20 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed

Society is becoming increasingly aware of and open-minded toward the subject of mental illness. But unfortunately, many people are still misinformed about depression and how to best support someone struggling with a mental illness. If you’re worried you may say the wrong thing, we’ve got your back. Here are 20 things you should never say to someone who is depressed.

“You Just Need to Be More Positive”

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As pointed out by Medical News Today, people do not choose to be depressed, and depression is commonly caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Therefore, telling a depressed person that they simply need to adopt a more positive attitude is unhelpful and likely to make them feel like you are blaming them for something they cannot control.

“You Have Everything Going for You”

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Depression can affect anyone, no matter how much material success they seem to have. This comment can cause people to feel confused, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they “should” feel content with their lives.

“Depression Is All in Your Head”

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Depression does involve mental factors and can stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, telling someone that depression is all in their head makes light of a very serious mental illness that can be very challenging to treat. It also implies that they can easily choose to stop feeling depressed, which is simply not true.

“Just Snap Out of It”

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As we stated before, depression is not a choice or something that can be easily overcome. So telling someone to “just snap out of it” will only make the person feel invalidated, misunderstood, and isolated. It could also dissuade them from turning to others for support in the future.

“Others Have It Worse Than You”

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This is another invalidating comment that implies someone cannot feel depressed if other people seem to have more to be depressed about. Anyone can struggle with depression, regardless of their external circumstances. Telling someone that others have it worse may also make them feel guilty about or ashamed of their depression.

“We All Go Through Times Like These”

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We all experience a wide range of negative emotions, but not everyone experiences depression. While this comment can be well-intended, it is likely to feel like a minimization of the depressed person’s experience. It may also make them feel more misunderstood and alone.

“You Should Try Exercising More”

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The NHS claims that regular exercise can improve symptoms of depression in some cases. However, this does not mean you should tell a depressed person to exercise more. This is likely to seem like an oversimplification and misunderstanding of their struggle, which often involves many different mental, physiological, and psychological factors.

“I Know Exactly How You Feel”

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Even if you have struggled with depression yourself, you don’t know exactly how another depressed person feels. It’s okay to tell someone if you can relate to their experience, but depression can vary significantly from person to person, so it’s important to acknowledge the uniqueness of their experience.

“Have You Tried Praying About It?”

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Religious individuals may be tempted to make this well-meaning suggestion. However, this comment can actually be harmful to both religious and non-religious people struggling with depression. Those who are not religious may feel disrespected and misunderstood, while religious people may feel like they are to blame for their mental illness persisting.

“You’re Just Looking for Attention”

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Depression is a very real and serious mental illness. By telling someone that they’re just looking for attention, you severely invalidate their experience and may cause them to feel more isolated and reluctant to seek much-needed support in the future.

“This Is Just a Phase”

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Depression can last for short or long periods of time. Telling someone that their depression is just a phase overlooks the fact that it can be chronic and a lifelong battle that is very challenging to cope with. It may also make them feel invalidated and misunderstood.

“You Need to Get Out More”

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Depression is a complex mental illness with many different contributing factors. This comment implies that isolation is the only cause of someone’s depression and is likely to make them feel ashamed of their lifestyle. As noted by WebMD, depression can also make it much more difficult to go out and socialize.

“It Could Be Worse”

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This comment is completely unhelpful and potentially very invalidating. Depression can be extremely severe and debilitating, so telling someone that their life or mental illness “could be worse” will make them feel like you don’t understand the extent of their pain and struggles.

“Happiness Is a Choice”

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For depressed people, happiness is not a choice. Nobody chooses to be depressed, and treating depression can be a very long and difficult journey. Therefore, telling someone who is depressed that “happiness is a choice” will probably make them feel misunderstood, guilty, and more alone in their experience.

“Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself”

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This comment implies that depression is a form of self-pity or self-inflicted suffering rather than a serious mental illness. This also comes across as rather judgmental and shaming, so it may cause them to feel guilty about or ashamed of their depression.

“You Don’t Look Depressed”

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Depressed individuals may be going through hell on the inside but still appear fairly stable and functional on the outside. You should never assume how someone is feeling based on their outward appearance or actions, as this comment can feel very invalidating.

“Just Give It Time”

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Depression will often improve with time, but it can also worsen or return later. Therefore, telling a depressed person to “give it time” can make it seem as though you don’t understand the complexity or severity of their mental illness. It is also important to actively seek support and treatment for depression rather than hoping it will improve on its own.

“You Just Need to Find a Hobby”

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This comment implies that someone’s depression can be easily cured if they can find the right activity or distraction. But in reality, depression can stem from several different factors that can be very challenging to treat.

“You Should Be More Grateful”

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Yes, feeling and expressing gratitude can be useful tools for improving one’s well-being. However, telling a depressed person they should be more grateful implies that their depression is a direct result of their ungratefulness, which is false and likely to make them feel severely invalidated and isolated.

“Everyone Gets Sad Sometimes”

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Depression is not the same thing as sadness. Telling a depressed person that everyone gets sad will only make them feel like you do not understand their mental illness or just how debilitating it can be. In turn, this can make them feel more alone and invalidated.

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