The Mighty Logo

10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Depression is not an easy thing to live it. Combined with anxiety, it can be immobilizing and even cause major disruptions in people’s lives. Although depression is an unpleasant thing to have, what is even worse is when someone who does not understand it makes a comment about it.

Here are 10 things people have said to me about my depression that I wish they hadn’t. It is purely based on my own experience, and I am aware this will not necessarily be the same for everyone I know who has/or has experienced depression.

1. Snap out of it!

Depression is a real mental illness. In my case, depression for me was catalyzed by loneliness and transitions, which, as you can imagine, really took a toll on my mental health. I cannot just “snap out” of dealing with the mental turmoil of depression. I also can’t “snap out” of the current situations that played a role in my depression. Transitions are a part of life and are to be embraced. I intended on combating the loneliness I experienced by spending my time with others. However, I was lonely within the crowd, which did not make things any easier for me. So I found myself trapped, and I did not know how to get out of it. This was the start of the downward spiral of my depression.

2. Oh cheer up!

So you seem to think I can just think my way out of depression? Well, sorry my love, it does not work like that! I will not cheer up at your say so either. Just like my previous point, I cannot just cheer up when a depressive episode hits. I have to run with it, learn to manage it and use my coping strategies (painting, walking, watching a film and playing X-box) to distract my mind and feel better. Also, unless you have experienced depression, you are in no position to tell me to cheer up.

3. You don’t look depressed.

Depression does not have a “look.” You cannot assume depression is where people always look sad and miserable. I was a fake person for a number of months. I smiled and pretended to be happy even though I had what I call “numb” days when I don’t feel any emotions. This was how I managed to hide my depression, and no one really knew about it until I became more vocal and was in a better position to manage it.

4. It’s not that bad.

Oh really? Well why did I not think of that? Unless you’ve experienced months and months of being in a mental prison, where you constantly feel guilty, low, frequently tearful for no reason and constantly go through this downward spiral of suicidal thoughts, self-loathing, self-harming and suicide attempts, then you should not tell me depression “is not that bad.”

5. Why are you depressed?

I always have to take a pause whenever I am asked this. What actually was it that triggered my depression? Was it the loneliness? Was it the transitions of my closest friends graduating and leaving while I’m still here? Was it the fact that I was running on three to four hours sleep every night, which meant I woke up feeling groggy every morning for months on end? Was it the media and the focus on hate crimes and other serious things happening that all of a sudden was extremely triggering to me?

Usually, I just tell people life has been tough, and I am still making my way through it (only I now have an amazing support system in place to help me).

6. Get over it!

Do you really think getting over a depressive episode will happen within the moment you tell me to? No! I cannot just get over a drop in my mood or when a depressive episode happens. If I suddenly feel unable to do something because of the episode, then please help me. Do not make assumptions that it is something I need to get over because, quite simply, you cannot just get over depression.

7. You need to get out more.

You think by getting out more, I will magically be “cured” of having depression? Of course not. Given I am generally out and about for much of my time anyway, why on Earth would you assume I need to get out more?

My actual diagnoses is severe depression with anxiety. Unless you’ve had a panic attack trying to sleep, waking up, walking into a building or as you attempt to go shopping, then you are really not able to understand what is happening to me physically and mentally. Yes, I enjoy going out for walks. Yet, when my anxiety levels skyrocketed and my depression worsened, going out was the last thing on my mind.

8. Depression is for weak people.

In my opinion, this is the biggest insult to anyone coping with a mental or depressive disorder. I am not weak for having depression. In case you were unaware, depression affects a third of the world’s population, and 1 out 4 people will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

Are you implying that a third of the world’s population is weak because of an illness? Are they weak because they are constantly fighting an invisible battle that worsens over time? Depression made me the stronger person I am today, and I am now stepping up to be more of an advocate for others who are in the same position.

9. I’m not happy you’ve increased your medication dose.

As much as I understand your concern, it is not really your place to say whether or not you’re happy about the dosage of my medication. It is a decision I am making after discussing it with the doctor, who is in a much better position to advise than you. Plus, it’s not like this decision affects you either. Why complain about me strengthening the dose on my medication, when instead you could text, call or email me, follow-up and see how I’m doing? That’s a better plan. Remember, depression affects everyone differently. Some people are able to come off medication sooner than others. Respect my decision.

10. You’d better not have a breakdown when we’re out!

When a depressive episode hits, it hits. There is no escape from it, and I have to cope with it. If I have an anxiety attack or a severe depressive episode where I end up losing myself in the mental chaos happening in my head, then poor you! The most you can do is put up with it, given I have to live with it!

Think before you speak. Do some research too!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 23, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home