EQI.org Home | Depression

A "Depressed Person"?


Does it make sense to label someone as a "depressed person." We argue that it does not.

Feeling depressed is not like being tall. A tall person is always tall. Someone who is depressed, though, is not always depressed. While there are times when it can be helpful to refer to someone as a "tall person", it seems unhelpful to label someone who is depressed as a "depressed person".

Consider this distinction: When a person is outside in the snow with no coat on we might say they are cold at that moment. But we would not mean that they are a cold person. Even if they were living in a cold climate without warm clothes for days, weeks, months or years we probably still would not say they are a "cold person".

In English, to call someone a "cold person" is more of a reference to their "character" or personality, not their body temperature. In the same way, calling someone a "depressed person" sounds more like some kind of subjective judgment about the person which ignores the cause and effect relationship between the environment and their feelings.

An analogy is that if a person has spent a lot of time in a rainy country and they are frequently wet from the rain, it would be more accurate to view them as a person who is in a state of being wet and, importantly, who has been caused to be wet by the rain. Once the rain is no longer present, the person will dry off naturally and it would not makes sense to call this same person a "wet person." To do so would not be helpful to the person or to those seeking understanding of cause and effect. In fact, it would be misleading to label such a person as a "wet person."

The wetness is a symptom of the rain, not a character trait of the person in a rainy environment. If we wrongly think of the person as a "wet person" we will focus on trying to remove the symptom of wetness, without focusing our attention and efforts on the rainy environment.

For example, if we are focused on the wetness we might keep drying the person off with a towel. Or we might tell them to "dry off" in the same way people often tell a depressed person to "cheer up." On the other hand, if we realize that it is the rain that is causing the wetness we could take several other steps from providing an umbrella or a raincoat to helping them re-locate to a sunny and dry climate.


EQI.org Home Page

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org

Online Consulting, Counseling Coaching from EQI.org