Things Not to Say to Someone Who is Depressed
When your loved ones experience mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, offering a piece of advice may be something valuable. However, the words you use may not deliver the message you want to say – especially when you don’t understand the nature of depression and mental illnesses.
Depression is a medical condition that needs timely treatment through medication or therapy prescribed by professional healthcare providers. When you talk about your loved one about depression, inspiring statements can help make them feel better. While expressing your feelings, the words or phrases should be clear and relevant to your perspective. However, a depressed person may feel sometimes deeply hurt or misunderstood.
Don’t Ask Them to Try Harder
When you talk to a depressed person, avoid making comments like 'snap out of it' or 'try harder.' Having someone tell you to try harder even when you're giving your best can demoralize and make a depressed person feel helpless. Various reasons trigger depression, and a person can't control all of the risk factors.
Severe depression can occur when the body doesn't make enough substances that it requires to function efficiently. People who suffer from depression need proper medical intervention and support. For some people, this means taking medications that address chemical imbalances that contribute to the condition.
Don’t Express Disbelief
Glennon Doyle said, “People who often need help look like people who don’t need help.” In other terms, how a person looks outside doesn’t reflect how they feel inside. It is true for many mental disorders, chronic illnesses, and sometimes unnoticeable conditions. Therefore avoid passing statements such as:
- You don’t seem depressed!
- You don’t look sad!
- I haven't been acting differently.
It’s not unusual for depressed people to struggle to put on a good face and hide how they feel from others. These thoughts are characteristics of depression itself and can be intense even if they don't reflect reality.
People hide their feelings because:
- They may be worried that they will become incompetent at work or as a parent.
- They may worry that their partner, family, and friends will stop loving them.
- They may be uncomfortable, confused, and afraid of what would happen if people come to know they are depressed.
Someone who experiences depression struggles to overcome it doesn't mean they want to be dismissed when talking about their feelings. It takes motivation to speak about the pain openly. If the listener responds with doubt, it may make them feel like talking about depression is not safe.
Your urgings to cheer up or smile may feel helpful, but they oversimplify the feelings of sadness linked with depression. Like a person who is depressed can't force their brain to produce more serotonin, they also can't just decide to be happy. There are countless advantages to positive thinking, but those aren’t enough to cure depression.
Don’t Overlook Their Pain
While speaking to a friend who has depression or facing a tough time, you should resist the temptation to compare pain. Remember that emotional or physical pain is not only subjective but relative. Avoid making comments like:
- It can be that bad.
- It could be worse.
- You think you’ve it bad.
Depressed people lack the internal resources required to manage stress efficiently and healthily. For you, a situation or event that creates a minor problem may seem like an obstacle to your loved one who is depressed.
People worry if they don't find any apparent reason for their depression and not knowing the actual causes of depression that make it worse. What a person's life appears from the outside doesn't always reflect how they feel from the inside.
Depression doesn't require any explanation. The experience is personal, and even if you care for someone and want to help them, be aware that you can never know how it feels to be them. Avoid making comparisons for who feels worst. If you do so, it wouldn't be helpful and make a person experiencing depression feel you're not listening to them.
While this may be a fact that a person who suffers from depression may not have the perspective to entertain the idea. Platitudes don't offer much for someone to hold on to for hope. Therefore, avoid making statements such as:
- This too shall pass.
- You'll get over it.
- Let it go.
A depressed person may experience a tough time predicting the future as they’re overwhelmed by the present. It’s not easy to let go of the past, especially for someone who faced trauma or loss. So instead of pushing them to forget the past and concentrate on the future, you can listen to them saying the right or wrong things.
Sometimes, when a person is depressed are preoccupied with their thoughts, but that doesn't make them selfish. Avoid saying words that make them embarrassed, like:
- You think about yourself.
- Other people also have issues.
- You think about yourself too much.
Saying a depressed person that they don’t care for others provides no comfort and only boosts feelings of blame and guilt. Remember that people who experience depression still think about others.
Don’t Ignore Them
If someone suffers from clinical depression, their experience may differ from others. If they never had depression, it may be challenging to empathize. In other cases, if your loved one has depression, the best thing you can do is be open and willing to learn. Rather than saying “I don’t understand” to end the conversation, ensure your loved one that you care for them.
Words From Omni Help
It’s difficult to use words with someone who is depressed. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know what to say right now." Remember that your comments can make a difference in a depressed person's life. And if you don't choose the right words, they might do more harm than good.
If you think you've said hurtful words in the past to someone depressed, apologies to them. Tell them you weren't sure what to say that time. An apology from your side can help someone feel better if your words haven't been helpful earlier.