In this blog we will discuss the character of Elsa from “Frozen” and depression.
Does Elsa represent depression?
Yes, it is possible that Elsa of Frozen and her experiences with her powers could be a metaphorical representation of having to live with mental illnesses such as depression.
While the story of Frozen depicts Queen Elsa of Arendel as someone with a special ability or powers, many do believe that her struggle to accept her powers and live with it can be seen as a euphemism or metaphor for one’s experience of living with depression.
Many people who have watched Frozen believe that Elsa’s story is not only about sisterhood but rather about self acceptance and living with one’s condition- in her case, powers while in the case of others, depression.
Autumn Aurelia, an author for The Mighty has detailed her own interpretation of Elsa’s life and struggles and she is highly certain that Elsa’s journey represents depression and mental health journey towards recovery and healing.
Aurelia has given a few descriptive points as to how this metaphor of depression and living with depression is represented through Elsa. Some of these points include:
Lack of control
One of the first interactions with Elsa is her lack of control over her own powers when she was younger as well as when she grew older.
Her lack of control over her powers could be understood as one’s lack of control over one’s emotions when one is mentally distressed, hurting not only oneself but also others is very similar to the impact that depression has on the life and social relationships of people who have this condition.
Another sign that Elsa represents someone with depression is her behaviour of avoiding her responsibilities and other people in her life because of her deep fear that she will hurt other people as well as the shame she feels for having one it in the past.
People with depression tend to have very negative views about themselves, often fearing the possibility of hurting people they love as well as the guilt they carry with them which often leads to social withdrawal from others which Elsa does in the course of her journey.
We see that she intentionally avoids her sister as well as her role as queen, shunning away any efforts from others to connect as well as rejecting support because of the shame she carries of her own condition which is often consistent with people with depression because they feel like a burden.
Lack of interpersonal awareness
Another important behavioural character of Elsa that depicts her struggling with her condition that is also very similar to that of people who struggle with mental illnesses like depression is her lack of interpersonal awareness.
Particularly her behaviours of social withdrawal and rejection of her loved ones that is not only hurting her more but that it also hurts her loved ones who are not given an explanation as to why and are being cut off.
Elsa’s sister Ana is the one who is on the recovering end of these interpersonal strife and rejection and is time and again cut off not because Elsa does not love her but she carries guilt and fear of hurting her own sister which only hurts Ana more.
When it comes to mental illness, one of the major factors that impact’s prognosis and support is stigma. When there is stigma surrounding mental illness like depression, the more unlikely it is for people to seek out support.
This is very true for the case of Elsa who is taught by her own father to hide her condition which impacts her relationship with her sister, her subjects, her role, and ultimately her own life.
The stigma that Elsa struggles with is very similar to the stigma that many people with mental illness struggle with everyday- invalidating their experiences, to hide, to feel ashamed of over things that are not one’s fault.
This stigmatisation of her condition only hurts Elsa, her own relationships with other people, and ultimately her own relationship with herself.
The theme that best represents one’s struggle with mental illness is that of lack of self acceptance and the overly critical view of one’s self which often leads to hopelessness and worthlessness.
This particular struggle of not being able to accept oneself and lack of self love is another major struggle in the course of Elsa’s journey in the movies- her struggle to accept her power.
Her feelings of displacement and lack of belonging appears to be caused by her inability to accept herself for who she is and this in turn impacts her ability to use her power for good and overshadows her ability to rule and to manage her relationships.
Much like other people, depression tends to magnify the limitations, lacks, and mistakes that a person makes to such an extent that it minimises everything positive in their lives. Self acceptance is a major goal for people with mental illness, it is only after acceptance that healing is achieved much like in the case of Elsa.
What is depression?
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.
Depression is marked by the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
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.
How to cope and manage if you have depression?
Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression:
Seek professional help
If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field.
Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different.
If it’s a job that is causing you immense stress, maybe it is time to consider taking a leave of absence. Or it could be your own family environment that is causing your symptoms to flare up- consider moving out if your financial situation persists.
The intent here is to reduce or remove the things in your life that add stress. If it is a certain relationship, taking the time to set boundaries or communicate that you are taking time out can be one way.
By reducing stressors, the thought of waking up and facing your day may seem a little less daunting, you might even look forward to it.
Learn and apply coping skills
If you are depressed, you can learn coping skills and techniques and apply them at least once a day when experiencing depression.
This can be learning how to tackle your anxieties and negative moods by regulating your breathing and engaging in deep breathing techniques.
You can also try grounding techniques to help you cope with spiralling down a negative rumination. Make goals for each day and let your goals be small, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound,
Make plans for your day that suit your pace- if today is especially difficult, make a step by step plan from your bed to the bathroom in the mornings. Reward yourself when you succeed and be kind when you slip up. Remind yourself that you are learning.
Engaging in exercise, even if it is only a 15 minute stretch can be a wonderful step towards loving yourself and caring for yourself.
You can opt for joining the gym however, if this is too much you can consider yoga or pilates that you can start gradually; you can also go for walks or runs alone or with your loved ones.
Getting out of your house and doing something that allows you to get your blood pumping in itself can be a great way of self care.
Eat a healthy diet
Diet is an important aspect of overall health and is an important component of maintaining a positive state of mental health.
There has been plenty of research studies that have been linked to what we eat and higher risks of depression. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.
Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse.
Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are
- Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine.
- Exercise daily
- Avoid heavy dinners
- Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing.
- Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.
Connect with loved ones
Reaching out to people who love you and letting them know that you are having a hard time now, can bring you closer to people who truly love and care for you.
These are positive relationships we want and need around you as you begin your journey to recovery. Positive relationships help you discover joys and meaning to your life.
Make plans to meet them for lunch, or go for a walk with them. Make sure you make clear what you can and cannot do and agree on something that both you and them can enjoy.
You can also take the step to connect with other people who are coping with depression through group therapy or support groups.
Oftentimes, listening to other people’s successes can instil hope, it also gives you the opportunity to learn new perspectives of living and life along with new techniques to cope.
In this blog we have discussed the character of Elsa from “Frozen” and depression.
Autumn Aurelia. 9 Reasons Elsa’s Storyline in ‘Frozen’ Is the Perfect Metaphor for Mental Illness. The Mighty. Retrieved on 29th April 2022. https://themighty.com/2016/12/elsa-frozen-just-like-people-with-mental-illness/#:~:text=Just%20as%20 someone%20who%20has,a%20 turbulent%20 rollercoaster%20of%20emotions.