Depression feels good: What does it mean 

In this article we will discuss what it means when depression starts to feel good to you. 

We will be discussing why you might find comfort in the familiarity of your unhappiness and misery.

What does it mean when depression starts to feel good?

If you are at a place in your life, where you find the familiarity of unhappiness or feeling depressed feels good, it might indicate a few things about how you perceive yourself, others, and the world. 

If you feel that being depressed is better than any alternative and that it feels good it could be mean the following:

  • You feel undeserving of happiness
  • Your parents’ unrealistic expectations have caused you to equate love with unhappiness
  • Negative experiences causes you to understand unhappiness as the status quo 
  • You feel guilt which leads you to think you deserve being depressed
  • You are afraid to be disappointed if you try positive experiences
  • You have never known happiness and you are afraid of it
  • You have internalised the world’s problems as a reason for you to not experience joy.

Undeserving of happiness 

One of the major reasons why you find comfort in feeling low and depressed could be because your low self-esteem makes you feel like you do not deserve good things in your life. 

You might feel like you haven’t done anything notable that makes you deserving of living a happy life and patterns of thought comes from a deep held belief that you are not “good enough” to allow yourself to heal and experience positive things. 

Parenting styles

Authoritarian parenting styles where there are excessive and unrealistic expectations of children to abide by parental rules can cause intense emotional distress in children and these children as adults. 

If your parents have been authoritative, your experience of not being good enough to accept joy and happiness in your life could be one reason why you find unhappiness as a way of life that is familiar to you. 

Authoritarian Parenting styles are especially harmful to adult relationships as you equate the idea of love as a foreboding experience to criticism, unhappiness, abuse even, and abandonnement if you are not perfect.

A study with a sample of Indonesian families to understand the experience of parents and children who use authoritarian parenting styles found that where the parents had strict expectations to achieve the parental values, emotional problems arose when children could not meet these expectations. 

Childhood depression and emotional dysregulation were also identified to be a result of authoritarian parenting in a study done on chinese families and 

This can put a dent in your experience of healthy relationships which is an important part of well-being and might find that staying alone and emotionally isolated from others feels more comfortable.

Negative experiences

Negative experiences that are traumatic like emotions, physical, and sexual abuse; death and loss; accidents that cause disability; bullying; Neglect and abandonment can lead you to develop a world view where unhappiness is the status quo.

A meta-analysis of the trauma literature assessed the role of childhood traumas in the onset of depressive disorders in adults and found that emotional abuse, neglect, and secual abuse were found to have the highest association to depression. 

Emotional abuse showed the strongest association with depression (OR = 2.78) followed by neglect (OR = 2.75) and sexual abuse (OR = 2.42).

Especially when these negative experiences are recurring, you begin to develop a sense of hopelessness and helplessness which makes you believe that nothing you do and try will help so why not stay depressed.

These types of thoughts create a sort of boundary or limit around you choosing to accept helplessness or hopelessness as your reality which can make you feel comfortable when you are unhappy rather than when you try to make changes to heal. 

Guilt

Guilt is an enormous emotion that can greatly impact the way you feel about yourself. In a study done on particulates who experience suicide berevement, a link between guilt and symptoms of depression, and other mental disorders were identified. 

Guilt that is often dysfunctional and inappropriate is also a cognitive symptom of depression. 

In fact, a study that strived to quantitatively summarized the impact of shame and guilt with depressive symptoms found that shame and guilt included negative views of self as seen through the eyes of others which had more of a significant relationship to depression as compared to negative views of self as seen through one’s own eyes. 

If you have made a few choices that have backfired or done a few things that now causes you to feel immense remorse and guilt, it could be a reason why you feel like you deserve to be miserable because of how others might now perceive you as undeserving of good things in your life.

Fear of disappointment

Similar to the understanding that unhappiness is the status quo in your life, you might find comfort in feeling down and dejected as compared to allowing yourself to feel happy because you fear disappointment. 

This fear of disappointment might arise in your relationships, your career, your studies, and your own sense of self which might lead you to engage in self-fulling prophecies of failure and disappointment which ultimately lead you to more disappointment. 

This fear of disappointment comes with the negative world view of helplessness that anything or everything you try to feel happier or become healthier will fail and because of this perception you might find the notion of trying to do better in terms of  well-being more distressing than feeling down and depressed. 

Fear of happiness

If you have experienced a lot of negatives in your lives and you struggle with getting comfortable with the idea of being happy, you could be afraid of being happy because you are afraid of allowing yourself to feel anything but misery. 

It is human tendency to be apprehensive of what we do not know and happiness can also be alone to people who have not had the privilege to feel that way- they might have experienced abuse, loss, neglect which makes them unfamiliar with happiness. 

Jessica Swainston for postivepsychology.com writes that this fear and averion of happiness often come with this fear of losing that happiness, happiness will bring bad things in your life, cause harm to you and others, or make you a bad person. 

Most of these thoughts and beliefs are born out of internalised beliefs from early life experiences. Beliefs that are held so tightly for so long that it becomes all that you know and anything that proves otherwise becomes a thing to be feared. 

Misery and depression becomes the only thing that is “Safe” in your world and thus, you feel like depression feels good. 

Extreme empathy

Researchers of a systematic review of empathy as a “risky strength” stated that empathy, though an important interpersonal skill

“…may also confer risk for depression and anxiety when present at extreme levels and in combination with certain individual characteristics or within particular contexts..”

One of the reasons why you might feel that distress and misery is what feels familiar for you could be because you have such intense empathy for others that it borders on dysfunction of thought and feelings. 

You might begin to internalise problems of others and the world which increases empathetic personal distress that increases the risk of internalising disorders especially when you are genetically predisposed to them and also have negative cognitive processes that cause exaggerated responses to others grief. 

This could be one of the reasons why you feel depression- especially the symptoms of numbness and anhedonia to be more comforting or “good-feeling” because you feel too much and too intensely for others. 

Conclusion

In this article we have had a brief discussion on some of the reasons why you might find that being depressed or feeling misery feels better than any alternative. Most of the reasons we discussed have to do with your internalised perspective of ourselves, others, and the world.

References

Kim, S., Thibodeau, R., & Jorgensen, R. S. (2011). Shame, guilt, and depressive symptoms: a meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin, 137(1), 68.

Tone, E., & Tully, E. (2014). Empathy as a “risky strength”: A multilevel examination of empathy and risk for internalizing disorders. Development and Psychopathology, 26(4pt2), 1547-1565. doi:10.1017/S0954579414001199

Mandelli, L., Petrelli, C., & Serretti, A. (2015). The role of specific early trauma in adult depression: A meta-analysis of published literature. Childhood trauma and adult depression. European Psychiatry, 30(6), 665-680. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2015.04.007

Olla, M. B., Daulima, N. H. C., & Putri, Y. S. E. (2018). The experience of parents implementing authoritarian parenting for their school-age children. Enfermeria clinica, 28, 122-125.

Wagner, B., Hofmann, L., & Grafiadeli, R. (2021). The relationship between guilt, depression, prolonged grief, and posttraumatic stress symptoms after suicide bereavement. Journal of clinical psychology.

Frequently asked questions related to “Depression feels good: What does it mean?”

Why do we like misery?

Some of us cling to misery because it’s comfortable and a temporary solution to what we go through. When things are going bad (or even when they’re not) wallowing in misery can be a comfortable feeling as it has a way for others to feel empathy and offer us support. 

It also gives us the idea that since we are miserable, it is easier for us to see the world as miserable than to hope because we fear disappointment. 

Can you be addicted to being sad?

Technically we cannot be addicted to sadness however we might develop patterns that make us more comfortable with being sad and depressed as opposed to being optimistic and hopeful.

This pattern of choosing to be sad, pessimistic, and miserable becomes a coping mechanism against the disappointment of being hopeful. 

Why do I enjoy being hurt?

When we feel pain, our body and brain release feel good chemicals that get pumped into our system as a way to cope from the pain. These chemicals include – Endorphins, anandamide, and adrenaline which are all responsible to help us either “fight or escape” from the negative stimuli. 

If you are someone who is low on these feel-good chemicals you might develop patterns in which you engage in activities that allow you to experience the emotions that these chemicals produce.

What do you call someone who enjoys being sad?

While there is no official term for someone who enjoys being hurt and sad, there are people who pursue pain and are called Masochists. 

A masochist is a person who derives satisfaction or pleasure from their own pain or humiliation. While experiencing sadness or putting yourself through miserable situations could also be a way to derive satisfaction or pleasure, there is no official term or is. 

Why do I like sad things?

You might enjoy sad books, movies, and music because it allows you a space to feel difficult emotions like sadness, hurt, and pain without really experiencing your own. 

It is a defence mechanism where you project your own feelings onto sad things and it acts as a buffer for you to experience what you are feeling without actually having to acknowledge that you are feeling this way. 

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