If you know someone is suffering from depression, you can make a difference with the things you say and don’t say. You may have the best intentions at heart, but you might end up saying something that hurts rather than helping a loved one with depression. People with depression have a medical condition, so witty words of wisdom and platitudes don’t do much to cure the problem.
Before saying something that could damage your relationship, take time to learn about the five things not to say to someone who is suffering from depression.
1. You could try harder to be happy
People don’t become depressed because they want the experience, so they can’t snap their fingers and get better. Depression is a medical condition that involves brain chemistry, and no one can try harder to stop being depressed.
Telling a depressed person to try harder is akin to telling a person with diabetes to try harder to make insulin. In fact, many people with depression are already doing their best by taking medication and working with a therapist.
2. You don’t look depressed
It’s difficult to tell how anyone feels on the inside by looking at them on the outside. Depressed people can go about their days without showing any outward signs of depression, but this doesn’t mean they don’t feel awful on the inside. Can you look at someone and tell if they have serious allergies or another chronic problem?
You cannot tell if someone is depressed by looking at them. All too often, people with depression work hard to hide their problem, because they don’t want to put pressure on their friends, relatives, or colleagues.
3. Cheer up! It could be worse
Telling a depressed person to cheer up or smile discounts their emotions. They cannot adjust their serotonin levels, so they can’t decide to cheer up, and positive thoughts won’t immediately cure a depressed person. Dismissing a depressed person’s pain is disrespectful. It doesn’t help to compare their pain to yours or someone else who is suffering.
People with depression struggle to cope with their feelings, and dismissing them can make them feel worse – especially if they aren’t sure why they have depression in the first place.
4. You’re imagining things
People with depression aren’t imagining the way they feel. They aren’t making it up. Telling them they are imagining things is akin to attacking them for something they cannot control. While people tend to think depression is all in the head, it can also show up as chronic pain throughout the body. This medical condition needs medical treatment – not words of advice or accusation.
5. Let it go
Letting it go might work for Disney princesses, but it doesn’t work for people with depression. They often become overwhelmed with their emotions, and they cannot escape by letting things go. Some people develop depression after experiencing trauma or loss, and telling them to let it go is inconsiderate. Rather than useless clichés, depressed people need medical help.