50 Songs About Depression
You Are Not Alone
Why do deep sadness and dark thoughts sometimes set in and cover a person like a thick blanket? At times, the reasons seem clear:
- death of a loved one or loss of a relationship
- significant life events like the loss of a job (this also includes positive events like graduations or the birth of a child)
- an illness, particularly chronic illnesses or
- alcohol and substance abuse.
However, at other times, causes are less clear. Reasons such as genetics, life events, medications, or domestic abuse may trigger a person to walk about his or her daily life as a wounded soldier, the heavy blanket of depression dragging them down.
My aunt is one of these walking wounded. During her good times, she's a nurturing caregiver, impeccably clean, and has a great sense of humor. When severe depression sets in, however, loved ones don't recognize her. She is a different person.
Completely incapacitated, she doesn't shower for weeks and only leaves her bed to occasionally pick at food or use the bathroom. She faces the wall and barely speaks. Eventually, she agrees to return to the psychiatric hospital where her medication can be readjusted, or she asks for more electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT). The family is weary with her long battle but also concerned about her future. But depression is not her choice.
Chances are you also know someone with depression. They are the walking wounded among us. You may even be one of them. The walking wounded require compassion rather than judgment or criticism.
If you don't understand what it's like to experience depression, then listen to these pop, rock, and country songs that describe it so that you can empathize more with the struggle. Or, if you are suffering from depression yourself, these songs will help you understand you are not alone.
1. "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty
The guy in this 2003 chart-topping rock ditty is feeling emotionally fragile and sleep deprived. As he spends hours on end staring at the ceiling, he see sees shadows, hears voices, and talks to himself. Although he clarifies he's not crazy, he does caution the listener that he is unwell and may be headed for a breakdown.
2. "Be OK" by Ingrid Michaelson
Deceptively perky, this 2006 pop song features a depressed narrator who expresses feeling broken and numb. She says she just wants to be okay and needs reassurance to get there.
Have you ever experienced depression?
3. "Hurt" by Johnny Cash
At the end of your life will you look back, despondent, at all of your achievements and years of toil?
Although rock band Nine Inch Nails originally recorded this song of deep loss, it was country legend Johnny Cash who made it famous. Poignantly, he did so in 2002 towards the end of his life. His advanced age and former prominence as a country superstar made the retrospective all the more somber and believable.
The narrator looks back at his life and realizes that in the end, everyone around him goes away, and his once-impressive empire means nothing. The Grammy-winning video for the song was filmed in his crumbling home that had also been his museum. The House of Cash was long closed to the public and strewn with cracked platinum records and broken memorabilia.
As he narrates this gripping song and wonders what he has become, his wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash, looks on tearfully. Within less than a year, both would be dead.
4. "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum
The narrator in this 1993 Grammy Award-winning rock song is tired, heavy with dejection and secrets, and feels like he's out of options. He feels overwhelmed by a life that seems like it has become a runaway train where he's not in control:
Can you help me remember how to smile?
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile?
How on earth did I get so jaded?
Life's mystery seems so faded.
5. "Stressed Out" by Twenty One Pilots
A worldwide hit, this rap/rock hit from 2015 references the psychological stressors experienced by teens teetering on the cusp of adulthood. Suddenly, they realize they're no longer children and may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of all those grown-up responsibilities that lurk ahead.
They may harbor insecurities about adulting, including the burden of student loans, pursuing careers, and having to make money. A part of them longs for the good old days when all was right with the world and mom sang them to sleep. That's when they could spend afternoons building a rocket ship or play pretend bunny.
It's enough to make a person feel anxious and depressed. Can you identify?
6. "Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage
This 1995 rock song is a sarcastic jab at the dark-themed emotional songs popular in the 1990s. The narrator is a real Debbie Downer. Almost gleefully, she admits "I'm riding hiding on deep depression" and explains that she actually prefers when things are sad and complicated and life is going wrong. She enjoys complaining, welcomes misery with open arms, and finds comfort in the dark night. At least she's honest, right? We all know someone like this.
7. "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men
Losing the love of your life can understandably create lingering sorrow and a sense of grief. In this pop song from 2011, a woman talks to her deceased partner who tries to provide her comfort.
Feeling depressed since his death, she has had trouble sleeping and some days does not have the motivation to get dressed. Her partner offers loving reassurance to sustain her, much like he did during their little talks before his death.
Symptoms of Depression
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
8. "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey has made such a name for herself with her penchant for tragic, melancholy themes. If you're not depressed before you listen to her music, you will be afterward, and most definitely stay away from those videos of her. They are total bummers, although they're known for being original and cinematically artistic.
Lyrically, this somber 2012 pop song features a narrator who professes so much love for her partner that if she died tonight, she'd be happy. And by the way she is driving recklessly down the highway at such a high speed 99 mph—there is deep foreboding that it is a goodbye song.
9. "You Found Me" by The Fray
The protagonist in this 2008 rock hit describes confronting God for allowing bad things to happen to good people like himself. He feels overwhelmed, crestfallen, and bewildered that so many personal tragedies have besieged him.
He waited for divine intervention to intercede in his fate, but it came too late. Angry and hollow, he has concluded that in the end, we all end up alone. If you're looking for additional songs about loneliness and isolation there are lots more that describe the sad subject.
10. "Save Myself" by Ed Sheeran
If you know what it's like to give of yourself until there's nothing left, this 2017 pop tune will register with you. Ed Sheeran reminds us all of the need for compassionate self-care.
The man in the song is a people pleaser to the extent that he doesn't satisfy his own needs. He gave away his money, provided so many others with a shoulder to cry on, and drove miles and miles, all to help people who probably wouldn't return the favor.
After self-medicating and exhausting himself to the point that no energy is left for him, he realizes that he needs to save himself first, just they advise like on airplanes:
Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels
I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills
And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf
So before I save someone else, I've got to save myself.
11. "Missing You" by All Time Low
A very depressed friend sits in their room, uncertain of their place in the world. In this 2015 rock song, they seal themselves off from all social connections and try to self-medicate their pain away. But then a friend reaches out to encourage them to keep fighting. If they give up now, not only will they miss out on all that life has to offer them but they'll also be missed by loved ones.
If you can relate to what it feels like to need a friend to understand your point of view and boost your spirits, then check out songs about needing someone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk with a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
12. "Here Comes the Rain Again" by Eurythmics
The sorrowful narrator in this 1984 pop song is worn down from the repetition of rain, a metaphor for negative emotion. She feels emotionally depleted from her on-again/off-again love relationship and addresses her ex-lover to express how she wishes she could walk, talk, and share affection with him like lovers do. However, the relationship appears to be over ... at least for now.
13. "Lithium" by Evanescence
The woman in this 2006 metal power ballad has been prescribed lithium, a medication used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and other conditions, She describes feeling torn between remaining depressed, wanting "to stay in love with my sorrow," and letting go of it: "I don't want to feel locked up inside."
14. "Lullaby" by Nickelback
On average, there's a suicide in the United States every 13 minutes. When the man in this international rock hit from 2012 rock can't get in contact with his depressed friend, he fears that the friend may become another statistic.
He wants his sad friend to know that he understands what it's like to feel stuck out on an emotional ledge, lonely and stranded. Having been there and made the choice to live, he sends out a "lullaby" of comfort, hope, and encouragement via radio.
Please let me take you
Out of the darkness and into the light
'Cause I have faith in you
That you're gonna make it through another night
Stop thinkin' about the easy way out.
If you enjoyed this, consider making a playlist of similar songs about suicide and suicide prevention, particularly those with a positive message.
15. "Fell on Black Days" by Soundgarden
Dark emotional times have befallen the narrator in this 1994 rock song which became a signature song for Soundgarden. It was written by lead vocalist Chris Cornell, who fought depression much of his life and eventually lost his struggle. The song describes the dreaded feeling that your life is an utter disappointment and you're trapped in a miserable existence.
Musicians Who Have Struggled With Depression
Jon Bon Jovi
Weezer (aka Rivers Cuomo)
Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.)
The Notorious B.I.G.
Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam)
Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park)
MIchael & Janet Jackson
Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine)
Joey Kramer (Aerosmith drummer)
Kurt Cobain (of Nirvana)
Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden)
Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails)
Jonathan Davis (of Korn)
16. "Away From the Sun" by 3 Doors Down
Being depressed is like seeing the world in black and white, with all the color stripped out of life. The 2002 rock song is the narrator's appeal for help. He feels stuck in a dreary existence, desperately seeking to find his way back to his previous life, where there was predictability, comfort, and things made sense to him.
17. "Believer" by Imagine Dragons
In this pulsing 2017 rock tune, the narrator reflects on many of the challenges in his life that could have left him feeling forever broken and exhausted. One of those setbacks that could have stopped him in his tracks was depression. He sought music as a release:
I was broken from a young age
Taking my sulking to the masses
Write down my poems for the few
That looked at me, took to me, shook to me, feeling me
Singing from heartache from the pain
Taking my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the pain.
Singer/songwriter Dan Reynolds told People that this international hit references his social anxiety with crowds, struggle with ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis) his battle with deep depression, and being overwhelmed about the band's success.
The song emphasizes turning your struggle, whatever it is, into your greatest strength. If this is an idea that appeals to you, check out the many other songs about survival and perseverance in the face of challenge for encouragement.
18. "Say Something" by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
Sometimes in a relationship, you put all your chips on the table. You'd swallow your pride, follow your partner anywhere, be anything they want you to be just to save what you have together. But it's still not enough, and the feeling is devastating.
This heartrending 2013 rock song is about one last, lonesome plea to say something, say anything to save a dying relationship. Sadly, the narrator's appeal goes unanswered.
19. "Anything Worth Holding Onto" by Cynthia Erivo
If you've ever felt depressed over an extended period, then this soothing 2016 pop song describes the experience from a first-hand perspective. The narrator is tired and lives alone, separated geographically from family. She feels brokenhearted and lonely, disappointed in herself for letting important dreams die. She knows she has run to escape important truths, and she punishes herself for all of this emotionally.
As a result, she says she's "feeling like a prisoner in own skin" and is sleeping all day, crying all night, and lacks motivation. Sounds like she needs help before depression grows darker still.
20. "A Little Too Much" by Shawn Mendes
Strong on the outside, but alone, often fearful, and unsure on the inside. That's how the man in this 2015 pop tune describes the woman he loves. Depressed, she finds it sometimes hard to carry on, but the narrator describes her as a survivor, knowing that soon her circumstances will improve.
He encourages the listener as well, by noting that we are all the same. You have the same resilience in you. Hang on. Reach out for help. Life will get better.
Men Get Depressed, Too
Even More Songs About Depression
21. Welcome to My Life
22. Adam's Song
23. Breaking Down
Florence and The Machine
24. Dark Times
The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran
25. Last Hope
26. Move Along
The All-American Rejects
27. Dark Come Soon
Tegan and Sara
29. No Rain
30. Save Me
31. Only God Knows
33. Better Son/Daughter
34. Beautiful World
35. Pavement Cracks
38. If It Makes You Happy
39. Paint It Black
The Rolling Stones
40. Sometimes It's Hard
41. Turn Blue
The Black Keys
42. A Moment's Grace
Boy and Bear
43. Save Me
Linkin Park (featuring Kiiara
45. Everybody Hurts
46. King of Pain
47. Keep Breathing
48. The Mountain
Three Days Grace
49. Sound of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel
50. You Don't Know
Questions & Answers
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