Five things not to say to somebody with depression

Five things not to say to somebody with depression


Depression is a sensitive subject. And for a person who hasn’t been in this situation, it is too hard to understand how a depressed person feels.

Below is a compiled list of things to “not say” to someone battling depression. This list will serve to elucidate the thoughts and emotions for better communication between those depressed, and those who are not.

  1. “Be Positive”

This is a pretty much well understood and well-known fact that a person should be positive in life, no matter if he is depressed or not. So, it becomes pointless to offer this advice to a person who is in an utterly difficult mental state.

The point is – How to be positive in a situation where the person is already struggling to overcome his anger, despair, sadness, loneliness, etc?

Asking to be positive makes the person avoid any future contact and meaningless conversations with the teller. This makes him recoil back into his shell instead of making the situation better. Reason – you never told him how to be positive in the situation when he is feeling almost devastated.

  1. “Why do you need to be depressed?”

Nobody plans to slip into depression. It just happens!

And no one knows when it happens. Depression is a cloud that descends upon the person. It is not planned or looked for.  It happens over time when the situation becomes overwhelming for that person.

Asking the question “Why do you need to be depressed?” makes a person feel like he has committed a crime to be depressed. It also confuses him by trying to understand what mistake he made to be depressed. It can create a feeling of inferiority within himself which further makes him hide his condition from others because he doesn’t want to feel inadequate in front of others.

  1. “Be thankful for what you have”

A majority of people in the world believe in God and depressed people are no different. They are even thankful for what they have. But what does this have to do with depression?

People use the Internet to know the causes and definition of depression. They know it is an illness caused by biological factors and chemical imbalances in the brain as well as how they cope/deal with overwhelming situations.

Then there is no point of asking them to be thankful while they are fighting this inner battle. This may actually urge them to retreat into their own shell of loneliness not talking about their problems to anybody anymore.

  1. “You should do this… You shouldn’t do this…”

Do not tell a person what to do , especially when he is depressed.

Even if your intentions are good, the other person is not in a state to receive them as you think. So, let people live their lives as they want to. Do Not Interfere. Expressing your views about what a depressed person should or shouldn’t do might feel like they are being patronised. And if a person fails to follow your “shoulds or shouldn’t”, he might feel rejected for not doing what you think. This can act as another bash to his already dwindling self-confidence and make him feel more depressed.

  1. “It’s all in your head”

NO – Depression is definitely not in anyone’s head!

It is not anybody’s fault. No one can control it on their own without a proper guidance of health expert and support of friends and family. Even if they try, they cannot.

Telling a depressed person that “It’s all in your head” may make the person furious at himself for not being able to control his thinking and his “head”. He feels he is alone and nobody understands him. And this state of utter loneliness often leads to risk factors such as self-harming, sometimes, even suicide.

So –watch out your words and tone while you speak to a person suffering from depression. Never try to debate or convince them. Because they are in a state where they will believe and do only what they think. So, if you try to push your opinions hard on them you are pushing them further into depression.

If a person had a choice, he would never ever want to linger in the state of depression. So bear with them…

If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Just sit, let the person cry, or continue doing what he feels like. That’s maybe all they need for a while. Leave the discussions to a medical expert or a therapist who are trained to deal with this.

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