Why I Don't Like to Answer ‘How Are You?’ as Someone With Depression


We live in such a fast-paced society and saying “How are you?” in passing is common courtesy. You can be in the check-out line at the grocery store and the cashier will most likely say “How are you?” or maybe you are in an elevator with someone and he or she says “How are you?” It is almost second nature to say “I’m OK” or “I’m fine” when you are not feeling well. In fact, we all say it, whether we are battling depression and anxiety or not.

Think about it, is it really possible for every single person to be doing fine or OK 365 days a year?

I try not to think too much into it, but I cringe at the words “How are you?”

Honestly, can I really tell someone how I am doing within five seconds as I hold the door open for them walking into a building? Truth be told, complete strangers do not really care how I am doing and in some cases, family and friends cannot handle the truth.

Imagine if the conversation went like this:

“How are you?”

“I am not doing so well. I am battling depression and I often struggle with suicidal thoughts.”

“I hate my life and struggle with self-harm.”

And then you pull up your sleeves and show them the cuts on your arm. I am 99.9 percent sure it will shock the hell out of the person who asked “How are you?” They may even regret that they asked you in the first place. No, I am not against being courteous and kind, but people who struggle with depression and anxiety are often over-critical of their thoughts and feelings and the question “How are you?” deserves an honest answer. On behalf of all people who battle depression and anxiety, I suggest you give a smile and/or find something else to say such as hello, good morning, have a good day, or simply do not say anything at all.

A depressed person may only have one person or select individuals he or she can be completely honest with, and some may not have that, so a smile will do if you do not care.

When a person is battling depression, the last thing he or she needs is a person who does not really care how he or she is doing (it is a waste of breath and time).

Because the words “I’m OK” and “I’m fine” are silent cries for help.

For some reason we tend to accept it and continue to move on with life. Here is a little tip, in group therapy I learned the acronym for F.I.N.E. which stands for “feelings I’m not expressing.” I went to work everyday and my co-workers walked passed my desk and said “How are you?” or “How was your weekend?” I was torn apart inside as I was forced to say “I’m OK.” Why?

I thought it was inappropriate to share what was really going on. How is a person suppose to respond if I really told them? I did not want my business floating around the office. What you must understand about a person struggling with depression and anxiety is we need people who are empathic and supportive. If you cannot handle the truth, do not ask.

Currently I am in recovery and have been practicing being completely honest when someone says “How are you?” And if someone cannot handle my response, it is their problem. Some days you may get roses and sunshine because I am feeling accomplished and smiling from ear to ear, and others you get a dark cloud so my response may not be what you are looking for.

So my suggestion is to think twice (maybe three times) before you say these three simple words “How are you?”


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

Woman looking at sky during hike in forest

The Last Thing to Return After a Depressive Episode

I know when I am getting ill. It is when slowly life drains away. I start getting irritable, angry and stressed at the smallest of things. My life begins to atrophy as I cope less. First to go are all my good habits, eating well, exercising, meditation and prayer. My hobbies and out of work [...]
depressed teenager sitting on stair in creepy abandoned building, darkness concept

Depression Is My Roommate

I love when people ask me how I cope. I want to share what works for me, in the hope that it will work for them, but it worries me when friends ask, “How did you get over your depression.: In short: I didn’t. Depression is my roommate. We live together, most days in harmony. But like [...]
Two female friends sitting in a park

10 Things I Should Tell My Friends About My Depression

1. I wish I could tell you it isn’t your fault. I don’t call, I don’t text, I don’t talk. But I want you to know it has nothing to do with you. 2. Your support has meant everything to me. I wouldn’t be fighting this battle if I didn’t have you. You were here [...]
Woman floating in a pool of water

There’s No Such Thing as Being ‘Too Pretty’ to Be Depressed

This year, I gave up on myself. My backbone broke under the weight of the intricate and deceptive facade I’d spent years perfecting. A series of idealized thoughts and a startling confession later, I found myself in an emergency room on what would have been an otherwise uneventful Wednesday night. “Do you need something to [...]