10 Things to Never Say to a Depressed Person
“Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.”– Robin Sharma
Depression sucks – no matter which side of the battle you find yourself on. I think we can all agree that depression impacts the person who suffers from it the hardest. But it can also be difficult to manage if someone you care about is struggling with depression. If you have a family member, friend, or even co-worker who suffers from this lonely disease, it can be tricky to know exactly what to say. And most of the time, you have to be cautious with your words.
In my experience, oftentimes it was what was said to me while depressed that set me back the most. Any person suffering from depression knows all too well that certain words can break you when you are trying to heal. It’s essential to be mindful of what you’re saying to a depressed person. Because unfortunately, depression causes you to take everything personally.
If you have someone in your life that suffers from depression and you’re unsure of what to say, do read on. I have created a handy list of statements you should consider keeping out of the conversation when interacting with a depressed person. These tips may very well change the dynamic of conversations you have with struggling loved ones and make things easier for all parties involved.
1. Get over it and move on.
Moving on is easier said than done in most situations. And for those with depression, it isn’t always that simple. We so desperately want this excruciating pain to end and to be happy once again. To get over it and move on with our lives.
But when you are in the depths of depression, you don’t believe that happiness is possible. Depression takes away all hope that tomorrow will be a better day. We already know that life goes on; but it’s going to take time and more than likely, professional help for someone to recover from depression.
2. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Depression is way more than feeling sorry for yourself. Sure, there are times when your ego plays the victim and it wonders, “why me, why do I have to endure this?” But with depression, you genuinely believe that you are not enough. Your mind plays tricks on you and causes you to think that society is better off without you.
It’s difficult for someone with depression to agree that it’s worth their time and effort to make a change – simply because they no longer believe that a better life can exist. Please don’t make us feel any worse by reminding us that we’re struggling. We already feel bad enough as it is.
3. Things could always be worse.
True that. Things could always be worse. But we don’t need to be constantly reminded of it. We probably already think about it multiple times in a day. We already know there are others in this world that have it worse. But that does not make our pain inferior to theirs.
Because of the trauma I endured as a child, my anxiety always causes me to think that the worst is right around the corner. Mix that in with depression and more than likely I’m thinking that everything is at its worst right now and anything you say will not convince me otherwise.
Saying “things could always be worse” will only cause a depressed person to feel angry and belittled. Or worse, cause them to think that their depression isn’t real.
4. You only think about yourself.
In the darkest hour of my depression, you would have no problem finding me in my bedroom with the door closed on most days. Due to debilitating symptoms, depressed people tend to withdraw from their family and friends and a lot of the time, it can be taken the wrong way. I know it can appear that depressed people are selfish or that it may seem like we don’t care. But we really do.
Depression comes with a plethora of emotions, and it can be tough to manage those emotions rationally. It becomes extremely difficult for a depressed person to show up for those we love when we’re already experiencing so much torture on the inside. We may forget to ask how your day went or back out on a commitment we made with you.
So, while it seems like all we think is about ourselves, there is so much more to it than that. My request from you is to please don’t give up on us. Likely, it will be your compassion, persistence, and patience that will assist in our recovery from depression.
5. We all have problems.
It’s true – we all do have problems. But that doesn’t make depression any less real. Depression needs to be treated and viewed for what it really is, a disease. If it is continuously ignored and downplayed, it will likely get worse collectively.
Like any other disorder, depression must undergo professional treatment to help improve or eradicate it. I’m sure you wouldn’t say something like this to someone who suffers from any other physical ailment. It’s rude and demeaning – so please don’t say it to a depressed person.
6. Get a hobby.
One key symptom of depression is the complete lack of desire or motivation to do anything. What was once loved by a depressed person is still longed for. We just don’t have any energy or desire anymore to do the things we once loved.
Depression gives you a mental roadblock. It convinces you that joy is no longer attainable, that the day will be better off without you, and it’s easier just to curl up and go back to bed. It may be simple to say that getting a hobby or a new passion is the cure all, but if anything, it makes us feel worse. We already know that we have lost all interest in doing anything. And likely, we’re beating ourselves up over it.
7. Life isn’t fair.
I hear you. Life has thrown some ugly things at me and I’m sure it has to you as well. We all know life is tough and we learn from it with every experience we go through. But just by saying something like this only reiterates the fact that most of us are often suffering from this disease alone and in vain.
A lot of people simply do not understand it. It’s agonizing to endure depression alone when so many still believe that it’s made up or that it’s simply not that serious. People often feel like they must hide their depression and keep it bottled up, which only reminds a depressed person how unfair life can really be.
8. Stop being negative.
Depression is a bottomless pit of negativity. Your mind makes you believe negative thoughts like, “you’re worthless!” or “you’re a crazy person!” It’s hard enough managing all the negative energy that depression often fills you with. If you are deep into depression, you may attempt to be positive at times, but you usually don’t believe a word of it. You are completely hopeless.
Depressed people would love nothing more than to end the spiral of negativity. But it’s just not that simple. It takes time and persistence to change your thinking. Telling a depressed person to just stop being negative is like telling an alcoholic to just quit drinking. There are steps to take and baby steps at that. It’s not going to change overnight (even though we so desperately want it too!). Please be patient with us.
9. You don’t look depressed.
The thing is a lot of people are good at hiding things. You often don’t know what someone else is actually going through. Society does not make it easy for people with depression to show their pain. It can be downright embarrassing and awkward to even admit you have depression to others.
Because of a decline in work performance at a past job, I once decided to express my struggle with depression to my employer. At that time, I was literally told by my supervisor that “this can’t go on forever”. I was shocked and disappointed with the lack of compassion.
After experiencing a reaction like that, it’s no wonder most keep depression to themselves. Just because someone doesn’t look depressed, doesn’t mean that they aren’t suffering from it. They could just be hiding it from you.
10. It’s all in your head.
No, it’s not just in our head. Depression is a true condition that does exist and it’s not going away. Millions of us are silently suffering from depression and it’s not something that we can just turn off. More often, we need help.
Just like someone with cancer who must go through chemo, radiation, or surgery; a lot of times those who suffer from depression need help from a therapist or doctor or even from prescription medication. I take medicine every day for my depression and anxiety and will probably have to do so for the rest of my life – and that’s okay. Personally, I know I would struggle to function without my medication and the same is true for so many around the world. So please stop saying this.
It really saddens me when I hear some of the things that are said to someone with depression. All too often, depression is considered fake by those who don’t understand it.
My advice to those who do not get depression is to educate yourself. There are so many resources these days on this topic. All it takes is a simple Google search. Please continue to be mindful of what you say to those who battle depression. It could literally make or break their journey to recovery.
Do you have a hard time communicating to someone you love who has depression? If so, what has worked for you? If you have depression or have experienced depression, was there ever a time when something was said to you that set you back?