ARTICLESNovember 10, 2023

The Paradox of Comfort: Why Depression Can Feel Like Home

Depression can feel like a dark cloud that colours how one sees themselves, others and the world around them. As heavy and bleak as it can feel, for some it can also surprisingly feel like a comfortable space. This is especially true when someone has struggled with depression for a long time. This can feel paradoxical to many, but there are several reasons why depression can feel like a place of comfort.  In this article, we’ll delve into the complex relationship between depression and comfort and list a few reasons why some individuals may find solace in its grip.  Here’s why depression can feel like a comfortable space:

It feels familiar

Withdrawing from the world begins to feel familiar. The natural urge when we are depressed is to isolate from others or withdraw into a “bubble.” This might look like turning down social invites or even just staying in bed for much of the day. While this makes your depression worse (and you might even know that it does), there is a degree of comfort in doing something you know.   

It feels easier

Getting out of your funk feels like too much effort. Depression is not just about low mood. It can also make you feel drained, lethargic and unmotivated. When you are already feeling this way, it can feel challenging to go in the other direction and do things like self-care, socialize or even get out of the house (or bed).   

Avoidance of anxiety or responsibility  

The thought of doing something different feels overwhelming. Contrary to what some think, anxiety can often co-occur with depression. If you’ve been withdrawing from others and isolating yourself, just the thought of talking to others, going outside and doing daily chores can make you feel nervous. You may begin to worry about how others perceive you or imagine worst-case scenarios, like saying or doing the wrong thing.   

It gives one a sense of identity

Depression might feel like your identity (or at least part of it). When someone has been depressed for a long time, it can begin to feel like a key part of who they are. This is because depression can influence your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions, making it feel like part of your identity. When someone recovers from depression, there is still a spectrum of emotions that they will experience, including sadness and melancholy. However,  these emotions will be less persistent, severe and disabling. 

A sense of control  

Depression gives one a sense of control. When everything else in life seems chaotic and beyond control, the familiarity of depressive thoughts and emotions can feel predictable. Due to its consistency, the repetitive nature of sadness seems manageable. Depression also creates a space where someone can make all the decisions, even if those choices lead to isolation and sadness. This feeling of being in charge is just an illusion, and it keeps one stuck in depression’s cycle of despair. 

Emotional numbness  

Depression causes emotional numbness. While this might seem like a bad thing, for some, feeling emotionally empty can be a relief. It is like a shield that can give someone a temporary break from their intense emotions or protect them from potential emotional harm. Although distressing, not feeling emotions, even positive ones, can feel easier to deal with.  

The sunk cost fallacy  

The “sunk cost fallacy” occurs when one continues investing in something because they’ve already committed so much.  Similarly, some people with depression may continue to endure it because they’ve already invested so much of themselves into it. Letting go of depression can seem like abandoning a part of themselves, admitting defeat, or losing something they’ve grown used to, even though it’s causing harm.  

Although depression may feel comfortable for some, it’s important to remember that this comfort is just an illusion. Depression leads to isolation, pain, and hopelessness. If you notice any of the above happening, it is important to seek help from a therapist who can help treat your depression but also address any of the above issues, as they can become barriers to your recovery. With the right support, there’s a path to a more fulfilling and meaningful life. 

At the Momenta Clinic For Psychological Wellness, we understand that depression is a complex interplay of thoughts, emotions, and life experiences. Our holistic approach combines evidence-based therapies, culturally sensitive strategies, and personalized care plans to help you overcome challenges that you are experiencing. Contact us if you would like to learn more about how we can help. We are a Toronto Psychology Clinic and we also provide online therapy for depression as well as CBT for low self-esteem.