Wordsmith Wednesday–Word-Painting Emotions: Depression

On the Threshold of Eternity

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As a fiction writer-nurse, I often find myself dipping into my knowledge of clinical symptoms that characterize certain emotions, moods and pathologies to help in “showing” a character’s experience. Today, I want to share with you some descriptions that might be useful to you in word-painting depression.

Realize, there are two types of depression. (I will briefly describe them here, but do not rely on my descriptions if you are seeking professional advice. I will include a link, but symptoms of depression should be referred to a health care provider.)

Reactive depression is what occurs when a person has experienced an event such as loss or death. It is normally short-term but can still be treated with anti-depressant medications given temporarily. The person with reactive depression will often get help through counseling, support groups or even from good friends. It should resolve with the passing of time.

Clinical depression is physiological, based on an imbalance of chemicals in the body. Often the person is bi-polar which means he vacillates from high-to-low. (We used to call this manic-depressive behavior) This type of depression is generally not responsive to therapy alone, but should be treated with medication to balance the chemicals in the body.

If you want to describe a character who is depressed, the symptoms are the same for both types. Here are some behaviors or physiological reactions you can use to “show” depression:

  • Your character is unable to sleep or she sleeps all the time. Waking in the early morning hours or oversleeping are commonplace.
  • She is unable to focus on day-to-day demands of life. She has a hard time complete tasks or loses concentration in the workplace.
  • He experiences feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
  • She is overwhelmed by negative thoughts such as worrying, fear, pessimism.
  • He loses his appetite or can’t stop eating.
  • He is irritable, impatient, short-tempered.
  • She feels that life has nothing to offer and may have thoughts about suicide.
  • The lose interest in work, relationships, hobbies, social activities, or sex.
  • She is unable to experience joy and pleasure.
  • They feel agitated, restless, on edge.
  • Everything and everyone gets on their nerves.
  • Their energy is low. They always feel tired and physically drained. Small tasks become exhausting.
  • They have feelings of self-hatred, worthlessness and guilt. They are critical of self and others.
  • They have problems making decisions and remembering things.
  • They experience unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
  • Because of immobility and changes in appetite, they may have problems with normal bodily functions (this may be more than you want to “show!)
  • She may cry easily for no apparent reason.

If you are writing about a character with depression, I hope these signs will help you in your descriptions.

5 thoughts on “Wordsmith Wednesday–Word-Painting Emotions: Depression

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Thanks for sharing your expertise … and so clearly …


  2. souldipper says:

    Some of my friends who suffer from depression (to varying degrees) would be relieved that someone NOT in depression would understand so fully. This is helpful, not only to a writer, but to one who wants to be a friend to one who has to experience these heartbreaking symptoms.


  3. megzone says:

    wow interesting piece of information there 🙂
    thanks for sharing.. sometime if i happen to write a depressive poem i shall surely try to keep these points in mind 🙂

    Here from Jingle’s Rally
    You can find my poem at


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