Depression? What Not to Say

Depression? What Not to Say

conversation with a psychologist

Psychology Today recently published a list of five things you should never say to someone who is depressed:

  1. “Why don’t you just do something to get over it?”
  2. “Why can’t you just be happy?”
  3. “Stay away from therapy and drugs.”
  4. “You don’t have it that bad.”
  5. “You should stop being so negative.”

Boil these five things down, and you basically have one big thing: “Snap out of it!” The implication is that we have control over our moods, and the person suffering from depression is just making the wrong decision — to be unhappy.

Recent research on happiness suggests that people have some control over how happy they are… but just some.

As much as 50% of the average person’s level of happiness seems to be hard-wired. And clinical depression is not average. It’s a debilitating disease affecting almost 15 million adults in the US. It’s characterized by feelings of powerlessness, low energy, and overwhelming sadness.

It’s not about a lack of gratitude. Just about 10% of the average person’s happiness is connected with life events and circumstances. Depression is an illness. It can’t be held off by a healthy bank balance, a nice home, or a loving family. It’s not improved by thinking about other people in the world who have worse problems.

In fact, people who are depressed are often very hard on themselves. They punish themselves with harsh thoughts about themselves. Being told that they should be grateful or that they should think about others can push them further into their depression. Hearing from friends and loved ones that they should snap out of it tells them that their loved ones don’t understand what they’re experiencing. They feel even more alone.

Here’s the good news: up to 80% of people treated for depression see significant improvement over time, according to a National Institute of Health study referenced in the article. If you know someone who is suffering from depression, you should provide support and direct them toward resources for treatment.