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Shattering the Bell Jar: Metaphor, Gender, and Depression

Charteris-Black, Jonathan



Working from 38 interviews with people who had experienced depression this study compares metaphors with those identified in previous research. It also compares the types of metaphor of men and women talking about depression and how these metaphors were used in discourse so as to determine whether or not the expression of depression is gendered. The types of metaphor used by women and men are generally similar ("descent," "weight and pressure" and "darkness and light" metaphors) and there is a large group of metaphors relating to containment and constraint for which there is only limited evidence in previous research. This leads to a model for depression in which the self is "contained" within a depression but also "contains" sad feelings that are trapped. There are some interesting differences between genders in how metaphors are used with greater evidence of metaphor priming and metaphor mixing in the interviews with women. Expression of these "trapped" feelings may be an important part of the process of recovery and metaphor priming and mixing may facilitate this. Therapists should encourage clients to use diverse metaphors to convey the intensity of their emotions even if the feelings they convey are negative ones. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Charteris-Black, J. (2012). Shattering the Bell Jar: Metaphor, Gender, and Depression. Metaphor and Symbol, 27(3), 199-216.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2012
Journal Metaphor and Symbol
Print ISSN 1092-6488
Electronic ISSN 1532-7868
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 199-216
Keywords metaphor, depression, gender
Public URL
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