Symbols of Depression You May Not Have Thought of Before

Depression symbols are meaningful images that illustrate the illness and rising above it. Read this to discover little-known symbols of depression.

Symbols of depression abound in all forms of art and communication. Because major depressive disorder (MDD) is a complex illness affecting someone’s whole being—emotions, thoughts, cognitive functioning, behavior, and experiences in the world—it can be hard to put into words. Symbols are powerful ways to understand depression. Below is a collection of depression symbols that aren’t as widely known as other more prominent icons.

First, Some Common Symbols of Depression

You might have seen rainstorm images, ravens, and skull or grim reaper symbols. Barren landscapes and faces of cliffs are popular, too. All of these are commonly associated with depression because they capture the essence of the darkness, despair, struggle, and thoughts of death that are hallmarks of major depression.

Other depression symbols depict hope and transcendence. Butterflies represent beautiful transformation and healing, while the semicolon indicates that depression is a pause in one’s life journey, not a final stop. The anchor is another popular way to portray major depression; indeed, it’s a symbol of hope and strong, stalwart support or solid tethering to life despite the raging storm one is trying to endure.

These symbols speak volumes. They’re not the only images people use to express depression, however.

Negative Depression Symbols You May Not Have Realized Were Associated with MDD

Poplar trees represent pain, grief, and funerals.

The half-moon represents the dual experience within you. Half of you is illuminated, trying to fight depression while the other half has given up and remains in the dark.

Stagnant water evokes feelings of being stuck in thick murk, surrounded by mosquitos and unable to flow.

Fire represents anger, destruction, and punishment and thus symbolizes the common belief in depression that one has been destroyed and/or is a terrible person who deserves the illness as punishment.

Pomegranates. Taken from Greek mythology, the pomegranate was the fruit of the dead and symbolized Persephone’s entrapment in the Underworld. To ensure that she would return, Hades tricked Persephone into biting a pomegranate.

The direction North. In literature and depression, north symbolizes cold, hostility, isolation, and death.

The “peace” sign. Surprisingly, this emblem didn’t stand for peace. Believe it or not, it’s a abstract representation of depression. Look hard enough, and you’ll begin to see it as it was meant to be: as a stick figure bent over in hopeless anguish. (See the short lines as arms reaching for the ground and the circle as representing the head.)

Positive Symbols of Depression Not Always Recognized as Such

Koi fish. According to legend, koi steadily and gracefully swam up a powerful waterfall. As a reward for their determination and perseverance against this menacing obstacle, they were transformed into dragons.

Dragonfly. These beautiful, ancient insects symbolize overcoming hardship and taking the time to connect with and nurture the positive within us.

Small stones. Their depression symbolism comes from the ancient Chinese proverb, “The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones,” and the African proverb, “If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must begin by moving stones today.” Depression is a tall, broad mountain that seems impossible to move or even climb over. Yet, doing so is possible by taking small steps every day—by moving stones.

Succulents are beautiful and hardy. The serve to remind us that we grow stronger because of our hardships. Depression makes us stronger.

The Phoenix is the mythological bird that rises from its own ashes, just as you can rise out of the depths of depression, your ashes. (“Ashes” is a bonus symbol of depression for you.)

Anything that is meaningful to you can be your own depression symbol, illustrating what your illness is to you and your overcoming it to thrive in your quality life once again.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2022, January 4). Symbols of Depression You May Not Have Thought of Before, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: January 11, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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