37 Ways to Describe Depression

business people with stress and worries in office Here’s my list of what non-clinical depression looks like. Think of these as indicative of sadness.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


  • Her high cheekbones were sunken. Her eyes were dark circles staring out with bewilderment and fear, the bright blue color terrifyingly dim
  • A heaviness, a cloud of depression and weariness, seemed to draw all of Ashton’s features downward
  • He could see the weight in her walk
  • Like an emotional sticky tray
  • Like an emotional Venus fly trap
  • I felt weightless and anonymous
  • Youth left waiving from the platform as the train pulled out
  • His voice had the pallid, toneless quality of his skin.
  • A sullen barista

Depressioncute puppy

Recent Loss – through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of religious faith, loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed

forehead is wrinkled in the middle, but not across the whole breadth, as when the eyebrows are raised in surprise.

Change in Personality – sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, apathetic Change in Sleep Patterns – insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares Change in Eating Habits – loss of appetite and weight, or overeating

Fear of losing control- harming self or others

Low self esteem- feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me” No hope for the future – believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change

Other things to watch for- Suicidal impulses, statements, plans; giving away favorite things; previous suicide attempts

More descriptors for writing:

Lots of them

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

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35 thoughts on “37 Ways to Describe Depression

  1. Pingback: 70 Collections to Infuse Your Writing | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: 24 Ways to Describe Pain | WordDreams...

  3. Jacqui such an important topic, even though you are writing about the descriptive side of it. There is no avoiding the devastation of depression left to its own devices. Living with and losing a brother to such a horrific condition I would have to say, no matter how much love surrounded him it was not enough to keep him here. My brother could do anything he set his mind to, until depression took hold of him. He said it was like a black cloud followed him around and even in a crowded room he felt so alone.


  4. Jacqui, When if have a fibromyalgia fare-up depression is one of the ugly-three symptoms (exhaustion, pain & depression). I often describe it as bone-marrow deep weariness and my view of everything turns to murky grey (not 50 shades, just ONE!). With sadness there is feeling, with depression there is a void – like floating in infinite space without a tether and no compass – it is probably one of the most difficult of emotions to describe for me.


    • That’s a pretty good description, Judy. Void. I can’t imagine that. That’s why I think Fibromyalgia is worse than anything I have.

      BTW, my techie folks loved that ASCII typing video you posted. I rarely get comment son my tech teacher blog, and that one brought them out of the woodwork.


      • I think all of what “ails us” is very relative – it’s ours to figure out how to live with this condition called “human”!
        That artist who does ASCII typing is absolutely incredible – it would be hard not to just be in awe of his artistic talents. Talk about not being able to imagine – I can not imagine how he does it.


      • It reminds me of Daniel Tammett–of ‘Born on a Blue Day’ fame. A high-functioning autistic savant who found an amazing path through the world, doing it his way.


  5. As always, a fabulous list, Jacqui. Thanks so much for sharing.🙂
    I can’t imagine being clinically depressed. It’s hard enough shaking off the feelings when you’re depressed for a couple of days over something gone wrong.


  6. Depression makes the person feel isolated from everyone else, not part of the group. These descriptors point out this quality. I suspect that’s why it’s so hard for some people to shake the feeling. Good to keep in mind when writing about characters going through this experience. Thanks, Jacqui, for the insight.


  7. Jacqui, I’m running out of my torrid adjectives/adverbs in praise of Jacqui Murray. Your posts, like this one, have taught me so much over the last couple of years and made me a better writer {I know it as others tell me so}. Just to say a mundane ‘thank you’ for the post -it has provoked me into thinking a few more thoughts on the historical novel I’m working on. Thank you. Arun.


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