5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who’s Depressed
7 Things You Can Say & Do to Help
“It’s challenging for the lay public to understand that depression isn’t due to moral failure, weakness, or lack of willpower. To be helpful to loved ones who struggle with episodes of depression, avoid these 5 comments:
1. “Why don’t you just do something to get over it?”
People who aren’t depressed are naturally fearful of the passivity and paralysis often seen in depression. In our can-do, self-motivated society, our instinctual reaction may be to tell someone to get up and change their destiny. While this impulse is understandable, a depressed person may feel even more despair when they hear this. They want more than anything to “get over it,” but they can’t. Their energy level and self-confidence have bottomed out. Their mood and associated thoughts and behaviors are beyond their control if they have serious depression.
2. “Why can’t you just be happy?”
Depression causes your mind to focus on negativity and sadness. While some forms of therapy can gradually support people to reality-test their negative thoughts, it is not an automatic or instantaneous process. This type of therapy is more about achieving balanced perceptions of the world around you and accepting the good with the bad. Focusing only on artificial happiness can be disheartening and alienating for someone who isn’t able to see it at the moment. There is no quick fix, and to insist or expect that there is will only reinforce feelings of hopelessness and self-attack.
3. “Stay away from therapy and drugs.”
People are often terrified of asking for help because of the stigma of mental illness and the perception of lack of self-control. They may be afraid to discuss personal matters with a stranger, or come from a culture where discussing emotions or family problems is considered shameful. Medications also are particularly scary, due to stories of addiction, dangerous side effects, pharma-company manipulation, and the general fear of altering or “losing” oneself. The vast majority of scientific studies and research, however, shows the benefits of psychotherapy and carefully monitored, judicious use of appropriate medication. Per a 1998 NIH study, up to 80% of people treated for depression can show significant improvement with one or more (or the combined use) of these modalities. Exercise, healthy lifestyle choices, and diet can also aid recovery from depression, but sometimes that isn’t enough. It’s best for people to keep an open mind and encourage an informed decision regarding their choices for treatment and recover
4. “You don’t have it that bad.”
Sure, compared to starving children in a war zone, no one does. But that isn’t the point. depression is a self-contained, inward state for the afflicted individual. Often perfectionism and harshness toward the self accompany this mood state; in severe cases, these thoughts can become near-psychotic or delusional. We have seen rich and beloved celebrities who seemed to have it all commit suicide. We cannot assume that the cycle of self-punishment in a depressed mind is so easily assuaged, and we should not imply that such individuals are being ungrateful or selfish.
5. “You should stop being so negative.”
It can be hard to be around someone with depression; their low energy and glum mood can be infectious. People instinctively recoil from the discomfort of those feelings, and sometimes openly express displeasure or anxiety about them to the afflicted individual. But the depressed person already feels critical toward themselves when they are in that state of mind. They feel very lonely, and when they hear others criticizing their depressive thoughts, that isolation just further increases while their depression worsens. Being supportive and nonjudgmental, and not taking a depressed person’s sometimes irritable or negative thoughts personally, is much more helpful to that person’s recovery.” (Jean Kim M.D, 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who’s Depressed, psychology today)
“If you’re looking to support someone with depression but can’t exactly figure out what to say, mental health experts offer 7 suggestions of what to say:”
1. “I’m here for you.”
2. “You’re not alone.”
3. “This is not your fault.”
4. “I’ll go with you.”
5. “What can I do for you?”
6. “What kind of thoughts are you having?”
7. Nothing at all. Sometimes your presence alone can be supportive
(Lindsay Holmes, Deputy Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post)
This is where Counseling on Demand comes in when it comes to what to say and do.
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