Don't Say Things that Make Depression Worse for a Loved One
Wednesday, February 21 2018 Jennifer Smith
Many times people say things that make depression worse. These things they say are hurtful or seem insensitive to those of us with depression. Whether intentional or not, it still stings and can even lead us to a major depressive episode. There are still many misconceptions about depression, and one of the reasons I write is so that I can help people learn about and better understand depression and what it really is. One way to do this is by offering suggestions of what to say to someone with depression, which I wrote about in my previous post. Another is to let people know what things they should not say to people who have depression.
Avoid Saying These Things that Make Depression Worse
- "You just need exercise and sunshine." This is one I hear over and over again. No, exercise and sunshine alone will not cure my depression. While they can offer health benefits and lessen the effects of depression, exercise and sunshine will not make depression disappear. Depression is a medical condition, and for many people, including myself, antidepressants are a necessary treatment.
- "Why don't you get out of the house more?" This is both vague and annoying. Get out of the house and go where? Some days I struggle to even get out of bed. Sometimes I am exhausted simply after taking a shower. There are good days, though, in which I go to lunch with friends or go shopping or go on dates with my husband. I laugh and talk and have a wonderful time. Guess what? I still have depression. It didn't magically go away because I left the house. Plus, I also notice that the people who make this comment are never the ones who actually invite me to go anywhere; therefore, it leaves me with the feeling that they don't really care that much.
- "It could be worse. At least you don't have . . ." I really detest this comment. It not only belittles the pain and suffering of depression, but it also attempts to make the person battling depression feel guilty (Feeling Guilty Because You Have a Mental Illness). In the past, when someone said this to me, it would cause my depression to worsen for a time. I would feel guilty because "all" I have is depression when I could have something much worse, and I would believe that I should be able to snap out of it and force my mind to work correctly and be happy. Now, thankfully, I am stronger and know better. I am sad and have sympathy for others who suffer from terrible diseases; however, their pain does not negate mine. I understand that my depression is not something that I can make better by looking around at others' sufferings and comparing it to mine (Others Have It Worse Than You and Bipolar Doesn't Care).
- "Why are you depressed? You have so much to be thankful for." People tell me to look at my husband and children. Look at my home. Look at my life. They tell me I shouldn't have depression because there are too many blessings in my life. Again, this shows a lack of understanding about what depression is. It's a medical condition for which I take medication and participate in therapy. While I am thankful for my family and home, they don't keep me from having depression. This comment is one that can also lead to guilty feelings on the part of the person battling depression.
Hopefully, we can help educate people about what not to say to someone with depression. Many people want to be encouraging, but they lack the understanding and the proper words to say. It is my goal to shed light in this area, and I'd like help from you all. What hurtful or unhelpful things have people said to you? What would you rather they have said?