Symbols of Depression in Art (Through the eyes of 18 pieces of art)


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Page last updated: 17/11/2020

Symbols of Depression in Art (Through the eyes of 18 pieces of art)

This article looks at different symbols of Depression in Art and how art can heal depression.

Symbols of Depression in Art

In all aspects of art and communication, symbols of depression prevail. Major depressive disorder ( MDD) is a complex condition involving the entire being of someone; feelings, perceptions, cognitive ability, actions, and worldly perceptions can be challenging to put into words. Effective ways to explain depression are symbols.

Images of thunderstorms, ravens, and symbols of skulls or grim reapers. Desolate scenery and cliff faces, too, are popular. All of these are widely linked to depression because they capture the spirit of the classic signs of major depression, darkness, hopelessness, struggle, and suicidal thoughts.

The other symbols of depression represent optimism and enlightenment. Butterflies reflect exquisite healing and rebirth, while the semicolon suggests that depression is a break, not a definitive halt, in one’s journey through life. The anchor is another common way of representing major depression; indeed, amid the violent storm one is trying to survive, it is a sign of optimism and steady, steadfast help or strong tethering to survival.

  • Poplar Trees

Poplar trees are a symbol of grief, sorrow, and funerals.

  • Half-moon

The half-moon illustrates the dual nature within you. Half of you are bright, while the other half has completely lost and lies in the dark, struggling to combat depression.

  • Stagnant water

Stagnant water, plagued by mosquitos and unable to move, brings a feeling of being trapped in dense murk.

  • Fire

Fire is rage, devastation, and retribution, and thus symbolizes the popular belief in depression that one has been ruined and/or is a bad individual who needs penalty as the disease.

  • North 

The North Direction. The North symbolizes cold, aggression, loneliness, and mortality in literature and depression.

  • The Peace sign

The symbol of ‘peace.’ Interestingly, the symbol did not signify peace. Depression is an abstract notion. Look long enough, and you’re going to start seeing it as it was supposed to be: as a stick figure in desperate agony doubled over.

Depression feels like a piece of your mind is fading into the dark flecks of insanity. It can be described, as a silent struggle, in a chaotic form.

Symbols of Depression in Art (Through the eyes of 18 pieces of art)

Depression not only makes us feel like constraints tie us down, but it can also help us see ourselves as if we were immersed in the sludge that traps us. It is gripping, contagious, and constricting.

To explain depression would be to depict a ceaseless cycle of pain. We’re shouting, how can anyone notice us? This pain persists and is followed by doubt and even hopelessness.

Depression is much more than simply being depressed or feeling miserable for ourselves. Those who not only struggle to realize but refuse to consider something other than stigma are dramatic exaggerations created by those. Depression is like mortality, a surety that is not going to let us go. That’s weird. It’s as though, in its gloom, this grim thing is soothing us.

Depression is like another existence in our minds; we struggle and claw the walls to break free, while our faces show nothing of our internal struggles.

Depression turns an entire individual into a shadow of who they used to be, a smudge. Although you feel entire in ways, in many other ways, you feel as if you’re being washed away, even wiped.

Depression victims want you all to know exactly what’s going on with them, but they can’t articulate it well. The agony is so great that no words are enough. They believe they are gripped by the demon of mental condition, keeping them prisoner to the redemption of reasonable intelligence. No shelter exists.

Comparing it with the depletion of life energy would be one way of describing depression. It’s like someone switched off, and all the illumination and color faded away, leaving only a bare, monochrome world.

Not only is the mind of depression dark, but it is also violent, and each day it expands. In the depths of your subconscious, the darkness is never content, and it can be infectious at times, creeping like black tendrils finding more victims.

It is to describe genuine isolation to identify depression. It’s all too confusing, no matter how hard you try to accept your condition or make others comprehend. As for all the others, this picture is the perfect way to gain an understanding of depression.

Depression forces us down, but it generates a feeling where our own life is never anchored. Often, trying to keep from slipping away despite not being able to emerge from the torment of our own minds is almost difficult.

This type of profound imagery of depression is often autobiographic. It is also the building block for symbolism, especially the loss of something like a sense of identity, which portrays the shadows this condition brings. Many artists reflect this feeling by distorting the face.

Diagnosed with depression at age 19, the hallucinatory images of Edward Honoker depict the loneliness that comes together with the disorder. He also reveals how unsettling it can be by distorted figures. “The mind is who you are,” he says, “and it is terrifying when it doesn’t function properly.”

Janelia Mould excels in abstract imagery, and she took this style with a girl called depression for her project called Melancholy. She intended to help eradicate the stigma that surrounds the disease. You will never see her face, made as a self-portrait. “I deliberately left out the head and some limbs,” she tells us, “I chose to give a peek into how a depressed person could view life by creating the character which never feels completely whole.”

In the darkness, light can be found there. For his project called The Blue Journey, photographer Gabriel Isak utilizes his depression as the trigger. He developed it after battling the illness for seven years, influenced by the artist Magritte as well as by surrealism. “My subconscious mind influenced the majority of the photos in the project,” he told us, “as they all sound like tiny reminders of what I went through during my depression.”

Katie Joy Crawford portrays her inner experiences with general anxiety disorder through a strong collection of self-portraits. My Anxious Heart conveys most of the same unpleasant feelings created because of it, although not primarily about depression. Among other items, the pictures show Crawford wrapped in plastic wrap, stuck in a birdcage, and her head in a cloud. However, the process of developing these photographs was beneficial, and she believes it will assist those who suffer similar challenges.

He depicts typical habits, such as brushing the teeth, with odd behaviors like compulsively organizing them on the counter in photographer John William Keedy’s series. It’s Barely Visible. This, among other vignettes, provides an insight into the lives of individuals with mental illnesses, which are “hardly visible,” as the title implies.

To better say narratives via his photography, Michal Macku created his artistic strategy. Named it “gellage,” he transfers the gelatinous emulsion on film negatives around and dramatically alters their nature. The muse obviously tore himself apart in these pictures, not unlike the emotions that depression and anxiety can trigger.

Photography was a method for Christian Hopkins to deal with his depression. He described that time, “Over the past four years, I have suffered from Major Depression, and it has expressed itself in many ways over that time, including photography.” Like others, Hopkins has also battled with a sense of identity-an element that shows through his pictures. Being the “true self” is something that I battle with every day.

Depression and Art Therapy

There are numerous ways to combat depression, but administering anti-depressants and engaging in conversation or behavioral therapy are the most common medical strategies. While these are effective ways to go, apart from the traditional drugs and talk therapy approaches, there are other ways to fight depression. In curing depression and related disorders, nutritional modifications, behavioral changes, and contextual shifts can all benefit.

A therapeutic approach that allows patients to use art as a means of communication is art therapy. Using artistry, art therapy can help these people work through trauma, depression, and anxiety. Art therapy can be performed by a skilled art therapist or may be incorporated by a counselor with experience or qualification in the treatment method into a regular therapy session.

While making depression sketches can originally be daunting, designing depression imagery can be as conceptual as placing colors and lines on the canvas or as concrete as creating a collage representing the cause of your depression. There is no incorrect or correct way of expressing yourself in art therapy. Your imagination is your own, and you may look at it; however, you want to look at it.

Art therapy would not compel you to meet certain criteria or impose expectations that will overpower or impose specific requirements on you, unlike art classes at school. You may be provided with a task or requested to concentrate on anything in particular, but rather than an objective or ranking, your task is mostly for your speech and independence.

Many art therapy services concentrate on illustrating depression and other aspects of visual imagery, but in a recovery program, tactile art, writing, and making music may also be included. If you’re comfortable in or confident with a specific medium, consult a doctor to develop a therapy that will keep you involved, concentrated, and committed to your path of recovery.

It is definitely not a prerequisite in art therapy to acquire abilities in the field of art. The aim is not to design a masterpiece or impress your therapist, but to improve your ability to pay attention and convey yourself. Giving yourself consent to stray away from the prospect of making something perfect, and offering some flexibility and relaxation from the pressure and stress sometimes related to the development, instead of designing something authentic and representative of your experience.

Art is an efficient way to express yourself, but it can do more than only aid you convey any feelings of hopelessness that you may be experiencing. Imagination and creativity are also capable of giving a person immense confidence, which can help raise some of the symptoms of depression-a big part of the depression, such as feeling low self-esteem, so an important part of recovery is cultivating confidence.

Art is a useful tool to alleviate depressive symptoms because it instills faith, provides space for expression, and encourages imagination, related to reductions in anxiety, depression, restrictive habits, and even physical illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


This article looked at different symbols of Depression in Art and how art can heal depression.

If you’ve enjoyed the Symbols of Depression in Art mentioned above, I would recommend you to take a look at Hyperbole and a half depression too.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

FAQ: Symbols of depression in art

Is painting good for depression?

Research shows that art therapy can be really useful in addressing conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even certain phobias. It is a perfect way to convey your thoughts, manage complicated feelings, and find relaxation without words.

Is there a connection between creativity and depression?

Looking at data from ten research studies, students of fine arts, creative writers, and influential figures from creative fields found that indeed, there was a strong link between being creative and having a diagnosis of a mood disorder, such as depression.

Why are artists mentally ill?

Across all of history, people who have worked in the arts have struggled with inequality, oppression, social isolation, psychological distress, drug addiction, extreme stress, and other environmental conditions associated with the development and likely the cause of mental illness.


  • The workshop, Y., Shovava, Day, T., Comma, & Colorsheets, V. (2020, March 27). 10 Expressive Photographers Whose Poignant Images Shed Light on Depression. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from

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