When a loved one is depressed, it’s often difficult to know what to say. Even with the best of intentions, friends and family can often say the wrong thing, which can make the person feel misunderstood and even more isolated.
If you’ve never suffered from depression, you may simply not know what is appropriate and what is not when speaking with someone who is suffering. Here are three things you should never say to someone with depression.
1. Pretending to Understand When You Don’t
Perhaps the worst thing you can say to someone who is depressed is, “I completely understand. After [insert specific event] I was depressed for weeks.”
The truth is, grief and depression are two entirely different things. Feeling sad after the loss of a pet or being laid off from your job is expected. These feelings are not chronic but rather expected after an isolated incident.
Depression is chronic and is often not associated with one specific incident. Clinical depression can last for years and sufferers typically cannot pinpoint the reason they are feeling what they are feeling. Unless you have truly suffered from depression, don’t tell your loved one that you understand. Though you may want to, you simply don’t.
2. Sharing Information from an Article You Read
Even well-researched and thoughtful articles on the topic of depression cannot possibly paint the full picture or offer the best course of treatment or action. As everyone is an individual, all treatment needs to be individualized as well.
You may have read that exercise can help lesson some of the symptoms of depression. And while exercise can release powerful “feel good” hormones, exercise alone will not offer enough full relief from the disease. Also, by lending this kind of “quick fix” advice, you risk coming across as patronizing and may make the sufferer feel as though they are not trying hard enough to “get better.”
3. Why Not Take a Vacation?
If you’ve never suffered from depression, it’s easy to confuse it with stress, but the two could not be more different. Telling a depressed person they just need to relax more is like telling a paraplegic they just need a new pair of shoes. Neither solution gets to the root cause of the issue.
When you love someone who is depressed, you want to help in any way you can. But offering advice or suggestions when you are unclear of what it is they are experiencing is not helpful. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on depression so you may better understand what you’re loved one is truly going through.
It is also advisable that you speak to them about seeking treatment. A therapist will be able to help your loved one understand what is happening to them and guide them through the journey back to health.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.