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We Need More Words To Describe Depression

I was recently coaching a couple that had taken our Bipolar In Order workshop when the man said he was depressed. The woman asked for a better description, but he had no words to describe his emotions. I was reminded of how my wife Ellen used to ask me for more details when I said it was just dark. It seems that many of us can feel strong emotions, but have no words to describe them.

A good friend has the opposite problem. He cannot feel emotions. We watched the saddest movie I know, The Hours, but as hard as he tried he could not cry of feel sadness from it. The amazing part is that he suffered from depression many years ago, but had been taught that negative emotions are bad and should be avoided. He could not describe depression as a feeling since he could not feel it at all.

I often say that depression is a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components. While we have no problem explaining the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects, we seem to be at a loss when it comes to describing the emotional part. What we need is a better vocabulary.

When I ask people to describe the physical feelings of depression, I get a huge list of pains from dull, throbbing, stabbing, sharp, and more, to low energy and exhaustion. When I ask about mental issues, I get descriptions of obsessive thoughts, suicide ideations, self talk, hallucinations, etc. The spiritual aspects include life having no meaning, what’s the point, there is no God, life has no value, etc. But with emotion, all I ever hear is sadness or despair. We need more words.

Perhaps if we all contribute, we can come up with a list for everyone to use. That way we can help not only those around us, but also become more clear ourselves about what is happening.

What words do you know that can apply to the emotional part of depression?

We Need More Words To Describe Depression

Tom Wootton

Tom Wootton - see on YouTube, follow on Twitter, or Facebook - is CEO of Bipolar Advantage. Along with experts in complementary fields, including doctors teaching the next generation of therapists, their mission is to help people with mental conditions shift their thinking and behavior so that they can lead extraordinary lives. Tom is the author of three books: The Bipolar Advantage, The Depression Advantage, and Bipolar In Order: Looking At Depression, Mania, Hallucination, And Delusion From The Other Side.

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APA Reference
Wootton, T. (2011). We Need More Words To Describe Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 29 May 2011
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