Kiki’s Delivery Service And It’s Depiction Of Depression

In this blog we will discuss how Kiki’s Delivery Service depicts depression. 

Kiki’s Delivery Service And It’s Depiction Of Depression

Kiki’s delivery service is an anime by Hayao Miyazaki based on Japanese author Eiko Kadono’s 1985 novel of the same name, which accurately depicts depression as a result of burnout. 

The japanese animated movie has been a beloved of many views and this particular coming of age anime is considered a classic; following a teen witch who is on a quest to find her roots in the adult world. 

The portrayal of depression, mental illness, and burn out begins to be highlighted when the character loses her magic and her journey to reclaiming her power and building self reliance. 

The impact of stress and work demands lead to burnout which has been closely linked to depression. Burnout has been defined as,

“…the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in “helping” professions.”

Though it had been limited to helping professions in the medical field, it is now used for other professions and the unhealthy side of self-sacrifice in jobs. 

The signs of burnout look very similar to depression symptoms and may even overlap. Major burnout signs include:

  • Feeling drained and emotionally exhausted, tired and down, and don’t have enough energy. 
  •  Physical symptoms like pain and gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel) problems.
  • Experience of alienation from (work-related) activities and find work increasingly stressful and frustrating. 
  • Emotionally distanced and numb when it comes to work
  • Cynical attitude 
  • Unable to focus and concentrate 
  • Lack of creativity and zeal

When we look at the journey of young Kiki, we see her eager to start her career, almost rushing out of her home to get a chance at living like a real adult. 

However, as she begins to engage with other people, the world, and maintain her value of a strong work ethic, her eager-to-please attitude as well as always going above-and-beyond for other people in her delivery business, she eventually experiences a dip in her career. 

One of the major red flags that we see in Kiki’s view of her work and her life is her tendency to put the needs of others first before her own and her lack of boundaries between her personal life and her work. 

She takes on difficult jobs, stretches herself into doing things that are not part of her work or her pay garage, as well as risks her health and safety in the process- even getting sick in the process of her work. 

We see signs of burnout like exhaustion, negativity, critical views, and resentment towards her own service that she was so excited for when she started.

In the midst of her burn out, she also begins to show signs of depression where she is always tired, socially withdrawing from her friends and loved ones, moody and low, and ultimately, losing her power. 

When we consider these movies from a psychological perspective, we can assume that her losing her powers is a metaphor for losing the zest of her life- purpose and meaning in her life. 

As she becomes aware of this she begins to develop anxiety and eventually depression when her broom metaphorically “snaps” and her ability to fly or her zeal for life, ambitions, and goals is lost. 

It is only when Kiki takes a break from trying so hard and she allows herself to rest, recuperate, reflect on her own life that she is able to regain her power and her purpose. 

For any indidvdiual who is experience depression and burnout, it is imperative to understand that there is only so much a person is humanely capable of.

Talking to a professional or taking a closer look at what boundaries are can help you acknowledge your own limitations without judgement and plan your life around it. 

Boundaries do not limit you but rather it can mark the space upon which you can grow and flourish. Identifying and setting your boundaries involves understanding and awareness of what you can and cannot do- emotionally and physically.

It is about stepping back and letting go when you know that holding on or pushing through is only going to hurt you.

Building boundaries is not giving up; rather , it allows us to take stock of what we do have and what we can do to get better results rather than following tradition and old ways of being. 

Looking at how Kiki, on setting boundaries by reflecting and actually applying her boundaries with respect to how much she can actually do and accepting her limitations as a person, is able to retrieve her powers only goes to show how important it is to take stock of one’s professional life, engage in self care, and set healthy boundaries. 

Kiki's Delivery Service And It’s Depiction Of Depression

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. 

There may be different medications- some which might work for you while others that might not help you. 

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. 

Reduce stress

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.

Sleep well

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 how Kiki’s Delivery Service depicts depression and burnout.


Erica Russel. What Kiki’s Delivery Service tells us about burnout. Retrieved on 29th April 2022.