7 analogies that describe how depression feels

In this guide we are going to discuss seven perfect analogies that describe depression. 

What are some analogies that perfectly describe depression?

Some analogies that perfectly describe the experience of living with depression include:

  • Eating Unseasoned mashed potatoes
  • Wearing a Lead suit
  • Stuck with someone you really dislike
  • Stuck in a soundproof opaque Glass Box
  • Drowning 
  • Covered in thorns


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a leading publication used for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals, Major depressive disorder or depression is a serious mood disorder.

It can be debilitating in the sense that it impacts a person’s physical health. Cognition, emotions, and behaviour. It can cause changes in diet, weight, and sleep hygiene. 

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

The unfortunate thing about depression and any other mental illness is the stigma that surrounds it. While WHO says that depression is very common- close to 280 million people worldwide have depression- there are many cultures that are still unaware of the disorder and its impact on people’s lives. 

It is only recently that the disorder is being talked about in homes, places of work, social groups, and on  a diplomatic scale also. 

Depression has been considered a worldwide crisis, almost like a pandemic, and is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal agenda in a bid to promote well-being.

While there is traction and a steady movement to build awareness amongst the population, it is still difficult to make people understand what having the disorder is like. 

The metaphor of “walk a mile in their shoes” does not really apply to this situation because if you don’t have depression, you don’t have depression- much like any other medical illness.

If you haven’t had a heart attack you will not know what a heart attack feels like.  

You may be able to understand sadness as you might also have been sad at one point but someone who is depressed is not just sad, the experience itself is very personal and very challenging. 

If you are trying to understand what depression is like for someone or if you are trying to describe depression for someone else, using analogies can be one effective way to do so. 

Let us take a look at what analogies are and what are some experiences of others using them to describe the experience of having depression.

Using Analogies to understand depression


An analogy is a language tool where you compare something to something else to describe it. For example, a famous analogy about life is- “life is a box of chocolates, we never know what to expect ”.

In this analogy, life is compared to a box of assorted chocolates to describe its uncertainty. 

Similarly, depression for most people can mean different things depending on the way they have experienced it. 

Analogies to conceptualize the experience of depression

In a comparative study of 23 blogs written by various individuals to describe depression, metaphors and analogies were detected to be used frequently.

While analogies and metaphors in the English language were used by both practitioners for therapeutic purposes and by linguistic researchers to understand the use of metaphors without therapeutic intent. 

This particular study took a direct look at people’s unfiltered experience that arounded depression. They found that most of the metaphors and analogies used to describe depression.

There was a common theme among the personal blogs of describing life with depression as a “war” or a “journey” where the person struggled against the disorder rather than fall victim to it. 

Depression itself was described as a living creature- as a monster or a ghost while emotional struggles were normally related as a downward spiral. 

The study also found that most of these blogs described the people who struggle with the disorder as being trapped, fragile, and their sense of self broken up.

As for analogies or metaphors used by these writers in context with their social world, there were themes of being made to carry weights of prejudice. 

Some of the blogs also used analogies that describe their experience in medical care for depression treatment where it is more problem centered than treatment centered. 

This particular study only highlights that the use of metaphors and analogies to describe mental disorders such as depression can help us take a closer look at the unique experiences of each individual. 

It can give other people, who do not know what depression is like, a better way to empathize and understand what it means to struggle with the disorder by comparing it to something else that is familiar or known to others. 

Seven analogies that describe depression

Here are seven analogies that describe the experience of depression and symptoms of depression:

Unseasoned mashed potatoes

One tumblr blog user used the analogy of depression being like eating unseasoned mashed potatoes. Their description followed as

“You don’t know why, but now everything you eat tastes like mashed potatoes and nothing you eat is satisfying..

You keep eating because you must eat to live, but the effort that it takes to prepare food is taxing and there is no pay off. You just know it will taste like mashed potatoes. You just know you will still be hungry. So you stop bothering with seasonings.

You still feel hungry and you’re sick of the taste and you don’t know if you will ever enjoy food again and you don’t know why this is happening.”

This particular metaphor perfectly describes the slow progression of depression, it may begin with the inability to find joy in something you loved before- anhedonia. 

You keep persisting just so that you there is some semblance of things being okay. 

You continue going to work, going on dates, eating your meals, at some point you simply stop trying to make things better- not because you enjoy them but because you need to survive.

It also describes how in most cases people do not even know why it is happening. 

Wearing a Lead Suit

This metaphor by Amy Thurlow describes the experience of wearing armour made of lead as you go about your daily activities.  Every movement requires tremendous effort.

You want to move and do your best but It’s just completely exhausting. No matter how hard you try, you seem unable to take off your suit and you feel like you have no control over it. 

This metaphor describes the symptoms of fatigue and low energy in depression and how it can cause so much exhaustion without even knowing the reason why. It also describes how little control we have over it and that efforts to take it off by resting, engaging with other people etc, just does not seem to work.

There is no getting over it. 

Stuck With Someone You Really Dislike

If you suffer from depression, you are most likely to be extremely critical of yourself and you might even hate yourself. 

This particular metaphor takes the example of being stuck with a person you hate permanently. No matter how much you try to like them,you cannot seem to overlook certain aspects about them that make you hate them even more. 

Unfortunately, that person is yourself. 

Stuck in a soundproof opaque Glass Box

This particular analogy describes depression as being stuck in a soundproof glass box that is opaque. You cannot hear clearly, you cannot see clearly either. You cannot concentrate and you cannot focus. 

This particular metaphor describes symptoms such as inability to concentrate and brain fog. These are some symptoms of depression that make depression a disability because a person may not be able to work nor take care of themselves. 


Another common analogy used by many to describe depression is drowning. 

You stay in a body of water for too long, and you get tired eventually. The whole time you try to keep your head above water because you are afraid of what might happen if you don’t. 

You try everything- you try to float, to save energy, you even go under the surface. You are desperate but the sad truth is, no one is coming to save you. Some might not even notice that you are drowning. 

This particular metaphor is often used to describe depression when it is not diagnosed and when people are unaware of what is happening to you. It shows how isolating it can be, how tiring, and how scary. 

It also highlights the hopelessness one might feel as they try to make things work when nothing seems to work.

Covered in thorns 

Having depression or any other mental illness is like being covered in thorns. These thorns hurt you and they hurt everyone around you, especially when you do not have the strategies and skills to communicate and manage the disorder. 

You feel extremely guilty for your behaviour, the things you say and the things you do. You might push people away, you might be irritable which leads to fights and mean words said. 

You do not want to hurt them but keeping these thorns away and keeping people safe is not just in your capacity, especially since these thorns are also hurting you. 


In this guide we have taken a look at what depression is and what are some of the common analogies used to describe the experience of having depression. We have also explored how analogies and metaphors can be useful in describing the disorder to other people who may not understand it. 

Frequently asked questions

What is commonly misdiagnosed as depression?

Chronic fatigue syndrome has been found to be most misdiagnosed as depression. It is a disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months.

What words are associated with depression?

Some common words used in association depression include:

  • downheartedness.
  • dreariness.
  • mortification.
  • trouble.
  • unhappiness.
  • Worry.

Who is mainly affected by depression?

WHO estimated that depression affects people in ages 18 to 25 (10.9 percent) the most with women being more likely to be affected by the disorder than men. 

What words best describe depression?

Some of the words that best describe depression are:

  • despair,
  • desperation,
  • hopelessness,
  • self-despair.


What actually causes depression?

Research suggests that there are many factors that can cause depression. Some of them include brain chemistry, genetic disposition, stressful lifestyle, trauma, negative life experiences, substance abuse, and other medical issues. 

However, these factors do not affect a person exclusively but rather depression is caused by the combined impact of multiple factors on a person.

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