Dean Winchester's Hidden Depression
Updated: Feb 21
Supernatural fans know Dean Winchester as the older brother of Sam Winchester, the brothers who saved the world. Dean is charismatic, attractive, a good talker, physically fit, loves burgers, pie and his 1967 Impala he calls Baby. Although we loved watching Dean be his wacky self for 15 seasons, it’s easy to miss that he, like many men, suffers from deep depression.
Appetite and Alcohol
Of course, we find it funny, but Dean defiantly doesn’t take care of his body. He loves burgers and anything with meat (usually take out), no matter how unhealthy it is. He gets a strange look from Sam, who is a health nut, works out, and a majority of his diet consists of lean greens. Furthermore, whenever Dean is at a cafe, he usually eats the best pie possible full of sugar. To top it off, in most scenes, he’s got a few beers during an intense conversation. If it’s not a beer, he’s usually drinking liquor straight from the bottle. Check mark for alcohol abuse and reliance.
Dean doesn’t know he has trouble identifying his emotions. As many have mentioned, Dean carries all kinds of things he doesn’t have to. Rather than looking at the emotional weight he has, Dean sticks with anger (yelling or throwing things) or hiding it entirely with jokes. If he does cry, he cries in the shadows. Covert Depression doesn’t look like the depression symptoms we are used to, as most men like Dean aren’t willing to show emotions. Instead, the depression is held in and what we see is subtle irritation, road rage, explosive arguments with others, passive aggression, self-sabotage, insecurity, and a lack of self-care.
Lack of Authenticity
Sure, Dean is good at making decisions on the job, but he doesn’t do much for his life. As mentioned, while he was arguing with himself (literally), he doesn’t have any original thoughts. The things he has are his car, this leather jacket, love of 80’s music, but deep down, he knows that those are all his Dad’s. Dean doesn’t have any original thoughts of his own. The only thing he knows is to take care of Sam, and usually, the new information he finds outcomes from Sam’s research.
Low Self Esteem
As great as Dean is, we see a lot of his low self-esteem in how he talks to others. As stated, Sam is a healthy person. Instead of accepting Sam’s food choice, Dean makes fun of him. Furthermore, Dean also calls Sam a nerd for reading a lot and gaining information.
Like most depressed people, Dean does quite risky behaviour. The first time Sam does (fans of the show know it happens a lot), Dean blames himself for not caring for Sam enough. Rather than the morning, Sam goes straight to the devil to swap his life for Sam’s. After a kiss of Death, Dean’s deal is that Sam comes to life, and Dean has one year to live.
Desire to take care of others.
Dean loves to take care of Sam, he even cooks for him. He was brought up thinking that his only job is to take care of Sam, and if he fails at that, he is a failure. However, he also loves taking care of people. He says to Sam, “my peace is helping people, that’s all I want to do,” and that his life is “saving people, hunting things.” Why aren’t you ever taking care of yourself, Dean?
Lack of Self Worth
You’d think that battling demons, the devil, Death, and god himself to save the world would make you feel like you have a purpose but not Dean. When Dean reveals that he made a deal with the devil to save Sam’s life, his Uncle Bobby questions the decision. In response, Dean says, “I did so it so my life could mean something”, to which Bobby replies, “and it didn’t before?” You could say Dean thinks he’s not worth saving.
The Cause of All this
Like many men who are depressed, Dean isn’t to blame for his symptoms. I’d argue that his father, John Winchester, supported the idea of toxic masculinity and passed it on to Dean. For instance, when Dean’s mother died, John went out for revenge rather than to support his sons. Furthermore, when Dean made a mistake, John used anger to express his stressors. Like Dean, John also supports risky behaviours like making deals with Demons without telling anyone. Although Sam was sheltered by Dean and John, eventually going to college, Dean was never given a chance to find his personality. In flashback episodes, we see that Dean is doing well in school, wants to take his girlfriend to the school dance, and live an everyday life. Unfortunately, John comes into Dean’s life and demands that he come on the road with him. It’s on that drive away that Dean leaves his childhood behind so he doesn’t disappoint John.