Depression is a very common illness that affects people across all age groups, genders and racial groups. Chances are high that someone you know will experience depression.
It’s easy for someone who has never experienced depression to think that it’s a mild, trifling illness that can be easily overcome. Those who have experienced depression know that it takes time, self-care, medication, and therapy to get back on the right track.
People with depression only feel worse when friends and family offer unhelpful words of advice. Here are some things you should avoid saying to a person with depression:
1. Suck it up!
Some people who are having a bad day can successfully pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Not so for a person with depression. To get over depression, a person will ultimately need help from others, most likely professionals. Telling someone to be stronger when they have no recourse to improve themselves is insensitive and even cruel.
2. Try, try, try again.
Neville Chamberlain failed in his attempt to appease the Nazis. Having depression is like having Nazis in your head. Doing the same things over and over in an attempt to get rid of depression is like trying to appease Nazis. Only through developing new thought patterns through medication and therapy will a person overcome this illness.
3. It’s all in your head.
Yes, depression is in the head, but in a head that cannot cure itself. A person who is depressed will most likely need medication that has an altering biochemical effect on the brain. Of course, exercise and other activities that help a person activate his body can play a positive role, but a person who is depressed can’t rely upon these alone.
4. Your luck will turn around.
Having depression is represented by the blues song lyric, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” A person who is depressed won’t be able to conceive that their luck will turn around. The person might even be convinced that their mental state has nothing to do with luck, but that the universe is inherently against them.
5. Wake up and smell the coffee.
A person with depression will experience sleep disturbances that may make them want to stay in bed all day. A lot of times, depressed people will not sleep at all, and at other times they may sleep too much. Coffee and other stimulants might contribute to sleep disturbances that make depression worse. Depressed people might also be averse to strong smells or the bitterness of many foods and beverages.
6. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Quoting a song sung by a little smiling girl with red hair will do nothing to improve the condition of someone with depression. It is typical for someone who is depressed to ruminate on the bad things in his mind and not consider the positive things that may come tomorrow. It would be better to quote George Harrison’s “here comes the sun” and enjoy a moment of sunshine with your depressed friend.
7. Here…smoke this.
Cheech and Chong never seemed to be depressed in their movies, and one might be tempted to offer some smoke to improve a depressed person’s mood. However, drugs like marijuana can alter a depressed person’s brain chemistry for the worse. When someone is experiencing an acute case of depression, it’s no time to be playing Russian roulette with brain chemistry.
8. Take a pill, already.
Medication is only one aspect of many factors that will help a depressed person get well. Therapy, a supportive environment, exercise, and relaxation can be equally important to get well. In addition, most antidepressants take a significant period of time to have a therapeutic effect, often up to several weeks. If someone is taking medication, or starting a new medication, give it time to work.
9. Eat a bowl of ice cream.
Yes, eating ice cream can be heavenly on a hot summer day. However, depression can come with eating disorders that can make patients over or under eat. It’s best for a depressed person to eat a healthy diet to obtain the nutrients that will support long term health. Eating fattening ice cream may contribute to weight gain that only makes depressed people feel worse about themselves.
10. Take up sailing.
Depression can be associated with the inability to think or pay attention to detail. It would be the wrong time to take up a complicated sport like sailing, or any other potentially dangerous activity. Try taking that depressed friend on a cruise, instead.
11. At least you’re not dead.
A depressed person can feel so bad that they may wish they were dead. In fact, depression is one of the leading causes of suicide. Talking about death in such a flippant manner may give a depressed person suicidal ideas that they may act upon.
12. Why don’t you call your mom?
Family relations of those who suffer depression may be strained because of their illness. For others, dysfunction in family relationships may have contributed to the onset of symptoms. It would be best to make sure the depressed person has a supportive family before suggesting that they should call home.
13. Get a life.
Many depressed people have families, hold down jobs, and undertake ordinary social activities. Lack of activity in life may not always be a contributing factor to developing the imbalance in brain chemistry that causes depression. For some, rest from an overly stressful life may be the best medicine.
14. OMG, you look terrible!
Depression can be accompanied by physical changes that aren’t always aesthetically appealing. Hair may look lackluster and even a person’s complexion and eyes may look different. Likewise, depression can cause a person to be less meticulous in personal hygiene. Telling a person that they look like a slob my only make the condition worse.
15. What are those bags under your eyes?
Insomnia can accompany a depressive state. Oftentimes a depressed person will lay in bed all night without sleeping, having negative thoughts ruminate through their mind. Remember the last time you went without sleep for a night, and be sympathetic.
16. There’s always electroshock therapy.
Yes, electroshock therapy is a treatment for depression, and it often works. However, it induces a state of seizure and must be undertaken under strict medical supervision. In addition, there is a stigma to electroshock therapy that makes many people who suffer from depression opt for other more socially acceptable treatments. Suggesting ECT is like telling a person with skin cancer to get a shave with an extra sharp razor because it is the easiest cure.
17. Have you ever tried fish oils?
Omega three acids in fish oils have been suggested to be of benefit with some mental disorders, but have not been proven. Unfortunately, the quantity of fish oil that one needs to supposedly take per day is like eating an entire bathtub of mackerel. Unless you want to kiss your depressed friend while they burp in your mouth, it would be best to refrain from making this suggestion.
18. You should get a makeover.
As stated, some depressed people may look slovenly due to their condition. However, simply taking a shower, getting a haircut, putting on makeup, and wearing a fancy dress will do nothing to cure a person’s depression. Getting all dressed up with no place to go is no way to make someone feel better about themselves.
19. You need to get laid.
Having sex is a great way for many people to feel enjoyment. The sexual act can release endorphins that act as a natural mood booster. However, depressed people often have low libidos as a result of their illness. In addition, many antidepressant medications can cause low sexual desire. If you are concerned about your partner with depression, a night spent cuddling may do them more good than a quick roll in the hay.
20. Time heals all wounds.
It’s irresponsible to think that depression always comes as the result of some psychological wound. Oftentimes, depression can set in without any emotional or psychological precursor at all. Time can be distorted for a person with depression, and telling him that recovery is just around the corner may seem like an unbearable period to wait. It would be best to say that you will be available for support as long as it takes for recovery.