Restorations Therapy Blog

6 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Depression

by on Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

6 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Depression

There’s a good chance you know someone with depression, even if you don’t know who it is. About 7 percent of Americans will have a depressive episode in any given year and about 20 percent of Americans will have an episode of depression at some point in his or her life. Although awareness of depression and mental health has improved considerably in recent years, there are still many misconceptions about depression. As a result, even people who mean well might end up making a friend or loved one with depression feel worse. Here are some things you should never say to someone with depression.

“Cheer up.”

This is perhaps the worst thing you can say to someone with depression. When you’re depressed, you want to cheer up more than anything but you can’t. Imagine if you had the flu and a well-wisher stopped by and told you to try not having the flu. Not only does it not help, but it underscores that your friend doesn’t understand at all. Like the flu, depression is an illness. There’s even recent evidence suggesting that depression involves some of the same biological processes as some illnesses. Depression isn’t just sadness or feeling discouraged; it’s something that descends on you and feels completely out of your control. Instead of asking someone to cheer up, think more along the lines of caring for a sick friend.

“I understand.”

Unless you’ve actually had depression yourself, you probably don’t understand what it’s like, especially if you’re trying to tell your friend to cheer up. Everyone has been sad at some point, but depression is much more than sadness. While sadness may be a good starting point for empathy, it’s not really sufficient. Instead of saying you understand, listen and ask questions. Try to really understand. Your friend will appreciate that much more.

“It’s all in your head.”

As noted above, depression is much more than sadness and recent research has connected it to inflammation. Many of the symptoms people experience most strongly are not psychological or emotional. For example, people with depression commonly feel physical aches, have trouble sleeping, sleep too much, feel lethargic, gain or lose weight, or move slowly because their limbs feel extremely heavy. Men are especially prone to noticing the physical symptoms of depression more than the emotional symptoms. It’s important to recognize that depression is a complex illness with a large physical component.

“What do you have to be depressed about?”

Often, people with depression seem to have it pretty good. They may have a good job, a nice house, a lovely family–all the things most people want in life–and yet still feel desperately miserable. The question of whether you have to have a reason to be depressed is complicated. Some people do become depressed because of life circumstances, such as losing a job, getting divorced, or losing a loved one. Although these things don’t necessarily lead to an episode of depression, it’s not uncommon. If you experience several such setbacks, you may begin to suffer cyclical depression and get depressed for no apparent reason.

Other people have a high risk of depression because of childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. For those people, even minor setbacks can feel overwhelming. We all experience adversity differently and what seems like it’s not a big deal to one person can be devastating to another. Still other people just get depression for no apparent reason at all. There’s some physiological cause that has no relation at all to what they’ve experienced. None of us can judge whether someone else has anything to be depressed about. Instead of asking a friend what she has to be depressed about, try a more supportive approach, such as, “Do you think there’s any specific reason you feel this way?”

“You don’t seem depressed.”

While some people are obviously depressed, you’re not likely to see them unless you live together or spend a lot of time together. This is the roommate who doesn’t leave the house for days at a time or the sibling who has given up any effort to shower or put on clean clothes. These are typically the most debilitating cases of depression. Most people with depression try to muddle through the best they can. They often make an effort to hide their symptoms and rarely discuss their depression openly. Therefore, people are surprised to learn that this person is–or, all too often, was–depressed. This is often the case with atypical–sometimes called high functioning or “smiling”–depression. A person may feel absolutely miserable most of the time but still find a way to go to work, pay the bills, and take care of the family. If you think your friend doesn’t seem depressed, perhaps what you mean is that your friend is remarkably strong and you wish she had confided in you sooner because you had no idea.

“Have you tried exercising?”

Or meditation, or some new diet, and so on. Yes, she’s probably tried it. Exercise, meditation, and healthy eating are all excellent for you and many studies have found they can prevent or relieve symptoms of depression, but there are some major caveats. First, while they do help many or most people–depending on the particular study and intervention–they don’t help everyone. In most of these kinds of studies, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of people show no improvement when they start exercising regularly or eating better. Second, these things aren’t typically sufficient as a primary intervention. Yes, exercise can improve your mood and a healthy diet can reduce inflammation, but there’s more to treating depression. Sometimes medication is necessary. Psychotherapy is almost always necessary. Treating depression effectively requires developing new mental habits and healthier coping mechanisms. Lifestyle changes can help, but they aren’t enough by themselves.

Located in Centennial, Colorado, Restoration Therapy works with patients who are struggling with addiction, intimacy disorders, and trauma who are seeking treatment. In order to offer patients a more holistic view on a healthy sexuality, Restoration Therapy offers individualized and group therapy, workshops, psycho-educational classes, and more to restore the harm brought on by addiction and intimacy issues. For more information, please call us at (720) 446-6585 as we are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm.

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