What Our Depressed Patients Wish You’d Stop Saying to Them
When someone opens up to you and reveals that they’re suffering from depression, what do you say? It can be hard to find the right words. Unfortunately, many of us end up saying the wrong thing and making our loved one feel even worse. At Amen Clinics, we asked our depressed patients what they wish people would stop saying to them.
Here are the Top 5 Responses They Never Want to Hear Again
“But you don’t look sad.”
Jerry, one of our patients with depression, felt angry, irritable, and had trouble concentrating—all common symptoms of depression. But when Jerry finally got up the courage to open up about what he was feeling, his friends were dismissive. They told him he couldn’t have depression because he didn’t look sad all the time. They thought they were being supportive, but in effect, they shut him down. Because of this, it took Jerry another several years before he finally came to see us for help.
A better response: “I didn’t know those things were symptoms of depression, but if you’re feeling this way, you may want to talk to a professional.”
“Oh, just snap out of it.”
Jocelyne used to wake up every morning with a feeling of dread. It took a monumental effort just to get out of bed. And then she was strapped with a sense of emptiness that weighed her down throughout the rest of the day. When she told her husband one night about how she’d been feeling and said she was going to seek treatment. Instead of being supportive, he told her to just snap out of it. Saying this to someone with depression is like telling someone with a broken ankle to just walk on it and the pain will go away. It won’t. And just like someone with a fracture or other physical ailment, people with depression didn’t choose to feel bad, and they can’t simply will it away. Jocelyne told us that when her husband told her to snap out of it, it made her wonder if the mental illness was her fault, which can cause an even more serious downward spiral.
A better response: “That sounds like it must be very painful. I’m here for you if you want to talk about it.”
“It’s just a phase. It’ll pass.”
When Brandi came to one of our clinics, she said she had been feeling moody and unhappy ever since she started college. When she would talk to her mom about how she felt, her mom would tell her it was just a phase related to being away from home for the first time and that once she got settled, she would get over it. So, Brandi kept waiting—and waiting and waiting—for the emptiness and fatigue to go away and the loss of interest in the things she used to enjoy to return. But it didn’t happen. It was years before she got tired of waiting and decided to do something about it.
A better response: “How long have you been feeling this way? It could be just a phase, but if your feelings don’t change soon then it’s a good idea to look into it.”
“Why are you depressed? Is it because…?”
Our patient Padhma told us that when she revealed to the women in her book group that she was depressed, they swooped in with pointed questions. Is it because your boyfriend broke up with you? Is it because you didn’t get that promotion? Is it because your BFF moved away? The women wanted to help by finding a specific reason that had triggered the negativity that had descended on Padhma. But as we explained to Padhma, depression isn’t necessarily related to a singular event or cause. And the idea that you can overcome depression by fixing that problem—getting a new boyfriend, a new job, or a new friend, for example—is flawed thinking. Depression is a brain-based issue with biological roots. Unless you heal the dysfunction in the brain and body, none of those external things can restore your happiness. That’s why people who seem to have everything going for them can be mired in the darkness of depression.
A better response: “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. What can I do to support you?”
“Have you tried…?”
Jonathan came to one of our clinics after years of trying to heal himself of his depression. Whenever he would talk to someone about his mental health condition, they would inevitably ask him if he had tried some medication, therapy, or other treatment that had worked for someone they knew. And they would tell him he should try it too. But most of these things didn’t work for him. That’s because giving everyone with depression the same treatment will never work. Our brain imaging work at Amen Clinics has helped us identify 7 different types of depression, and each type needs a different treatment. You need to know your brain type to get the right plan.
A better response: “I’ve known a few people with depression, and they each responded to different treatments. You may want to find out about your own brain to get a personalized treatment that would be most helpful for your type of depression.”
At Amen Clinics, we take a unique brain-body approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes brain SPECT imaging, as well as laboratory testing to check physical health, and other important factors that could be contributing to symptoms of depression. By getting to the root cause of your symptoms, we can create a more effective, personalized treatment plan for you.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and improved their quality of life at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.