Someone battling depression is tough to understand, clinical depression is one type of depression amongst all other ones that may be easy to understand, especially for those who have never experienced it themselves.
A lot of people misunderstand the difference between clinical depression and feeling sad. When helping a friend or loved one with depression, you have to treat it like the physiological illness that it is.
Also realize that medical treatment for depression often does not include medication, and professionals will know better how to react to someone in crisis.
While clinical depression is a difficult illness, it is something you can approach helpfully and supportively by avoiding some key missteps.
Here is a list of things to never say:
1. It’s Not That Bad
Depression and mood disorders tend to involve peaks and valleys of extreme emotions.
If you belittle the problems someone is experiencing, they’ll feel attacked and it may make the problem worse.
While you might have a different perspective on their situation, that doesn’t change how strong their feelings are, which is the real problem.
The chemical and electrical imbalances that cause mental health problems will still be present, even if the person struggling has no responsibilities.
Instead, try to be a sympathetic ear. Understand that this person’s mood will change without any change in external factors.
Identify with the person and let them know you understand that their health is often independent of outside problems.
Most of all, let the person vent without judgment.
2. It’s Not Your Own Fault
Never tell a depressed person that they are struggling because of their own actions.
Just like most other illnesses, people with depression have no say in whether or not they are affected.
Scientists suspect mood disorders are a result of both genetic predisposition and social factors, so people who struggle with depression did not choose to become sick and shouldn’t be treated as such
In place of accusing a depressed person of not trying hard enough, acknowledge what a struggle it is to keep going when you are ill.
Let the person know that you think they’re brave for sticking it out.
3. It will Pass
Never tell a person depression will pass on its own. Every illness will fluctuate with how serious it is, but illness generally doesn’t go away by itself.
Medical treatment is necessary for most people struggling with depression.
Even if someone is in a depressed state, but doesn’t struggle with clinical depression, it is always better to err on the side of caution.
Additionally, many voices today condemn those who struggle with clinical mood disorders.
Be a supportive voice that lets your friend know what they deal with is a real problem. Try telling the person that depression is a real medical issue and must be difficult to deal with.
Encourage them to seek medical treatment, even though others may be misinformed about how serious mental problems are.
4. Have you tried… (suggest lifestyle change)
Don’t look for a scapegoat for your friend’s medical problems. Sure, some actions have an effect on our mood, but a perfectly balanced life would never have the power to completely cure a pre-existing medical problem.
In this way, poor lifestyle decisions are often an effect of clinical depression, rather than a cause.
Making different choices in the future might help your friend with depression, but first, they need to recover enough to even make well-thought-out decisions.
Rather than questioning the person’s lifestyle, empathize, then highlight some things that may help them.
Remind them that small decisions can aid their recovery.
Offering to regularly go for a walk with them for example, is more encouraging than putting down their current decisions.
Ultimately, remind them that small acts help recovery, but don’t take the place of medical treatment.
5. Being depressed is better than… (insert terrible event)
Minimizing a depressed person’s problems may seem like you’re giving them perspective, but in fact, it makes the depressed person feel as though you think they are making up their illness.
While a healthy person can step outside their perspective and change their attitude, clinical depression prevents normal thinking.
Instead of reminding the person what they don’t have to deal with, try to listen to their concerns and validate that depression is a troubling medical condition.
Again, regardless of outside stress, mental problems will sometimes be worse than others. Simply showing concern for the person is much more helpful, and won’t make them feel like their condition is being minimized.
6. Don’t feel sorry for yourself
This is also a misunderstanding of where depression comes from. Clinical depression is different from getting the blues and requires much more than a change in perspective to turn around.
As an alternative, tell your depressed friend to avoid feeling sorry for themselves, acknowledge that they are likely not able to think beyond the curtain of depression.
Explain that it must be difficult to be forced into such a condition.
7. I know how you feel
Although this phrase might seem helpful, saying you know how your depressed friend is feeling can actually be patronizing.
Feeling depressed as a healthy individual is very different from clinical depression, so equating the two is harmful.
Clinical depression is not a temporary state, and can sometimes last years.
The person in question is struggling to feel any hope for months and months on end, which is something you really only experience if you’ve had clinical depression.
Instead, try tell your depressed friend that you’ve had periods where you felt depressed and it was awful, but that experience only begins to show you how serious their condition is.
Empathize that a bigger, more complex version of your feelings must be truly punishing to get through.
If you have struggled with clinical depression though, it is usually helpful to let them know that you really do know how they feel.
8. Count your blessings
Again, usually someone is trying to give the person with depression perspective when they say this, but in the end, it can just make the person feel worse.
Someone with depression isn’t just feeling down; they’re sick.
Though numbering the good things in life might help to accentuate the positive, it isn’t the best solution for someone with medical problems.
Not only that, the person has likely already tried many times to pull themselves out of depression with no success.
Instead of suggesting that their attitude is the problem, let them know that depression gets in the way of someone realizing the positive things in life.
Empathize that it must be terrible to have your brain play these kinds of tricks on you and you realize that the person is trying their best to recover.
Offer support, and let them know you will always be willing to lend an ear if they need to talk.
Read Also: Fear, the Mind Killer
9. Everyone has problems. It’s how you deal with it that matters
By equating someone struggling with depression to someone with responsibilities, we misconstrue the root of depression.
Someone with responsibilities is capable of overcoming problems with hard work. Unfortunately, hard work is not the only thing needed to overcome illness.
When you compare other problems with depression, you run the risk of belittling a depressed person’s struggle and pushing them into a
Finally, my last and least favourite one
10. Pray more. This is from the devil
Somehow, a lot of people don’t understand how heartbreaking this advice is. Lack of prayer or insufficient belief in God does not cause Depression.
They’re going to feel like somehow the depression is their fault because they haven’t been faithful or steadfast to God enough.
We don’t dismiss People with cancer or osteoporosis and tell them to just pray, so why do we do that for depression
Is it so hard to believe that it’s a clinical sickness?
However well-meaning your intentions are, know that your friend is going through a lot and may not respond in the way you expect or anticipate.
Lastly. depression is not by choice, listen, empathize but most importantly support them.
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