Distressed or distraught ?


Senior Member
português, Brasil
I was reading an article in which depression is cited as a state of "extreme emotional distress", which leads to my question: How are people suffering from that kind of distress described, as distressed or distraught?
The dictionaries define distressed as "extremely worried or in a state of great sadness and pain" and distraught as "extremely worried" only. Could I use the words interchangeably? That is, does distraught also mean "sad, depressed" ?

Thanks for your help.
  • bouncy.bouncy

    Senior Member
    American/British English
    When I hear the comparison, "distraught" gives more of an adjectival feel (the person has the feeling/state of mind of distress), and "distressed" gives more of a verbal feel (emphasizing that something/one is distressing the person)


    Senior Member
    American English
    I think of distressed as still in the state of distress. I think of distraught as more of an assessment of the condition.

    It's like distressed is an on-going modifier.
    Distraught is taking account the total impact of the distress at the moment it is expressed.

    Distressed is like a stream that is passing in front of you. Distraught is like a picture of that stream.

    If this doesn't make sense, please ignore. I'm just trying to describe to you mental pictures of how the words play differently in my mind.


    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I agree with mjscott and sympathize with her/his valiant efforts at description.

    "Distress" is what the person feels and "distraught" is a description of that.
    "Distress" is immediate and "distraught" is once removed.
    To borrow from, I think it's Meyers and Brigss, "distress" is the territory and "distraught" is the map.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    There is a subtle difference in meaning. You could be distressed that the train is late. But to be distraught means you are feeling worse than distressed.

    She was distressed that the train was late because she would be late for her appointment.

    She was distraught by the possibility that she might lose her job.


    Senior Member
    English English
    Moderator note: Please look for previous threads before starting new ones ~ I found the one I've merged yours with very easily, just by looking up distressed in the dictionary ...
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