What Not To Say to a Person Experiencing Depression
If you have a friend or loved one with depression, you might be left wondering how to talk to him or her in a comforting and helpful way. It helps if we first briefly discuss what depression is.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
Depression doesn’t play favorites. Man, woman, young, old, rich, and poor alike can suffer from depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 7 percent of American adults —an estimated 16 million people in 2013 — had at least one major depressive episode.
People who suffer depression report feeling they are never truly understood by those who have never experienced it, according to a recent article in HealthCentral.com. They often see a glass wall that separates them from the rest of the world, so knowing what to say to them is often difficult for the person who has never experienced depression.
Below is a list of things you should never say to someone battling depression. Saying them will just cause frustration, giving the appearance that you clearly don’t understand what clinical depression is all about. It is easy to throw out remarks like these when you don’t have any experience with depression and don’t know how else to handle the situation.
THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT SAY
Stop feeling sorry for yourself
You may be using the “tough love” approach in hopes that it will snap the person out of their depression. This does not work. A person battling depression is not in a “take control” mindset, so your efforts will fall flat.
What you need is a hobby
Depression is not the same thing as being in a rut. Getting a hobby is not going to change the brain’s chemistry.
Maybe you just need to pray harder
Sure, many people with depression find comfort in their religion. But even so, this method can backfire, making the individual feel now like a failure even to God, who appears unwilling to answer their prayers. That’s a heavy load to put on a person. Don’t do it! Likewise, don’t say “I’m praying for you” either. If others have told them this over and over, then they are likely to wonder why God hasn’t answered those prayers, which again can make them feel like a failure, even to God.
You can’t transfer your energy and positive outlook to someone with depression by the sheer strength of your fabulous personality. Optimism is a product of a healthy brain, and depression is one of an illness. The two are like oil and water.
Everyone has a down day once in a while
A “down” day is not the same thing as clinical depression. The only thing you will accomplish when saying this is to isolate the person and show how much you don’t know about their condition.
A day at the mall is all you need
There is nothing less helpful and potentially damaging than minimizing someone’s pain. Don’t say this!
Yea, I was depressed once
Occasional feelings of sadness are not the same as clinical depression. So you had one or two episodes of sadness and you want to relate it to show how you empathize. But your sadness is not in the least bit similar to depression, so don’t do it.
It could be worse; there are people worse off than you
A person in the depths of depression is not capable of looking outside himself to find the good. Don’t expect them to.
There is a number of loving, helpful things we can say to a person going through depression . Your best bet in trying to talk to someone you care about who has this disease is to remember that you are not there to “fix” them, because you can’t. Just be authentic and kind. Some things you might say include:
THINGS YOU CAN SAY
I’m Here For You
Don’t say it, however, if you aren’t willing to check in regularly with them. And offer to help them with tasks like cleaning house, grocery shopping, putting together meals, finding a therapist, etc.
Let’s Do Something
Since feelings of loneliness and isolation can often overwhelm someone with depression, your mere presence can help. Be willing to meet at or even them pick them up and go somewhere—lunch, bowling, a movie, etc.
I can’t really understand what you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion
Depression is not easy to understand; it is a complex condition with genetic, biological and psychological components. Stress that you may not understand the disease, but you do recognize that it is real and must be tough to manage.
Nothing. Say nothing
It’s a hard thing for most of us to just listen to another person without adding our two cents. Try it—for the health and benefit of your friend.
I’m sorry you’re in so much pain
I’m here for you
You are important to me
I’ll stay by your side as long as you want me to
Where reaching out in compassion is generally regarded by most as welcome and comforting, sometimes that simply isn’t the case when a person is in the throws of a depressive episode. You might just have to trust your gut and shut up. But often your sincerity in reaching out and attempting to communicate is acknowledged and appreciated. As long as you do not try to play doctor or therapist and give them the answers to their problem, you will likely be well-received. The best way to ensure this is to tell the person that you’re there if they want to talk. Allowing them to just talk, while you keep quiet, gives value to their situation and removes any appearance of judgment.