Probably nobody needs company, support and assistance more than a depressed friend who is down, while the desire to sympathize and help is strong and sometimes hard to realize. The issue may arise quite often, for there are something like 10% depressed adults in the US, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the definition of Debra Kissen, PhD, Chicago anxiety treatment specialist, depression is a long period of apathy and hopelessness difficult to overcome on your own – which leaves the sufferer feeling helpless. While you are trying to comfort your friend, you may say things that affect him or her adversely, although you meant them to be reassuring. Here is the list of ten trite remarks that work the wrong way round, mind you never use them on a depressed person.
I know how you feel
It’s very difficult for your friend to believe you really share her feelings – even if you are known to have had depressive bouts yourself. Depression is experienced differently by different people, reminds Dr. Kissen. Your friend is unlikely to consider this a proper validation of her feelings. So, don’t make out you empathize, tell your friend that you are there for her showing your support.
It’s just one of bad days that happen to everyone
It’s a gross understatement, says professor of psychology Chris Kilmartin (with the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA). These “bad days” just go on happening, interfering with the individual’s performance at work, college, spoiling relationships. The friend needs to be heard out without belittling her emotions. Tell her that you want to understand what she is going through.
Do you have a good reason to be depressed?
Pressing forward the advice to concentrate on good things in the afflicted person’s life is not such a good idea when you come to think that it may have already occurred to your friend. The understanding that one has a lot to be grateful for can bring on a feeling of guilt that only aggravates the condition, Dr. Kissen points out. Rather than enumerating the boons of life, involve your friend in doing something together, preferably something she used to enjoy doing. Go to a show or to shops. She may say she doesn’t want to, yet try to persuade her. It won’t take away her depression, but activities like these induce social life which is good for battling depression.
Life is much harder on other people
Once again, this idea is likely to have installed itself in your friend’s mind, making her feel even worse since she is driven to think she oughtn’t to be feeling low. Moreover, this kind of talk goes to somewhat dismiss the seriousness of the person’s condition. You don’t want to bring in other people, says private psychologist from St. Louis Helen Friedman, PhD. You should evince interest in what the one dear to you is feeling. Ask whether she would like to talk instead or how you could help her.
You should take up a hobby, get yourself busy
It is surely well-meant, but only if you realize that it’s very difficult for the depressed friend or relative to follow it. Nevertheless, depression pushes them in the opposite direction, inward. Such advice, in the opinion of Dr. Sally Winston, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland in Towson, is good only if you are ready to participate in the activity alongside your friend. Make it clear by saying something like “Let’s go and do this together,” thus showing that being with her in her difficult time is not bothersome for you but is more of a social jaunt.
It’s all in your head
This will sound very dismissive. Keep in mind that depression is a medical condition which can’t be cured by simply rejecting it, Dr. Friedman points out. You don’t say such things to sick people; don’t say it to those in depression. It would be better to hear her out without commenting or just say “It’s good that you told me all this.” Sharing uour loved one’s emotions can go a long way for the sufferer.
Pull yourself together and snap out of it
This is one of those things that are easier said than done. A depressive individual may irritate you by her seeming unwillingness to change her life, but that’s how she really feels, Dr. Winston accentuates. Depression makes everything look worthless and unhelpful, and your task is to try and disprove this notion. Instead of playing it down stay around and don’t let your friend feel lonely.
Why don’t you cure yourself with anti-depressants
Even if anti-depressant drugs helped somebody else you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are offering sound advice. First you should inquire what your loved one has tried to do. Then you can suggest some therapy without sounding pushing. Tell her you worry and think there must be a way to get help. Suggest browsing through sites and forums dealing with anxiety treatment.
Don’t hurt yourself
It’s usually useless to try and prevent suicidal attempts by saying so; what you should rather do is ask your friend or relative whether the idea to hurt themselves has occurred to them. If they confirm your guess and tell you how, when and where they meant to do it, seek professional help by calling in her therapist or dialing 911. You have to make sure your loved one is safe and being helped to get out from under.