8 Things You Should Never Say To Your Depressed Or Anxious Friend
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Health and Wellness

8 Things You Should Never Say To Your Depressed Or Anxious Friend

And things you can say instead.

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8 Things You Should Never Say To Your Depressed Or Anxious Friend

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Generalized Anxiety affects just over 3% of the American population. Major Depressive Disorder, i.e. depression, affects almost 7% of the American population each year. Persistent Depressive Disorder, formerly called dysthymia, is a chronic form of depression that affects about 1.5% of Americans each year.

None of these disorders are mutually exclusive—many people who experience one disorder are likely to experience another at some point in their life. In fact, half of the people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety.

Anxiety disorders also affect about 18% of the American population each year.

You probably know someone, or are someone, who suffers from anxiety and/or depression. I do, too. I suffer from both.

However, throughout my time since being diagnosed over five years ago, I've experienced a lot of people telling me things in moments of despair that are more frustrating than they are helpful. They're just trying to help, we know that and appreciate it, but there are certain things that make us feel worse.

Here are some things to avoid saying to your depressed and anxious friends, and things you can say instead. Keep in mind, everyone will react differently to every scenario, so even some of these alternatives may not be helpful.

When in doubt, ask your loved ones what they need to hear when they're having a down day so you can be better equipped to help them specifically.

"Just let it go!"

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This one is particularly frustrating for me. The way that I operate is that when something happens, I will think about it nonstop until it gets better. I will go over and over in my head what happened, how it should have happened, all the ways I made things worse, etc.

If I could let it go, I would.

What to say instead?

"How can I help you take your mind off things?"

"Be happy!" 

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Similarly with the last one, if I could be happy just by wanting to be, I'd have done so a long time ago.

What to say instead?

"Let's order pizza and watch your favorite show or movie."

(Or eat ice cream and play video games, whatever is applicable for your friend that you know will help their mood improve.)

"You look sad."

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Well, yeah, that tends to happen!

What to say instead?

"Are you okay?"

"You have nothing to be sad about."

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Many people with depression do not have situational depression. Their depression isn't onset by particularly bad events in their life, it is, quite literally, a chemical imbalance in their brain.

What to say instead?

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"You just want attention!"

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If this is your immediate reaction to someone you care about having a depressed day or an anxious moment, reconsider how you evaluate that level of care.

Maybe don't say anything. If you think that mental illness is a cry for attention, your loved ones affected by it may not want you to help them in those scenarios.

What to say instead?

Nothing. Don't say anything. Hug them or say something a little less rude.

"I feel that."

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If you understand how someone else feels, do not simply say that. It's so simple and almost insincere.

What to say instead?

Share your experience or story of feeling like that. How you got out of that feeling, what helped you. Be there for them the way that someone was there for you, or how you wish someone was there for you.

"It will be OK!"

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Many depressed people know that it will eventually be OK!

Some don't think that it will, though, and they cannot see that point in the future when they don't feel like they want to die.

Regardless, saying that it will all be OK to anyone who is feeling particularly anxious or depressed simply is not helpful, because in that moment, it does not feel OK, and that's all they can think about.

What to say instead?

Help them think about happy things that will happen in the future, like the holiday that is coming up or their birthday, or make a plan to do something fun next week. Give them something good to think about in the future to help them stop focusing on the current moment that is crappy.

"Have you tried meditation/exercise/drinking water/thinking positive thoughts?"

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Oh my gosh, asking someone if they've tried some form of holistic or health choice when they're suffering from anxiety or depression is so frustrating.

While meditation, exercise, drinking water, being more positive, etc. can all be great things to better your levels of endorphins and overall mindset, they are not quick fixes, and they do not work for everyone. Not all antidepressants work for everyone, and not all non-medication practices will work for everyone.

If that worked for you, you can say that, but do not expect that to work for someone else just because it worked for you.

What to say instead?

Refer to the earlier items on this list!

All right, I know that was a lot of information and talking, and as I mentioned before — there is no one way to approach every single person who has depression or anxiety.

Everyone is wired differently and everyone reacts differently.

Be conscious of how you speak to your depressed and anxious friends, and be open with them about how much you want to help, even if you don't know exactly how. They will appreciate that you are willing to help and will do their best to prepare you.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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