this alone, and depression is often treatable with the medical advice, diagnosis, and support of a therapist.

Treatment for depression 

Depression treatment can vary in terms of duration and technique. Therapy and medication are standard options. Some people find their depression is most effectively treated through various medical and therapeutic modalities, while others feel more comfortable relying primarily on pharmaceutical intervention. 

Still, others combine different forms of treatment, enlisting the help of lifestyle changes, such as improving dietary habits, engaging in regular exercise, seeking social support, and taking on mindfulness practices to aid in their treatment. Treatment may be tailored to each individual's unique goals and needs.

Regardless of the exact treatment protocol, support can be found. For many, the most challenging part of treatment is getting out of the door and getting to a therapist to begin a solid, consistent treatment regimen thanks to their medical advice. Depression is a legitimate, serious illness that can make self-care difficult and doesn't reflect a personal flaw. 


What causes depression

There is no single cause of depression. Just as depression is multifaceted in its symptoms, it can be multifaceted and unique in its sources. Researchers are evaluating the possible causes of depression, and although they have continually identified risk factors, there may not be a definitive cause. College can be a crucial time in terms of mental health, as an assistant professor, Sarah K. Lipson of Boston University points out, the onset of lifetime mental health problems typically occurs at age 24.

You are not at fault for your depression. Blaming yourself can be unproductive and is not backed up by the research above. Understanding your background and environment can lend insight into why you have developed depression. However, there may also be no cause.

Despite other ideas you may have heard, working to treat the symptoms you experience may be more valuable than learning why you're experiencing them, especially if you feel frustrated or upset while doing so. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the situation, take a deep breath and take time to clear your head.

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Is depression causing you to feel unwell?

Counseling for depression 

Because the complexities of depression can be challenging to understand on your own, they may be successfully navigated and worked through with the help of a mental health professional who can provide advice, diagnosis, or treatment options. 

Therapy has many benefits to support you with your past, present, and future. If you struggle to get out of bed, find time for appointments, or remember to meet with a provider for a diagnosis or treatment, you might appreciate the availability of online counseling. 

Recent studies show that internet-delivered therapy is significantly efficacious in reducing adult depression symptom severity, regardless of gender, financial status, or health status. The treatment was highly effective for those who had never received psychotherapy treatment.

Therapists may act as guides as you discuss your story, stepping in now and again to highlight a thought, idea, or memory that might be particularly vital to your therapeutic process. You can connect with a licensed therapist online through a platform such as BetterHelp, which provides a growing database of counselors. With BetterHelp you have the option to contact your provider and complete therapy through video chat or direct messaging. 


The word 'depression' is often used to describe feelings of sadness, but it is actually a complex and serious mental health condition that can have a significant impact on a person's life. Depression may feel overwhelming, and its causes could be complex and drastically different from person to person. However, depression is a highly treatable mental health disorder. With time and support, your depression or any adverse symptoms may be worked through and managed.

If you're not feeling well or find yourself saying, "I don't feel good," consider reaching out to a counselor to receive support through the advice, diagnosis, and treatment options a mental health professional can provide.

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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