6 Things to Avoid When Speaking to Someone with Depression

he Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported in 2016 that one in 20 Americans 12 years of age and older suffer from depression. With as prevalent as this disease is in society today, one would assume that most people would know how to behave toward another individual who suffers from depression.

In fact, you may not know how to speak with someone with this illness or behave in a manner that does not aggravate his or her depression symptoms. You can help a depressed loved one by avoiding these nine behaviors when you speak with or visit this individual.

1. Mocking or Making Light of the Illness
People who do not understand what depression really is may be tempted to make light of it or even mock someone who suffers from it. Depression as a chronic illness is far more than just temporary moodiness or a brief period of feeling blue. It is a serious and devastating disease that can negatively impact every aspect of a sufferer’s life.

As such, it is critical that you do not make fun of the person or simply dismiss him or her as a drama queen or attention seeker. Your loved one suffers from a genuine medical condition that can be treated and managed with proper therapeutic intervention.

2. Saying the Depression Will Go Away
It is also important that you do not tell the person that his or her symptoms will eventually go away. Some people with depression experience intermittent relief and periods of happiness and even euphoria.

However, without proper depression treatment the symptoms eventually come back and are often more intense. Unlike illnesses like the common cold or hay fever, depression is not an illness that will simply go away on its own.

3. Saying It is God’s Plan
You should avoid telling your depressed loved one that his or her depression is part of God’s plan. Regardless of your religious affiliation or spiritual beliefs, it is vital that you recognize that depression is a genuine and serious medical condition that must be treated with therapy and antidepressants if necessary. You may aggravate and further depress your loved one by telling him or her that God wants this person to suffer.

4. Offering Drugs and Alcohol
People who suffer from depression are at an increased risk already of abusing drugs and alcohol. They do not need anyone to offer them a drink or drugs to help mask or numb their emotional and mental turmoil.

As much as you may hate to see your loved one suffer, you should avoid offering drugs and alcohol to this person. Instead, you should offer to help your loved one find a medical provider who can offer the right treatment for the disease.

5. Bragging about Your Own Good Life
People who are chronically depressed are already sensitive to what other people think of them or how they perceive other people to live. Even if everything in your life is going perfectly, it is important that you avoid bragging about your good fortune to the depressed loved one. You should save your good news about your life to share when your friend or relative is undergoing proper treatment for his or her depression.

6. Agreeing with the Person’s Depressed Beliefs and Emotions
Your friend or loved one may believe that everything in life is terrible and that there is no hope for the future. When depressed people believe that there is no hope, they put themselves at an increased risk of suicide or self-harm.

As such, you should not agree with the person that his or her life is awful and that the future is just as bleak. Agreeing with his or her depressed perception on life could encourage this individual to commit suicide. If this person says that he or she wants to die or is thinking about committing suicide, you should call 911 immediately.

7. Avoiding the Depressed Loved One Entirely
You may find speaking with your depressed loved one to be a trying if not troublesome experience. As much as it might distress you to be around this person, you should still make an effort to check in with him or her every few days.

You do not have to spend hours conversing with this individual. Still, the time that you do spend talking with him or her should be centered on encouraging this person to get professional help and to make an appointment with a licensed and qualified mental health provider.

8. Comparing the Person to Another Person with Depression
Depression affects each sufferer differently. The symptoms that your loved one feels may be entirely different to those symptoms that another person experiences.

With that, you should avoid comparing your depressed loved one to someone else you know with the same illness. Your friend or family member may not want to hear that this other person has the same illness or even that he or she is recovering well. Your loved one needs individualized attention and empathy to be guided toward professional treatment.

9. Saying that Your Loved One Does Not Need Help
Finally, you should avoid telling your loved one that he or she does not need professional help. As mentioned, depression is not an illness that will simply go away on its own.

Like a lingering infection in your blood, it might lessen and even recede briefly. However, it will often come back with a vengeance and cause as much if not more pain to the sufferer.

Your loved one’s best option to find relief from depression lies in getting immediate and professional mental health services. You should encourage him or her to call the local mental health provider today to start receiving treatment for his or her depression.

Depression is a serious illness for which prompt and professional medical and therapeutic services are warranted. You can help a friend or relative who suffers from this illness by encouraging him or her to seek proper help and by avoiding these nine behaviors.

How False Beliefs About One’s Self Can Play into Anxiety and Depression

What makes you, you? According to Brian Little, PhD, author of Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, there are five consistent traits humans embody.

“Many personality researchers have concluded that the hundreds of different trait dimensions can be reduced to five major factors that consistently emerge in data collected across different cultures and language groups. The so-called big five dimensions are: open to experience (vs. closed-minded), conscientious (vs. careless), extraverted (vs. introverted), agreeable (vs. disagreeable) and neurotic (vs. stable).”

Are these qualities cast in stone at birth or are they mutable?  It may come down to the question of nature vs. nurture. Those who take the former stance are referred to as ‘nativists’ who view personality traits as immutable, while others who are in the second camp are referred to as ‘empiricists’.  Each makes a valid point and yet, we are an adaptive species with daily opportunities to take a different path an alter our decision making by changing our beliefs about the person in the mirror.

In an article entitled “Identity Formation.” Boundless Sociology. Boundless, 26 May. 2016, “Identity formation is defined as, “development of an individual’s distinct personality by which he or she is recognized or known.”

Identity is delineated in several categories that include:

  • Cultural
  • Ethnic
  • Religious
  • National

Each is part of a puzzle that comprises the ways in which an individual is viewed by the world and even more importantly, by themselves.

Who Are You? Who, Who, Who, Who. I Really Wanna Know

Rock lyrics aside, an exploration of the ways in which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, is worth attention.

A therapist who has worked with a variety of clients over three decades has observed that the hardiest and most resilient among them have been able to acknowledge their core essence, and cultivated the ability to become chameleon-like when needed. She recalls an older gentleman who grew up in a working class home, situated in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. He and his three siblings were first generation American born of immigrant parents who fled persecution in their homeland. They were told that they needed to assimilate in order to succeed; speaking their native language in the home, but only English outside the home. She witnessed that he was able to maneuver his way through nearly any encounter with people from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds. He had developed that ability by imagining ‘walking a mile in their shoes’.  Although he had a clear idea that he fit into each of the aforementioned categories identity based categories: Blue Collar-Russian-Jewish-American, he knew he was far more than that and as a result was highly successful in his relationships. He exhibited the open minded, conscientious, extraverted, agreeable and stable classifications.

Another, who had experienced abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, developed the belief that he needed to consistently prove himself and that he would never measure up. Although he presented as confident at times, deeply committed to excellence, affectionate and demonstratively loving, there was another aspect of himself that demanded loyalty and agreement with his world view. As a result, he was often at odds with his finer qualities. He saw himself as the reflection of his father’s perspective and it created conflict in relationships that he desired to be harmonious. Episodic depression and anxiety, as well as OCD behaviors infiltrated his home, work and social life. He exemplified close minded, conscientious, extraverted (with occasional introverted tendencies), disagreeable and neurotic traits. His identity was formulated, also as was the first man, Middle-Class-Irish-American-Protestant; although it had less impact on shaping his affect than did the personality traits.

How Do We Change Our Self -Assessment?

  • Ask yourself, “What am I believing about myself or this experience?”
  • Be aware of when you are making broad generalizations about your behaviors labeling you. An example might be, “I made a mistake vs. I AM a mistake.” Or “I have so many flaws, so I am not worth loving.”
  • Challenge those thoughts.
  • Be willing to re-write the narrative you have running through your head.
  • As is encouraged in the recovery community, do a ‘searching and fearless moral inventory,’ as you take an honest look at what you have done, the decisions you have made and how they impact your life.
  • Choose to change what you can.
  • Put down the proverbial whip which you have brandished at yourself.
  • Embrace your strengths.
  • Accept lovingly offered praise and critique.
  • Learn to offer yourself the same quality of love that you give others.