What Not To Say To Someone With Depression?

We’ve all been through that awkward situation where we say something we don’t mean and end up hurting our friends and loved ones. Such mistakes are all the more true for people in our lives who are dealing with depression. This condition involves a lot of negative thinking and harmful self-talk. Their inner monologue distorts perception and memory, making them more likely to continue putting themselves down. Then the question arises: what not to say to someone with depression and how to be sensitive?

How to talk to someone with depression

Symptoms, Causes & Types Of Depression

Signs of depression, according to the DSM-V, include an irregular sleep cycle, loss of interest and pleasure in daily activities, lack of energy, apathy, feeling overwhelmed or overcome with grief, negative thoughts, and feeling worthless, hopeless, or overwhelmingly guilty. Depressed people also tend to withdraw from other people and activities. If they are dealing with most or many of these signs for a long time, they may have depression. However, an official diagnosis from a certified professional is needed before taking any steps to recovery. 

Depression can be caused by a variety of genetic or psychological factors. For example, a dopamine addiction and its impact on daily life can lead to depression.

Depression can be categorized into two types, situational depression and chronic depression. The former is the most common form of depression we all go through from time to time or at least once. You feel hopeless about a situation and hence depressed. Situation depression also results from a lack of overall health, so staying fit, eating well, exercising regularly, and sleeping on time are recommended to ensure you’re not out of balance with your body.

Effective Treatment For Depression

The best way to prevent or cure situational depression is to set up vital habits and long-term goals to motivate you. Other than this, you can also develop regular self-care routines to reward and regulate your performance. These can include journaling, taking naps, or having a relaxing moment to recover from a busy day. Chronic, clinical, or major depression is harder to cure as various factors can cause it, and research has shown it to be linked with parts of the brain, biology, genes, and history. There are multiple types of recurring depression and related disorders. Different forms of therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), psychotherapy, and medication can help in its treatment.

Not sure what to say when someone is depressed? Don’t worry. Following are some steps to ensure you’re supportive and helpful. Regardless of the type of depression they suffer, these techniques can help you converse and get along with them in a better, more conscious way.

What (Not) To Say To Someone With Depression

1. Practice Empathy

If you want to show them care, you can practice empathy and try understanding what they’re going through as deeply as possible. You can do this by learning about the condition from others around you and online suffering through the same. Practicing active listening skills will also help you be considerate and better understand their situation.

You should also avoid giving the “someone has it worse than you” argument. While your friend may logically understand this, it doesn’t help them. Moreover, this statement also seems like it invalidates their experience of suffering just because someone else is faced with more struggles.

While learning what not to say to people with depression, you can try to be empathetic and understand what they’re going through. Understanding this will automatically help you avoid all the pitfalls and console someone going through a tough time because of this condition.
“You should try to get better.”
“Just cheer up and get well.”
For instance, both statements undermine your friend’s effort and invalidate their hardships.

2. Promote an Optimistic Outlook

You can try to be understanding of your friend’s situation and don’t blame them for their condition. Any mental health condition isn’t the patient’s fault but is caused by various factors, including their childhood and other life experiences. 

Offer your encouragement and help them see small gains. This will motivate them more and thus be helpful on the path to recovery. They will eventually begin to notice the positive things around them. Doing this activity will also develop a grateful attitude in both you and them, leading to greater life satisfaction.

You can also keep making positive suggestions and opening new possibilities for them so that they eventually come to see the brighter side of life. But avoid phrases like “think positively” and “this will pass.” These phrases aren’t likely to help or impact someone going through depression as they probably keep hearing them from family, friends, loved ones, and, more recently, social media.

Here are some examples of what to not say to a depressed person. These statements discourage them from seeking help or recovery, promoting a biased outlook and feeding into their negative inner monologue.
“This is the way you are right now. Just accept it.”
“Accepting this will save you from much pain.”
Your opinion will influence your friend’s action and their will to recover. One way to take responsibility for this is to avoid saying anything that hurts or discourages them.

3. Know your limits

It’s normal and valid to want to help a friend who’s depressed in times of need, but getting too involved or taking on the responsibility of assisting them can leave you overburdened and stressed.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep or say things you’ll regret later. Our emotions often sweep us, and we try to be everything for our needy friends. But it is essential to ensure you can carry the responsibility you take. This will save you and your friend.

Some cases of what not to say when someone is depressed are hard to understand. Confusion can happen as statements that sound nice or harmless on the surface can have more profound implications. For example:-
“Don’t worry. Whenever you feel down, I will be there for you.”
“I’m always here to help you. “
While these words are pleasant, failing to deliver on these promises can hurt a person with depression more in the future. Only say these things if you really mean them and have the time and resources to support someone throughout their recovery. 

4. Don’t rush to solutions

Depression happens for a reason, whether that reason is psychological or related to physical health, and how living conditions influence it is secondary. Do not try to rush any solutions or decide what is better for your friend. Although you may be tempted to take things into your own hands, respect their dignity as a person and allow them to arrive at their own decisions. Also, remember to give your friends space that will enable them to get into the right mindset and identify their goals. They might arrive at a solution and start moving forward at their own pace.

A positive and life-affirming outlook will also improve their recovery and self-awareness in the long run. You can help your depressed friends in their journey but be wary of your relationship turning slowly into dependency.

Here are a few examples of what to not say to someone with depression, which provide solutions but are hasty and unrealistic.
“You should do XYZ. It will help you recover in no time.”
“These are the things you can do for an easy solution to depression.”
While this advice seems considerate at first glance, it disregards your friend’s situation. You can also note to avoid guarantees, surefire ways to recover, or helping your friend heal quickly. Mental health is a process or a journey, not something achieved in a day.

5. Show Gratitude for having them in your life

You can also show appreciation for them or gratefulness for them to be part of your life in small ways. Someone being grateful for them will give them enough validation and make them have more faith in themselves. Eventually, they may be better equipped to self-validate and be on the path to recovery through this as well.

Mental health is highly stigmatized, and many people hide the problems they’re going through to avoid public scrutiny. If we list what things not to say to a depressed person, these would be at the very top:-
“You’re tiring for me.”
“We can talk more when you’ve come out of this “mood.”
These statements undermine your friend’s mood and self-esteem and make them regret being the way they are. Accepting them as they are and offering your genuine presence, on the other hand, will reduce their stress. They will also be more grateful to have someone like you who cares for them in their lives. 

6. Be Sensitive

Frame your language sensitively. Depressed people tend to focus on the negative aspects of their experience rather than the positive ones, a.k.a negative bias. You should be aware of this and avoid speech that draws attention to the negative aspects. You can also be more patient with them and give them a sense of comfort and a non-judgmental attitude that lets them relax and be themselves around you. Doing this is vital as many depressed people hide their mental health conditions. They do not want to be stigmatized for the same.

Nobody wants to continue feeling this way. Despite the stigma of just characterizing mental illnesses as “made up,” you can try to empathize and understand how your friends or loved ones feel. When you act like trying anything is pointless, this discourages future action from your friend suffering from the ailment, blocking the path to recovery. Instead, you should give them hope and try to show them the road to new possibilities.

“Snap out of it.”
“Stop being so sensitive.”
For instance, these statements seem outright disrespectful to people going through depression. Being sensitive begins by learning what not to say to a depressed or mentally ill person. These problems are not merely belief systems or mindsets one can easily change but chronic illnesses which plague people for years.

7. Be Respectful

Please treat them with respect, as fellow peers or human beings. Nobody has the right to shun or dismiss someone for their mental health condition. You can also try to ensure they get what you’re saying to help them better understand where you’re coming from. Being respectful is also essential as conflict is often caused due to miscommunication.

One way to invalidate your friend’s experiences is telling them a late recovery is somehow their fault. Depression is a clinical condition controlled by various factors such as your immune system, diet and exercise patterns, genetics, life events, and upbringing. While remembering what not to say to someone with depression, you can try to avoid things that blame them for the condition.
“You can’t get well if you haven’t already.”
“If your efforts didn’t work, why will the medication?”
Instead, you can try to be more considerate, receptive, and thoughtful while conversing with them if you want to help them recover.


We can summarize the points discussed above as such. What not to say to someone with depression includes anything that:-

-belittles, takes pity on, or displays superiority to them,
-makes assumptions about their condition with an unclear understanding,
-violates their boundaries and disrespects their agency as individuals,
-or gives them false hope and makes promises which you can’t follow through with.  
Talking to someone with depression can seem complicated, but if you’re considerate, genuinely care for them, and are willing to listen, you can easily do it. You can give your friends and loved ones going through depression courage for recovery and hope for the possibilities that await them in the future.

Now that you’ve learned what not to say to a depressed person, you can also take steps to improve your mental health awareness. Here’s a quiz to test the same.

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