There are millions of people that battle depression. Feelings of sadness and loneliness happen to everyone, but when negative emotions begin affecting your quality of life every day, it’s time to get help. If you know someone who’s depressed, there are ways you can help – as well as things you should never say.
What Is Depression?
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a widespread and serious medical condition that negatively affects your feelings, thoughts, and actions. Thankfully, its symptoms can be treated. Depression causes a wide range of feelings that many people have a hard time dealing with on their own. If left untreated, it can result in many emotional and physical problems, affecting your quality of life and how you function at work, school, or home. It affects more than 17 million U.S. adults.
What Are The Symptoms?
Most people have depression symptoms at least once in their life, but they’re different for everyone. Common warning signs may include:
- Sadness and emptiness
- Anger, irritability, and frustration
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy doing
- Sleep problems
- Fluctuating appetite and weight
- Low energy
- Anxiety and agitation
- Slowed thoughts, speech, or body movements
- Feelings of guilt and obsessing over past failures
- Problems thinking, concentrating, and making decisions
- Thoughts of death, suicide, and self-harm
How to Support Someone with Depression
Depression can result in severe problems if left untreated, but there are ways to support a person with depression. There’s a lot of trial and error involved.
- Be assertive and transparent in your communication. You can provide compassion and support, and act as a sounding board for the other person, but you also need to make your feelings clear.
- Always show empathy. Someone who’s depressed often feels like no one understands them, so it’s important to be non-judgmental and remember how you’d feel if the situation were reversed.
- While many people are happy to support another person who’s depressed, there’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries and letting them know what you can and can’t do to help.
- Be patient, persistent, and realize you may not be able to solve their problem.
Things to Avoid Saying to Someone with Depression
There are many things you shouldn’t say to someone who’s depressed. The wrong phrase or word, even said in jest, can have terrible consequences. Here are things to avoid saying to someone who’s depressed.
- “Come on, just snap out of it, man!”
- “You need to just smile more often and be happy for what you have.”
- “Remember, you can do a lot of good things in life if you just stay positive.”
- “You know, back in my day people might’ve gotten depressed, but we never talked about it – we just rolled with it.”
- “I’ve been depressed, too, so I know exactly what you’re going through.”
- “Wow! You really don’t look depressed; I never would’ve known it’s a problem.”
- “Don’t even think about hurting yourself, that’s crazy.”
- “You’re being selfish. It’s not all about you.”
- “Life sucks. Do you think you’re the only person in the world who has a bad day? Boo hoo.”
- “That’s funny. I haven’t seen you acting or behaving any differently.”
- “Cheer up, you’ll get over it.”
- “It’ll pass, you just need to give it some time, learn to adjust.”
- “You know, I heard about this diet on my favorite podcast, you should try it.”
- “I don’t get it. What do you have to be depressed about?”
- “You’re a grown man! We don’t talk about this stuff.”
- “You’re such a drama queen, you haven’t changed.”
- “Eh, things could always get worse, right?”
- “You know, when I’m feeling a little sad, the best thing I can do is just enjoy some alone- or me-time, maybe grab a bowl of ice cream and just chill. You should try that.”
- “There’s a war going on overseas, think what those poor people have to worry about.”
- “If you’re feeling down, get out of the house, try something else.”
- “I met an old guy at the library who said to try yoga or meditation.”
- “Why aren’t you in therapy or on meds?”
If you know someone who’s depressed, the best thing you can do to support that person is to be present and compassionate. You can also help that person learn more about their condition, and what treatment may be available, like psychotherapy or ketamine infusions to control depression symptoms.