Was Eeyore Depressed?

In this blog, we will explore if Eeyore was depressed, Winnie’s description of Milne’s struggles, PTSD, speculations about the character, Eeyore and Depression, a lesson for all of us, and frequently asked questions.

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Was Eeyore Depressed? 

Yes, Eeyore seemed to be suffering from depression as he depicted a very sad, gloomy, and melancholic character. He precisely showed symptoms of the persistent depressive disorder but his friends were amazing people who always stayed in his corner, no matter what.

Eeyore and other Winnie The Pooh characters

I bet you know who are we talking about! Our beloved “silly old bear”, Winnie the Pooh, and his friends have always and still have a place in our hearts. Needless to say, right from children to adults, everybody appreciates his funny, bittersweet but heart-touching quotes on life.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends is a fictional teddy bear named Winnie created by author and veteran of both world wars, Alan Alexander Milne and it is illustrated by E.H Shepard. 

It is a collection of stories featuring a little boy, Christopher Robin, and his best friend/stuffed animal, Pooh bear. The series is shown to have started in Christopher’s imagination, where Pooh and his other friends – Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and the Owl, appear in Robin’s summer home in England.

Winnie the Pooh explains Milne’s struggles

In 1916, Milne was injured during World War I and returned home to his wife with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which is a mental health condition characterized by a failure in recovery after a traumatic event.

According to the APA (American Psychological Association), PTSD may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.

For Milne, it took years to recover from his physical wounds, whilst he was finding an outlet to heal his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress disorder) as well. 

His only ray of hope was when his son Christopher Robin Milne was born in 1920. Winnie the Pooh was Milne’s attempt to narrate to his son the drastic and harsh reality his daddy went through and to distract himself from his dark memories of the war.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Survivors of sexual abuse or assault, health problems and surgeries, natural catastrophes, bereavement, mass shootings, accidents, and more are all included in today’s definition of PTSD. 

PTSD is linked to a variety of symptoms, including flashbacks and nightmares, as well as hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, amnesia, dissociation, and poor sense of self and various other emotional issues. 

Researchers are discovering novel treatments for PTSD and learning more about how stress affects the brain and body with each passing year. They’re also considering whether the impacts of trauma and stress might be handed down through generations via chemical changes that affect how DNA is produced. 

According to a 2018 study, the kids of males who survived Civil War prison camps in the 1860s had a high death rate. Scientists are still arguing over an earlier study that claimed Holocaust survivors’ offspring inherited a different stress hormone balance than their contemporaries.

Psychological conditions of Winnie the Pooh characters

This collection of short stories hence fits well into stories written for children as it talks about love, friendships, and of course Pooh’s favourite – honey, at the same time subtly portraying the stories of people grieving through the war and its aftermath.

It has been theorized by Dr. Sarah E. Shea and her fellow research partners in their research ‘Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne’ that the Hundred Acre Woods appears like a lush forest on the surface. 

On closer investigation, it was found that Winnie and his friends each have a psychological disorder –

  • Winnie – ADHD, impulsivity with obsessive fixations, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Piglet – GAD (generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Eeyore – Depression
  • Tigger – ADHD
  • Rabbit – OCD
  • Owl – Dyslexia (difficulty in reading)
  • Christopher robin – Schizophrenia

Eeyore and his depression 

Eeyore’s personality and character are fascinating to explore. On looking up in the dictionary, we may find the word ‘Eeyorish’ meaning pessimistic or gloomy. 

In the series, Eeyore is stuffed with sawdust and lives alone under a small house made of sticks. He has his own area in the ‘Hundred Acre Woods’ known for its dismal atmosphere, where he is typically seen sulking around, which is referred to as ‘Eeyore’s Gloomy Place.

Eeyore and his symptoms of depression

Problems faced by Eeyore –

  • He insists that his tails fall off frequently
  • His movement is sluggish, without any physical cause for delay
  • Around friends, he usually complaints that he is unimportant to them and tends to move towards the back of the pack
  • He said he hadn’t been able to smile for a long time.
  • When he’s with his buddies, he often feels empty and disconnected.
  • Throughout the day, Eeyore suffers from a major loss of energy and weariness.

Eeyore has been stated to be having Dysthymia and Dysphoria – two diagnoses closely related to depression. He’s rarely joyful, and even when he is, he’s sarcastic and cynical about it. 

Ironically, he appears to love being gloomy to a degree, as if that is the essence of who he is. Dysthymia is a milder but long-lasting form of depression also termed “Persistent Depressive Disorder”.

What is Persistent Depressive Disorder?

Persistent Depressive Disorder is characterized by a depressed feeling or mood occurring most of the time. Like Eeyore, someone suffering from Dysthymia is almost always ‘down in the dumps’. 

On the grounds that these episodes are long-term, individuals suffering often neglect treatment, they have mostly been known to be depressed, hence it seems normal to them. 

With dysthymia, symptoms of depression often linger for longer periods of time and this has been conveyed by Eeyore who has always been depicted as sad, despondent, and gloomy.

Symptoms of dysthymia that Eeyore portrays are prevailing sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, loss of interest in things/activities, etc. 

Dysphoria

Dysphoria is a feeling of pervasive unhappiness, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or frustration that can be a sign of a variety of mental health problems. 

While euphoria is used to describe a state of extreme happiness, dysphoria is the opposite—it’s a profound sense of unease or dissatisfaction.

Symptoms of dysphoria that Eeyore exhibits are low life satisfaction, sadness, worry, fatigue, etc.  Glimpses of both these conditions are exhibited in the way Eeyore says – ‘I was so upset, I forgot to be happy’, ‘Thanks…for noticing me’, ‘Not much of a house. Just right for not much of a donkey’.

What does the research say about dysphoria?

People who experience dysphoria also appear to think differently. Dysphoria was associated with more frequent worries about the future, according to a 2019 study published in Psychiatry Research. 

This study looked at dysphoric (n=79) and non-dysphoric (n=79) persons’ self-reported future thinking. After controlling for emotional valence, the dysphoric group reported more frequent thoughts about their future in general, particularly for the long-term future. 

The testaments regarding whether Eeyore and his other friends (characters) have disorders are quite contrasting. 

Rachel C. Smith’s college thesis at Ball State University in 2015 attracted some online attention for its in-depth investigation of the psychology of Winnie the Pooh and his buddies. “Seems to have the psychological illness known as chronic dysthymia,” Smith said about Eeyore. 

He suffers from chronic pessimism, exhaustion, and anhedonia. An antidepressant, possibly in combination with individual counselling, would be extremely beneficial to him.” That said, it wasn’t the first time he had been linked to depression in a published paper.

In the 1990s, the term “Eeyorish” was coined in the United Kingdom, along with additional pieces of evidence dating back to the 1960s and 1920s.

A research paper titled ‘The Iceberg Theory: A Critical Reading of A. A Milne’s Tale Winnie the Pooh (1926)’ talks about Earnest Hemmingway’s Iceberg Theory, emphasizing the omission technique – through which the tip of the iceberg is seen, omitting what is underneath the surface, and it is mostly undetected. 

Milne saw writing as the only way to show his son the whole spectrum of war in a delicate reader-friendly way, penning down tales on love, support, and friendship omitting the harsh post-war reality and yet showing glimpses of PTSD by moulding them into the characters.

Eeyore’s character is mostly shown as grumpy, gloomy, and sardonic and exhibits symptoms of major depressive episodes – depressed mood most of the day, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in activities, fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day, feelings of worthlessness, and diminished ability to think or concentrate. 

Donna Dickens shares her viewpoint in her article on Eeyore. Per Dickens, she recalls watching Winnie the Pooh during her childhood and wondering if someone could make Eeyore happy? 

Growing up, seeing her mother battle through depression and trying to force herself to cheer up just on her willpower made Dickens see Eeyore through a different lens. She touches on how Eeyore shows children how to include their less cheerful and upbeat friends and love them as they are, as they don’t need to be ‘fixed’.

A lesson for us all through Winnie the Pooh

One of the best qualities of the show is that, despite Eeyore’s depression, he is still asked to join in on adventures and hijinks with his companions, and they never want him to pretend to be happy; they simply adore him. 

They never abandon him or demand that he change. So, what’s noteworthy about Eeyore? Eeyore shows up. 

He accepts his friends’ apologies. Trying when you are happy is different, but trying when you have lived with depression – you know that alone is a Herculean feat. Eeyore remained gloomy and disinterested and would constantly worry about his tail falling off, but his friends stood by him like pillars and accepted him unconditionally.

Winnie the Pooh is a perfect example of how the theory of the iceberg is demonstrated where the simplicity of the characters, is merely an innocent child-friendly illustration.  They hide a dark underside of their nature that could possibly reflect having multiple psychological disorders. Nothing is what it seems.

Amidst all the criticism or mocking regarding Winnie and his friends, in our view, displaying mental disorders under the veil of subtle, playful characters and illustrations is a right blend for children (and adults) to gain an insight into learning and understanding emotions, thus giving the world the most sought-after stories of Winnie and his friends.

In Kahlil Gibran’s words – “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Conclusion

In this blog, we explored the various characters of Winnie the Pooh, talked about the mental illness of Eeyore, discussed what research has to say, and also discussed various speculations about the show. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Was Eeyore Depressed?

What was Eeyore’s mental illness?

Eeyore seems to have Chronic dysthymia, which is a mental health disorder. He shows various signs of the illness as he lives a sad life, doesn’t really enjoy things, and lives alone in his house. 

Was Eeyore suicidal?

Even though Eeyore shows various symptoms of depression like being sad and having a low mood but he does not appear to be suicidal in the show. 

What is Eeyore’s catchphrase?

Eeyore’s famous catchphrase is “I’d say thistles, but nobody listens to me, anyway” in the Winnie the Pooh show.

Does Eeyore ever get happy?

Eeyore hardly ever feels the emotions of happiness and joy. He seems to be the way he is and hangs out with his friends but often seems very cynical in nature but his friends accept him for who he is. 

How do I stop being Eeyore?

If you feel you are being Eeyore, you might be suffering from some mental health concerns that must be addressed with professional interventions. You should try therapy and work on yourself to feel better and get help to manage your symptoms. 

Why is Eeyore gloomy?

Eeyore usually seems to be gloomy because he might be suffering from major depressive disorder or other depressive disorder that usually makes the person feel gloomy and dull. 

References

Costa, Yetter, and DesSomer (2018) Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1803630115

Shea, Gordon, Hawkins, Smith, Kawchuk (2000) Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne

Hallford D.J (2019). The phenomenological characteristics of autobiographical future thinking in dysphoric and non-dysphoric individuals, Psychiatry Research.

https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-dysthymia-treatment-symptoms-definition.html
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2018.12.100.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342167505_The_Iceberg_Theory_A_Critical_Reading_of_AA_Milne’s_Tale_Winnie_The_Pooh_1926
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