Metaphors as evidence of depression. Investigating the mental representation of depressive disorders


This study aims at investigating the metaphorical expressions stemming from the experience of depression to deepen our comprehension of this mental disorder and its consequences. To this end, four online fora dealing with mental illness were selected to gather data concerning the metaphorical description of depression as offered by online users who suffer from it. The personal accounts of 71 users were chosen to qualitatively analyse the most recurrent metaphorical patterns employed to conceptualise depression. The results were interpreted by means of the Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) and the Embodied Cognition Theory (ECT). According to the CMT, linguistic metaphors are a reflection of our innate capacity to think metaphorically in order to create mental models of reality based on analogical and associative mode of thinking, two powerful mental forces of the human cognitive system. This is the reason why metaphors, due to their cognitive power, are able to shape our mental comprehension of the world by organising and constructing a cognitive representation of reality. Moreover, as claimed by the ECT, metaphors stem from our daily interactions with the world which are unconsciously internasalised and later used as a conceptual basis to structure abstract, subjective and intangible domains of experience. By combining these two frameworks of reference, the study re-constructs a view of the conceptual world of depression. Not only does this analysis offer an insight into the depressive disorder, but it also contributes to show that the conceptual world of depression is not only thought and conceptualised, but it is also intensely experienced and lived, in line with the hypothesis that conceptualisation entails simulation.

Il presente studio si propone di individuare ed analizzare le principali concettualizzazioni metaforiche che governano la comprensione concettuale della depressione. Per raggiungere tale scopo, sono stati scelti quattro fora online dedicati alle malattie mentali e dai quali sono stati selezionati 71 utenti che descrivessero il loro disturbo depressivo in termini metaforici. I dati raccolti sono stati interpretati secondo i principi della Teoria della Metafora Concettuale (TMC) e della teoria dell’Embodied Cognition (TEC). Secondo la TMC, le metafore linguistiche riflettono l’innata capacità umana di pensare in termini metaforici per creare modelli mentali della realtà. Tale capacità affonderebbe le sue radici nelle abilità analogiche e associative tipiche del sistema cognitivo umano. Pertanto, considerata la loro natura essenzialmente cognitiva, le metafore sono in grado di plasmare la nostra comprensione mentale del mondo organizzando e costruendo una rappresentazione cognitiva della realtà. Inoltre, come sostenuto dalla TEC, le metafore emergono come conseguenza delle nostre interazioni quotidiane con il mondo, le quali verrebbero inconsciamente interiorizzate e successivamente sfruttate come base concettuale per strutturare domini di esperienza particolarmente astratti, soggettivi ed intangibili. Coniugando i principi della Teoria della Metafora Concettuale e quelli della teoria dell’Embodied Cognition, il presente studio si propone di ricostruire il mondo concettuale della depressione. Tale indagine permette dunque di raggiungere una comprensione molto particolareggiata del disturbo depressivo. In aggiunta, la presente analisi contribuisce a dimostrare come il mondo della depressione non venga solo pensato e concettualizzato, bensì anche intensamente vissuto e sperimentato concretamente, in linea con l’ipotesi per cui concettualizzare significherebbe simulare.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v44p337

Keywords: Depression; Cognitive metaphors; Embodied cognition; Online fora; Qualitative analysis


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