Depression embodied: an ambiguous striving against fading

Scand J Caring Sci. 2015 Sep;29(3):501-9. doi: 10.1111/scs.12182. Epub 2014 Sep 23.


Although depression is associated to physical discomfort, meanings of the body in depression are rarely addressed in clinical research. Drawing on the concept of the lived body, this study explores depression as an embodied phenomenon. Using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, the analysis of narrative-based interviews with 11 depressed adults discloses a thematic structure of an embodied process of an ambiguous striving against fading. Five subthemes elicit different dimensions of this process, interpreted as disabling or enabling: feeling estranged, feeling confined, feeling burdensome, sensing life and seeking belongingness. In relation to clinical practice, we suggest that the interdisciplinary team can focus on enhancing the enabling dimensions, for example through guided physical activities to support the patient to feel more alive, capable and connected. Moreover, we suggest that the treatment process benefits from an increased awareness of the ambiguity in the patient's struggle, acknowledging both destructive and recharging elements of the withdrawing, and the perceived conflict in-between.

Keywords: depression; hermeneutics; lived body; lived experience; person-centred care; phenomenology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult