Metaphors are more than just stylistic devices in language. They form the basis of our thinking about abstract concepts and thus determine our actions in complex situations. In my master’s thesis, I analyse metaphors of depression in two American and two British blogs written by bloggers who have experienced the illness. My goal is to determine the metaphors’ influence on the treatment of depressed individuals by the non-depressed population. I also aim to explore how the depressed individuals come to regard and treat their illness and themselves in light of the metaphors.
For these two purposes, I composed a corpus of 510 metaphorical expressions on depression from the blogs and categorised them in 27 different metaphorical mappings. Through the logic of these mappings, I established the metaphors’ influence upon the perception of and behaviour towards the depressed individuals. The metaphors mostly convey a positive image of such individuals. They do not hold these individuals responsible for their illness or depict them as faulty, failing, and weak. In this way, they encourage respectful, non-judgmental, and kind behaviour towards depression sufferers. Under their influence, those suffering from depression can also regard themselves in a more positive light, which helps boost their self-esteem. Because a substantial set of metaphors conceptualises depression as a state of lost control over one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviour and as an illness that renders one incapable of functioning, the readers of the blogs are encouraged to seek, accept, or offer help for depression. The negative consequences of the metaphors involve the perception of depression as an unpredictable and dangerous state. Also problematic is the DEPRESSION IS WAR metaphor. It divides depressed individuals according to their success in treatment, implies that less help is needed with depression, and encourages reduced quality of life under the illness.