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Things you should never say to someone undergoing depression

Depression is a mental health condition that is characterized by feeling of extreme sadness, overwhelming emotions, worthlessness, lacking self-esteem and emptiness within.  People, who have never experienced the dreaded symptoms of depression will fail to understand the suffering of a person under its grip. Unknowingly, we tend to hurt our loved ones using words, which might exacerbate their condition of depression rather than helping them to come out of it.

Depression robs happiness from a person’s life and they lose interest in things/activities they once loved. Many feel like they won’t be able to get back to the state of joy or happiness ever in their lives. Approximately 264 million people across the globe suffer from depression. The symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, guilty, and/or sad
  • Loss of libido
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Changes in appetite

Causes of depression can be environmental circumstances, genetics, brain chemistry and chronic medical condition.

In other words, depression is not a choice that an individual has made. Our action and words can have a colossal impact on a person’s mind enduring depression.

Here are some potentially harmful phrases we should avoid while interacting with our loved ones battling with depression:

  1. Don’t tell them to try harder or to cheer up: 

Even if we mean good, telling things such as “snap out of it”, “cheer up”, “just smile”, “think positively” etc. could exacerbate their feelings. Depression is caused by imbalance in the neurotransmitter, which can be treated by therapies and medication. Therefore understanding the underlying problem and supporting your loved ones to combat the condition is necessary. We should tell them things like— “You matter”. We should  empathize with their situation, ask them if they want to talk about their feelings. Spending quality time with them also helps.

  1. Don’t express disbelief or invalidate their feelings:

If a person with depression is expressing his/her thoughts with you about what they’re experiencing, it’s critical that you be non-judgmental. We should avoid saying things like:

    • “I haven’t noticed a change in your attitude or behavior”
    • “You don’t seem sad”
    • “I’ve dealt with worse”
    • “It’s all in your head” etc.

There are many reasons why depressed people tend to hide their feelings from loved ones, putting up a brave face and never open up. The reasons for this could be the following:

    1. They may be confused, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, or afraid of prejudice and stigmatization in the society.
    2. They may feel apprehensive and anxious that they will be judged as incompetent to carry out their responsibilities and work.
    3. They think that their family, spouse and friends will stop loving them.

When you provide a judgmental view on a person’s depressive feelings, it sends a message to them that they shouldn’t open up again. Rather, we should help them in finding a treatment plan, remind them that treatment can help and they are not the only ones dealing with it.

  1. Refrain from blaming them: 

Depression can be caused by a slew of factors including genetics, environment, brain chemistry, poverty, and toxic relationships, physical, emotional or sexual abuse or any traumatic incident in life such as death of loved ones, accident, war or painful incident in life.

Depression is not a fault of a person who is grappling with it. We should not blame an individual by saying things like—“It’s your fault that you feel this way”, “You wouldn’t feel this way if you did this” or “you are imagining things”.

These phrases can make them feel worse and distressed. Depression involves both physical and emotional symptoms, which cannot be improved without seeking professional help or customized treatment.

  1. Never Ignore them: 

We don’t realize the potential risk involved when we ignore the actual suffering of a person battling with depression. Ignoring them is like abandonment for them.

Instead of giving them space we should try inviting them to weekly get-together or a walk, invite them for lunch or dinner, discuss fond memories with them, engage them in recreational activities and make them aware of things they used to love most.

  1. Don’t compare them with others: 

Telling a depressed person “you should be grateful for your situation, others have much worse situation than you”, actually increases their sadness. Mental health condition is not a competition. We should not pit one against the other. Each individual has his/her own ability to cope with a given situation. Therefore we should not disparage a depressed person and aggravate his/her condition.

  1. Never shame them:

It may be difficult to help someone with depression. But, we should not try to shame them by saying things like — “You are selfish, you only think of yourself”, “You are crazy” or “You should think about others, how your condition is affecting them.”

Depressed people care a lot for their loved ones. Therefore they try to hide their condition thinking that it will add burden to family.  It’s important for us to be empathetic with them.

Chastising would not only push them to the brink. Suicide is a potential risk factor associated with depression.

How we can help?

The best way to help your loved ones is to create a safe and empathetic environment, where they feel free to share their feelings. Encouraging open ended communication can help in breaking the stigma. We should encourage them to seek professional help.

If you or a loved one is battling depression and the condition is worsening with time or has triggered suicidal thoughts, find the perfect solution at Athena behavioral health.

Athena provides quality mental health treatment in India. We have the best mental rehabilitation center in Delhi where you can avail customized treatment programs for treating mental health issues or addiction. To know more about us call today at our 24/7 helpline number 9289086193.

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