What’s the matter with you? “DO YOU THINK YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE THAT GETS DEPRESSED?” Depression is a serious problem in our society.
I am someone that lives with depression everyday of my life. It’s so hard at times – almost suffocating! I understand that people may not understand how to talk to me about it, what to say to make me feel better or even just what to do to be able to cope themselves. But the first thing people need to learn is that WORDS MATTER! If you are diagnosed with depression or you’re researching depression and mental health and landed here, I hope this gives you some insight and guidance to help you better understand what impact your words have.
Depression affects about 300 million people worldwide and 16 million Americans. For someone that has depression, hearing someone say something like that can be extremely hurtful. The American Psychiatric Associationstresses the importance of avoiding derogatory language. Words such as psycho and crazy are not helpful. Neither are words like “suffering” or “victim.” Someone “has” depression; they do not “suffer” from it. I don’t think that a person would be wrong to say that depression is a complicated and overwhelming condition, both for those who have it and for their friends, loved ones and family.
Being diagnosed with depression is NOT the same thing as having a sad day or depressed feeling for a couple days. It’s NOT the same as feeling bad about something you didn’t get, or something currently going wrong . Clinical depression is much, much deeper than any of that.
As for me, I’ve been diagnosed with major depression for the better part of my life. I’m 50 years old and SOME of the conditions I deal with are: intractable epilepsy, osteopenia, osteoarthritis, multiple back and neck surgeries, headache/migraines, severe anxiety/panic attacks and I have chronic pain. Plus a ton of medication side effects. I won’t even go into all my emotional problems that contribute to the depression.
Now I’m not saying I am, and I don’t want to be by any means, an expert on depression. But I’ve been through a lot. When you reach rock bottom and are taken to the hospital for treatment, that’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Medicationshelp, but they come with unwanted side effects and can interfere with medication you may currently be prescribed. That’s what happened with me, it was a challenge to find a medication that worked.
What’s the link between a person’s personality and mental illness ? Depression often makes it extremely hard for the person dealing with it to take any action to get better. For the majority of people who have never had to deal with it, that seems totally illogical. It’s probably why people, even with good intentions, often say the wrong things to someone who has depression.
Friendships have been extremely difficult for me over the years. I’m often in a bad mood, quiet, short with people, give nasty looks and like to be left alone. Unfortunately, I’m not aware that these things happen many times. It turns people off that do not know I have major depression. People would rather be around positive people. I get that! If it weren’t for my family, maybe I would be totally alone, or stuck in short relationships?
Depression, mental illness and suicide have been hot topics in the last year. In April 2018, the World Health Organization annual World Health Day was almost entirely dedicated to depression and suicide awareness. The “Depression: Let’s Talk” campaign kicked off. And last year (2017)Instagram began their #HereForYou mental health campaign to bring awareness to mental health issues like depression.
When talking about depression, the language we use matters. Even with the best intentions, what you think is motivational for the person, actually can hurt someone with depression. Any conversation like this is going to be difficult and possibly unpleasant to have, but don’t be deterred. Remember, this is a friend, loved one or family member and you love them.
Here are some examples of comments made by people to someone who is clinically depressed, with a little explanation of why you don’t want to say that particular phrase.
“Everything will be OK.” Someone with depression can’t see that. It’s important to stay positive and encouraging, but it takes action to feel better.
“Just do something about it.”Depression is so sneaky because it makes it very hard to do anything about it. Depressed people make depressed and poor decisions. They are responding to feelings instead of logic.
“Stop it.” People usually know what they shouldn’t be doing. The problem with depression is each person who has it knows the right thing to do but can’t find a way to bring themselves to do it. They need help getting started and staying motivated.
“Get over it.” No one expects a friend or loved one to “get over” any kind of disease, but that is often the response when someone with depression expresses his or her feelings and emotions. Clinical depression is not a choice. Depression is a medical disorder, a biological disruption of brain chemistry linked to and triggered by some combination of genetics, family history, past trauma, stress and other factors.
“You don’t need medication; you can pull through this.” That is NOT for you to decide. While it is very true that many cases of depression do respond to treatments other than antidepressants, like diet changes and exercise, lifestyle changes, counseling, etc., some people do need medication.
“Get out and Go do something and you will feel better.” If you say that be prepared for a response like: Go do what? I can’t be bothered. I’m tired. I’m not interested. I have no energy. I just want to sleep. Doing something won’t make me feel better. Leave me alone. Someone with depression doesn’t want to spend time or energy thinking about what to do. They may even feel harassed and annoyed by you telling them to do something.
“Be grateful for what you have” How does this solve their depression? The person may still feel that life is not worth living despite being grateful for what they have. A lot of people have it worse than you! People with depression often know this, and feel guilty about their condition. They don’t need more guilt piled on.
Some short phrase examples of things you do NOT want to say to a depressed person.
- “No one ever said that life was fair.”
- “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
- “So you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?”
- “Try not to be so depressed.”
- “It’s your own fault.”
- “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.”
- “I think your depression is a way of punishing us.”
- “Haven’t you grown tired of all this “me, me, me” stuff yet?”
If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Just sit with us, let us cry, let us vent, just be there!