The Top 10 Things Not to Say Around People With Depression
When you're depressed. it's bad enough having to deal with symptoms that make you feel like you're mired in a mental swamp. Unfortunately, you might also have to deal with people who mean well, but who say things that show they don't understand. Sometimes they sound insensitive, even though they're trying to help. Here are 10 things never to say to someone with depression, as they'll likely hurt more than they'll help:
"Depression just means you're feeling sad."
Many people don't realize that depression is a real condition that has its own symptoms and needs treatment. True depression goes far beyond sadness, and it doesn't go away on its own. The DSM-V, which is the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental illness, recognizes that a major depressive episode affects you daily and impairs your function at work, in social situations, and in other important life areas.
"Why don't you just cheer up?"
People who haven't experienced depression don't understand that you have no control over how it affects you. Sure, you'd like to "just cheer up," but its impossible when you've got a mental disorder. Virtually all of depression's symptoms keep you under an oppressive cloud. It's hard to cheer up when you feel helpless and hopeless. The sleep disturbance often causes fatigue that stacks on top of the lack of energy caused by the depression itself.
"Get out and do something. You'll feel better!"
This seems so simple to people on the outside looking in. Just do something you enjoy and you'll magically feel happy again, right? What they don't understand is that losing pleasure in things you once enjoyed is a common symptom of depression. Add the typical loss of energy and you can't just try to shake your depression by going out and having fun.
"It can't really be that bad."
People who aren't among the 18.8 million Americans who battle depression each year have no concept of just how debilitating this mental disorder can be. They equate it with sadness or getting a minor case of the blues. They've only experienced the normal ups and downs of life, so they don't understand how "the blues" can be a true illness rather than a temporary mental state.
"I get depressed, too, but it doesn't get in the way of my life."
People who say this generally confuse normal sadness with depression. Even if they suffer a major loss, like the death of a family member, divorce, or financial catastrophe, the sadness caused by those events is part of life. They don't understand that, while clinical depression is sometimes triggered or exacerbated by an event, it's an illness that doesn't need a cause in your life circumstances. It's also not something you can work through on your own, like "normal" sadness.
"You need a more positive outlook."
Some people blame depression sufferers for their problems. When they don't think of depression as a real illness, it's easy to make the leap and say, "You wouldn't have this problem if you were more positive." No one would say that to a cancer sufferer, and it's not appropriate to say to people with mental disorders, either. No one wants to be bogged down with a debilitating condition, whether it's physical or mental.
"When I feel depressed, I just think about happy things."
Thinking happy thoughts might work in kids' books like "Peter Pan," but it's just not that simple in real life. Thinking about happy things works if you're just a bit down in the dumps, but depression goes far beyond that. Your mood is out of your control when you're depressed, and listening to jokes or pulling up cute videos on the internet won't make a bit of difference. Depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain, and you can't think yourself out of a physical lack of serotonin.
"You don't need those pills. It's all about your mental attitude."
Getting treatment for your depression is a critically important step to getting back to your old self. Often that treatment includes medication. Some people don't understand why medication is necessary. The same people who would never say a word to someone taking insulin to control diabetes don't understand why depression sufferers also need medication to function normally.
"You're just looking for attention."
Depression is such a common problem that it affects nearly one in 12 Americans. Unfortunately, because of its visible symptoms, some people dismiss it as an attention-getting ploy even though they'd never do the same to someone with a physical illness. They don't realize that depression affects every area of your life and raises your suicide risk. What they see as "attention seeking" can have fatal consequences if it's not treated.
"Come on, just get over it."
Depression is a long-term problem, especially if you don't get treatment. Even if you're taking medication or seeing a therapist, it may take awhile to show progress. Antidepressants can take up to four weeks to make a difference. It often takes some experimentation to find the most effective medication for a particular person, so that makes the recovery time stretch even longer.
To see how much you actually know about depression, take this quiz on WebPsychology. When you understand the disorder, you're less likely to offend a friend or family member who may have it. If you suspect you might be depressed, take this screening test.