What Not To Say To Someone With Depression?

We’ve all been through that awkward situation where we say something we don’t mean and end up hurting our friends and loved ones. This is all the more true for people in our lives who are dealing with depression.
Going through depression involves a lot of negative thinking and harmful self-talk. Their inner monologue distorts perception and memory, making them more likely to continue putting themselves down. But before discussing what not to say to someone with depression, let us try to understand this condition better.

What not to say to someone with depression?

Symptoms, Types & Effective Therapy For Depression

Signs of depression, according to the DSM-V, include an irregular sleep cycle, loss of interest and pleasure in daily activities, lack of emotional energy, lack of motivation to do anything, apathy, feeling overwhelmed or overcome with grief, negative thoughts, and feeling worthless, hopeless, or overwhelmingly guilty. Depressed people also tend to withdraw from other people and activities. If they are dealing with most or many of these signs for a long time, they may have depression. However, an official diagnosis from a certified professional is needed before taking any steps to recovery. 

A variety of genetic or psychological factors can cause depression. For example, a dopamine addiction and its impact on daily life can lead to depression. On the other hand, controlling your dopamine for motivation can improve self-regulation.

Depression can be categorized into two types, situational depression, and chronic depression. The former is the most common form of depression we all go through from time to time or at least once. You feel hopeless about a situation and hence depressed. Situation depression also results from a lack of overall health, so staying fit, eating well, exercising regularly, and sleeping on time are recommended to ensure you’re not out of balance with your body.

The best way to prevent or cure situational depression is to set up atomic habits and practice creative visualization to motivate yourself. You can also develop a morning routine to regulate your performance. A support system of friends and family relationships can also aid a patient. That’s why it is necessary to understand what not to say to someone with depression. These can include journaling, napping, or relaxing your mind and body to recover from a busy day. Chronic, clinical, or major depression is harder to cure as various factors can cause it, and research has shown it to be linked with parts of the brain, biology, genes, and history. There are multiple types of recurring depression and related disorders. Different forms of therapy, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), psychotherapy, and medication, can help in its treatment.

Not sure what to say when someone is depressed? Don’t worry. Following are some steps to ensure you’re supportive and helpful. Regardless of the type of depression they suffer, these techniques can help you converse and get along with them better and more consciously. 

What Not To Say To Someone With Depression

1. Practice Empathy

If you want to show them care, you can practice empathy and try to understand what they’re going through as deeply as possible. You can do this by learning about the condition from others around you and online(on social media, mental health websites, etc.) suffering through the same. Practicing active listening skills will also help you be considerate and better understand their situation.

You should also avoid giving the “someone has it worse than you” argument. While your friend may logically understand this, it won’t help them. Moreover, this statement also invalidates their experience of emotional pain and suffering by comparing it to someone else.

While learning what not to say to people with depression, you can try to be empathetic and understand what they’re going through. Understanding this will automatically help you avoid all the pitfalls and console someone going through a tough time because of this condition.
“You should try to get better.”
“Just cheer up and get well.”
For instance, both statements undermine your friend’s effort and invalidate their hardships. While learning what to not say to a depressed person, it is necessary to consider how you would feel in such a state and what you would desire the other person to say. 

2. Promote an Optimistic Outlook

You can try to understand your friend’s situation and not blame them for their condition. Any mental health condition isn’t the patient’s fault but is caused by various factors, including their childhood and other life experiences. 

Offer your encouragement and help them see small gains. This will motivate them more and thus be helpful on the path to recovery. They will eventually begin to notice the positive things around them. Doing this activity will also develop a grateful attitude in both you and them, leading to greater self-satisfaction.

You can also keep making positive suggestions and opening new possibilities for them so that they eventually come to see the brighter side of life. But avoid phrases like “think positively” and “this will pass.” These phrases aren’t likely to help or impact someone going through depression as they probably keep hearing them from family, friends, loved ones, and, more recently, social media.

Here are some examples of what to not say to a depressed person. These statements discourage them from seeking help or recovery, promoting a biased outlook and feeding into their negative bias (inner monologue).

“This is the way you are right now. Just accept it.”
“Accepting this will save you from much pain.”

Your opinion will influence your friend’s action and their will to recover. One way to take responsibility for this is to avoid saying anything that hurts or discourages them. You can do this by learning what not to say to someone with depression.

3. Know your limits

It’s normal and valid to want to help a friend who’s depressed in times of need, but getting too involved or taking on the responsibility of helping them can leave you overburdened and stressed. Don’t make promises you can’t keep or say things you’ll regret later. It is essential to ensure you can carry the responsibility you take and understand what to not say to someone with depression.

Some cases of what not to say when someone is depressed are hard to understand. Confusion can happen as statements that sound nice or harmless on the surface can have more profound implications. For example:-
“Don’t worry. Whenever you feel down, I will be there for you.”
“I’m always here to help you. “
While these words are pleasant, failing to deliver on these promises can hurt a person with depression more in the future. Only say these things if you really mean them and have the time and resources to support someone throughout their recovery. 

4. Don’t rush to solutions.

Depression happens for a reason, which is secondary to the condition. Do not rush any solutions or decide what is better for your friend. Although you may be tempted to take things into your own hands, respect their dignity as a person and allow them to arrive at their own solution. Giving your friends space can help them get into the right mindset. This helps them identify their goals and start moving forward at their own pace.

A positive energy and life-affirming or more optimistic outlook will also improve their recovery and self-awareness in the long run. You can help your depressed friends in their journey but be wary of your relationship turning slowly into dependency.

Here are a few examples of what to not say to someone with depression, which provide solutions but are hasty and unrealistic.
“You should do XYZ. It will help you recover in no time.”
“These are the things you can do for an easy solution to depression.”
While this advice seems considerate at first glance, it disregards your friend’s situation. You can also note to avoid guarantees, surefire ways to recover, or helping your friend heal quickly. Mental health is a process or a journey, not achieved daily. That’s why learning what not to say to people with depression is essential for anyone who desires to promote mental wellness in society.

5. Show Gratitude for having them in your life

You can also show appreciation for them or gratefulness for them to be part of your life in small ways. Someone being grateful for them will provide enough validation and increase their faith in themselves. Eventually, your friend will be better equipped to practice self-validation.

Following is a list of what not to say to a depressed person when trying to be grateful:-
“You’re tiring for me.”
“We can talk more when you’ve come out of this “mood.”
These statements are a prime example of what not to say to someone with depression. They undermine your friend’s mood and self-esteem and make them regret being the way they are. On the other hand, accepting them as they are and offering your genuine presence will reduce their stress. They will also be more grateful to have someone like you who cares for them in their lives. 

6. Be Sensitive

Frame your language sensitively. Depressed people tend to focus on the negative aspects of their experience rather than the positive ones, a.k.a negative bias. Hence, you can avoid speech that draws attention to the negative aspects. This can be done by learning what to not say to someone with depression. Be patient with them and give them a sense of comfort and a non-judgmental attitude that allows them to relax and increases their self-awareness. Doing this is vital as many depressed people hide their disorder, a condition known as smiling depression.

Nobody wants to continue feeling this way. Despite the stigma of just characterizing mental illness as “made up,” you can try to empathize and understand how your friends or loved ones feel. When you act like trying anything is pointless, this discourages your friend and blocks their path to recovery. Instead, you should give them hope and try to show them new possibilities. Following are some examples of what not to say to someone with depression while trying to be sensitive.

“Snap out of it.”
“Stop being so emotionally sensitive.”
For instance, these statements seem outright disrespectful to people going through depression. Being sensitive begins by learning what not to say when someone is depressed. These problems are not merely belief systems or mindsets one can easily change but chronic illnesses which plague people for years.

7. Be Respectful

Treat them with respect, as fellow peers or human beings. Nobody can shun or dismiss someone for their mental health condition. You can also try to ensure they understand what you’re saying to help them understand where you’re coming from. Learning what not to say to a depressed person is important because conflict is often caused due to miscommunication.

One way to invalidate your friend’s experiences is by telling them a late recovery is somehow their fault. Depression is a clinical condition controlled by various factors such as your immune system, diet and exercise patterns, genetics, life events, and upbringing. While remembering what not to say to someone with depression, you can try to avoid things that blame them for the condition.
“You can’t get well if you haven’t already.”
“If your efforts didn’t work, why will the medication?”
Instead, you can be more considerate, receptive, and thoughtful while conversing with them if you want to help them recover. 


We can summarize the points discussed above as such. What not to say to someone with depression includes anything that:-

-belittles, takes pity on, or displays superiority to them,
-makes assumptions about their condition with an unclear understanding,
-violates their boundaries and disrespects their agency as individuals,
-or gives them false hope and makes promises which you can’t follow through with.  
Talking to someone with depression can seem complicated, but if you’re considerate, genuinely care for them, and are willing to listen, you can easily do it. You can give your friends and loved ones going through depression courage for recovery and hope for the possibilities that await them in the future.

Now that you’ve learned what not to say to a depressed person, you can also take steps to improve your mental health awareness. Here’s a quiz to test the same.

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