Things not to say to a depressed person

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Depression
There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.

No one wishes to have dark days, sleepless nights, grumpy mornings and an endless tunnel with no sign that it ever ends. Depression is not a choice. There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.

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Every so often most people feel down and like to describe these feelings as ‘being depressed’, however, feeling down and being depressed have a distinct difference.  While feeling down might last a few hours or days, depression may last for several weeks, where the individual feels persistently sad.

According to mood disorders experts, there are several types of depression, but for the purpose of this post, the focus is on the type of depression most people feel but they are not clinically depressed.  However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, it is best to seek medical advice.

Persistent feelings of anxiety and sadness.

Hopelessness or emptiness.

Helplessness or worthlessness.

Prolonged irritability.

Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.

Moving or talking more slowly than normal.

Restlessness.

Difficulties remembering or making decisions.

Persistent insomnia or oversleeping, sleep disturbances.

Loss/gain of appetite/weight.

Suicidal thoughts.

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When someone tells you, they are depressed or feeling sad, the most common response (for most people) is to offer solutions or try to reason the person out of their feelings.  In our culture, most people think the only solution is to jolt the person into reality, offer platitudes, throw positive thinking anecdotes (toxic positivity) and prayers, and the problem magically disappears.  I remember one time I heard someone say to a mourning wife, “isn’t it time you snapped out of it!?  You have a lot more to be grateful for!”  The husband had been dead for less than a month.  Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing because your words can have a lasting effect.

Things not to say to a depressed person: –

“It’s just a phase, you’ll feel differently next week!”

I think this is just one of the worst assumptions people make when someone is depressed or say they are feeling sad.  It’s dismissive and the depressed person, though not coming to you for solutions, may simply want you to acknowledge the pain they feel.

“Don’t do anything stupid!”

First of all, putting the word ‘stupid’ in a sentence to someone in turmoil and most likely disordered thought patterns is adding fuel to an already smouldering fire.  They are most likely to feel like you think they are stupid.  Instead, let them know you are thinking of them and you are there to help.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself and whining, everyone gets depressed sometimes!”

For this I have a question for you all, if someone broke their leg, you’d urge them to seek attention (i.e. feel sorry for themselves and seek medical attention).  So why is emotional pain any different?  Just because you can’t see pain, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Instead give reassurances and urge the person to seek professional help.  ‘Feeling differently next week’, doesn’t mean better.

“It’s all in your mind!”

When someone opens up to you, it is critical that you do not invalidate them.  Instead, provide them with a safe non-judgemental space to unpack and simply listen.  If you can signpost them, then by all means do so, but do not invalidate them.

“Some people have it worse!”

While it is true some people have it worse, it doesn’t negate the person’s feelings.  Comparisons are more likely to minimise and dismiss the person’s feelings.

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According to experts if you want to be helpful, encourage open communication and ensure they feel listened to.  Ask open questions and don’t judge: ask them how they would like your help.  In my experience, talking to someone about my own feelings breaks the ice and the person feels connected and not alone.  Check on them regularly without being intrusive.

If you are feeling depressed, seek professional help.

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Photo credit: Pixabay – pexels.com

1 Comment

  1. I guess having brought up by angry parents we became resilient to such feelings. Hence I may say I’m guilty in those response not because I don’t care but maybe tough love. Now I know better not to say them.

    Thanks for this

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