8 Things Not To Say To a Depressed Person

Most people don’t know what not to say to someone with depression.

There is a certain lack of information surrounding the subject of depression, resulting in people reacting to the condition in different ways.

Some ignore the depressed person, choosing to continue with their daily lives instead.

Many other people, however, choose a more direct approach, actively getting involved with the depression sufferer.
Some of these comments are given out of a genuine desire to provide help and support, others are more snarky and less tolerant.

Either way, a misplaced comment, regardless of intention, can be very damaging to the person who hears it.

As such, I have compiled a list of 8 things you should avoid saying to a depressed person.
These phrases are common and can do a lot more harm than good.

1) “We are all depressed/upset sometimes”

This is a very common phrase that comes from people who do not understand what depression actually is.

To put it simply, depression is not an emotion, such as sadness or grief, but rather a disorder, a medical condition.

The two differentiate from one another in many ways:

  • Emotions last for short periods at a time. Depression, on the other hand, can last for years.
  • Depression can alter your eating and sleeping habits, creating problems that were never originally there
  • Emotions can be changed easily (A sad person can become happy within minutes), depression cannot
  • Your emotions do not make you lose interest in things that you care about, depression makes you apathetic
  • Emotion is reasonable, meaning that you feel certain things due to certain reasons. Depression is unreasonable, commonly occuring without a good reason

Ultimately, emotions such as sadness and grief are a normal, everyday, part of life.
Depression, on the other hand, is a highly unhealthy condition that can easily destroy a person from the inside.

Depression is not a feeling, but a medical condition that only a certain percentage of the population experience.

2) “It’s always about you, isn’t it?”

This phrase is often uttered due to frustration or perhaps even in an attempt to manipulate the depressed person.

From a certain point of view, this kind of frustration is understandable.
Imagine, for example, that you are at work and one of your coworkers doesn’t do their job, leaving it to fall on you.

The reason doesn’t necessarily matter, it is downright frustrating when something like this happens.
As such, a natural reaction would be to fault them for acting the way that they do.

For example, they would say the same thing if they noticed one of their coworkers painting their fingernails.

The difference here is that calling a depressed person out will absolutely now help you, or them, in any way.
The truth is that many people who suffer from depression experience low self-esteem and great feelings of guilt, both of which are symptoms of major depression.

By calling them out on being selfish you are only making them feel worse, actually worsening their condition.

They hear comments such as these all the time in their heads, there is no need for you to validate them.

3) “Nobody cares”

I myself was on the receiving end of this little gem of a comment, from my psychiatrist no less.

You see, a few years ago I served in the military, and when my condition got worse and I opted to get professional help this was the answer that I got.

Needless to say, it didn’t help me one bit.

Seriously, what do the people who say that “nobody cares” hope to accomplish, anyway?
Besides, they cared enough to make this comment, didn’t they?

It is true that the vast majority of people that you know don’t actually care about your well being all that much.
That, however, doesn’t really mean anything.

I am willing to bet that there is at least one person in your life who cares about you.
Be they a family member, a friend, or the neighbor next door.

To say that nobody cares is an outright lie, aside from being terribly hurtful.
It is something that you should not, under any circumstance, say to someone who suffers from depression.

Being supportive

4) “Snap out of it already!”

This comment has many different motives to it.
Friends might say it due to frustration, worry, and helplessness – they hate seeing you feel that way yet they don’t know what they can do to help you.

In this case, it speaks of desperation.

In other cases, when the person who says this is not a friend, it speaks of annoyance.
They are tired of seeing you act the way that you do, and are basically calling you out in an attempt to make you get ahold of yourself.

Regardless of intention, however, saying this will not improve the situation at all.

As I have said before, depression is a mental condition.
It takes time and effort to overcome it, not something that a few words can solve.

5) “Your problems aren’t even that bad”

This comment is typically given out in an attempt to rationalize the condition.
After all, most of us who live in western society are relatively privileged.

The global poverty threshold is 1.90$ a day, something that a teen in a western country can make in less than an hour.
Most of us have clean running water, electricity and many other utilities that are downright unheard of in certain countries around the world.

Most of the people in these countries do not suffer from depression, and thus, neither should you.

The thing is, you can’t really rationalize depression.
In fact, some experts would argue that most cases of depression don’t have a particular cause to them.
Ranging from genetics to certain chemical imbalances in the brain, there are many causes for depression, to the point where even experts are not entirely sure as to what they are exactly.

6) “Can you stop feeling sorry for yourself?”

This one is similar to “snap out of it” and “we are all depressed”, yet fundamentally different.

We, as people, tend to prefer ourselves over others – it’s in our nature to be selfish.
However, when a depressed person is “whining” about their depression they want other people to listen, to try and understand them, even if they don’t know it themselves – it’s human nature.

Yet when you are telling a depressed person to stop doing that, you are essentially denying their problems (much like saying that “nobody cares”) as well as denying their cry for help.

By forcing a person to keep quiet and hide their own condition, you are actively blocking them from getting help.
After all, aside from the benefits of them expressing themselves, someone just might hear their cry for help and actually try and help them.

You are better off listening to these problems, or simply walking away if you don’t care enough to listen, but telling someone who suffers from depression to just stop whining is one of the dumbest things that you could say to them.

So don’t.

7) “Be grateful for what you have”

To tell someone to be grateful for what they have to is to ask them to see what’s in front of them.

It is yet another form of trying to reason with depression, yet it is undeniably different.
After all, you are telling the person that, regardless of whatever it is they are experiencing right now, it still could be worse.

The message itself is honest, and it provokes them to reconsider their position, but you are forgetting one important thing.
One of the symptoms of depression is pessimism and overall hopelessness.
They already know that the situation could be worse, they have already assumed the worst and it is one of the reasons that they are feeling the way that they do.

And besides, this kind of advice is a bit empty, isn’t it?
It is important to see the best in every situation, sure, but if you met someone who recently broke their arm you wouldn’t tell them to be glad that they didn’t break their leg as well, right?

Although the depression sufferer probably already imagined it happening anyway.

Supportive couple

8) “Life isn’t easy”

The problem with this answer is just how dismissive it actually is.

While it is true that very few people live easy lives, it is also true that different people experience different things in different ways.

Besides, for a depressed person, life doesn’t have to be as hard as it is

The disorder dominates any and all aspects of your life.
Those who suffer from it are not able to sleep properly, experience eating disorders, unable to focus and tend to overreact to relatively minor issues.

In other words, a task that would take you an hour to complete might take them an entire day of work.

Not because they are any less capable than you are under normal circumstances, but rather because their condition makes everything that they go through so much harder.

In essence, they play life on “hard mode”, regardless of what it is that they are doing.

Only they can help themselves

You can help someone with depression by saying the right things, sure, but even more important than that is your ability to act as a shoulder for them to lean on.

Someone who can provide them support whenever they need it.

That being said, as long as they don’t choose to help themselves you will not be able to help them either.
To overcome depression a person needs to be willing to put in both time and effort to achieve their goals.

Until then your efforts to help them might as well be wasted.

When they do start trying to help themselves I highly recommend sharing the Destroy Depression Program with them.
In it are specific and actionable guides on how to overcome depression.
If you are serious about helping them, and if they are serious about helping themselves, they should definitely try it out.

Getting results might take a while, a month or two, but they will be well worth the effort.

If you have any questions you would like to ask me then feel free to send me an email or write a comment in the comment section below.
I will do my best to get back to you!

Email: [email protected]

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8 thoughts on “8 Things Not To Say To a Depressed Person”

  1. Hi Vlad,
    I hear you on all 8 of the lines of what not to say to a depressed person. I totally agree too. I have to admit, although I try not to say anything at all rather than “open mouth and insert foot” so to say… I’m sure I have been guilty in the past of saying at least one of the lines. I’m glad you brought it to my attention though to make me think a little more next time to just shut up. I know when I’m depressed, I wouldn’t want any of those lines said to me either. Great site! Best of luck to you!

    1. Hello Gina.

      Many people are guilty of saying such things, depression isn’t something most people can “logically” comprehend, so they just relate it to their bouts of sadness.

      Cheers, Vlad!

  2. I think this is a really well written and important article. Depression is often overlooked and mental illness, in general seems to have a stigma that you did something wrong. Often that’s not the case and there is a HUGE difference between “feeling depressed” and being depressed (mental illness). I like that you stated that. Thank you for sharing your story and spreading the message. I have one suggestion if you don’t mind, that maybe you should write a post on things that you “should” say or maybe how to approach someone with depression or you think may suffer from depression.

    1. Hello Katie, how’s it going?

      You hit the nail on the head with this one!
      People don’t really get what depression is, and tend to underestimate it, mixing it up with something else by their own definitions.

      This is actually on my to-do list, I’ll get down to it very soon!

      Cheers, Vlad!

  3. Hello, Vlad!
    I understand the message of your post because I can relate.
    Thank you for this, Its very informative and useful!
    I have been depressed and felt bad when people gave me those answers. And I have been guilty of saying them myself. But now, when there´s an opportunity.
    I will have this in mind.

    Wish you the best Vlad!


    1. I wouldn’t assume that most people who say insensitive things are haters.
      Misinformed maybe, but I don’t think that there’s malicious intent.

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