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When Your Friend is Depressed: 7 Things You Shouldn’t Say

I’ve been getting treatment for seasonal affective disorder for two months now.  In the last two months I’ve realized that there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about depression.  Most of the misconceptions come from a lack of education on the subject.  In addition to depression being misunderstood there is also a stigma attached to it.  The only way to change the way people think about it is to talk about it–thus the reason why I am sharing about my struggles on my blog.

I’ve heard some ridiculous things from people who I have shared my struggles with.  Now, I know that they all mean well but unless you’ve been there (or helped someone who has) it’s hard to understand what people are going through.  Here are 7 things that you should not say to your loved one who is depressed.

1.  You just need to snap out of it.”  

Depression is not a choice any more than diabetes or arthritis is a choice.  And just like diabetics and people with arthritis can not “snap out of it” neither can people who are depressed.  It is no different than many physical illnesses in that it has genetic and biological reasons for it.  And really, why would anyone choose to be depressed?

2.  But you aren’t sad.”  

While being sad is a part of depression there is a lot more to it then that.  Depression has physical components to it as well.  Headaches, muscle aches and pains, back pain, insomnia, digestive problems and fatigue are just a few of the physical symptoms that can result from depression.  It’s not only about being sad.  And depressed people are great at hiding it.  I’m not clinically depressed–I can function in day to day life.  I go to work on time.  I laugh with my friends.  I’m not missing out on appointments.  I’m functioning but on any given day I’d honestly rather just be in the bed all day.

3.  “You’re just being selfish.  Life isn’t about being happy all the time.”

Again, depression is not a choice.  People don’t become depressed because they are unhappy with their life.  Well, I suppose some people do, but the majority of people have actual biological reasons for their depression.  I don’t expect my life to be perfect and without any struggles.  Please don’t make assumptions about someone’s character or the reasons for their depression.

4.  “But you don’t have anything to be depressed about.”

No, I really don’t.  I had a great childhood.  I have loving parents.  My husband loves me unconditionally and I have three healthy, happy and kind children.  I was not abused as a child and I’ve had only a few significant loses in my life.  I love my job and I love my co-workers.  I really don’t have anything to be depressed about.  And yet, it is something that I deal with every day.  This all comes back to my earlier points that depression is not always a choice.

5.  “You don’t need to be taking all that medicine.  You should just stop taking it.”

Unless you have MD behind your name, you really should keep your medical advice to yourself.  Don’t make someone second guess their decision to get treatment.  You wouldn’t tell your diabetic friend to just stop their meds and depression treatment is no different.

6.  “You just need to trust in God.”

This could be the worst possible thing to say to someone who is struggling with depression.  Never insinuate to someone that they are depressed because they don’t trust God enough.  Yes, prayer helps.  Yes, being in fellowship with believers helps.  But that alone is not always going to be the cure for depression.

7.  “You just need to exercise more/eat healthier/meditate/pray more.”

People are always full of advice.  Yes, I agree that those things may help.  Exercise has been proven to help with depression.  But please understand that people who are really struggling with depression often need more than just an hour on the treadmill to help them feel better.

The best thing you can do for your depressed friend/loved one is just to be there.  Listen to them.  Don’t judge them.  Don’t offer them advice unless they ask for it.  They just want someone to understand them.  Invite them out for coffee of lunch so they can get out of the house.  Text them to ask how their day is going.  Just be present in their lives.

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3 thoughts on “When Your Friend is Depressed: 7 Things You Shouldn’t Say

  1. I absolutely love this post! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I have suffered from depression most of my life. An extra note to number 5, in high school I just stopped taking my medicine bc I didn’t like how it made me feel (it wasn’t the right medicine for me). I didn’t talk to my doctor or anyone, getting off of my medicine actually made me incredibly worse. Always check with your doctor first.

    It’s a disease and people need to remember that.

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