How To Talk To Depressive Patients

How To Talk To Depressive Patients

December 21, 2019

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Sujatha Kumar

Sports Dieticians consultant

Most people are aware that depression and a feeling of sadness are not the same. We feel sad, as a reaction to a situation that causes us pain or grief. On the other hand, depression is a state of mind and can exist even when a person appears to have everything that others would think as desirable.

Every so often when a person says they are feeling depressed they get a response that only makes them feel worse or misunderstood.

So, what is it that we should not be saying to them?

1) Maybe you are just feeling sorry for yourself.

When you say something like this you tend to diminish the person’s feelings as if to say they are to blame and there is no real problem.

2) Snap out of it, I’m sure you can.

This may sound encouraging but it’s not. You know you can’t tell a person suffering from diabetes that they can make their pancreas produce more insulin. Similarly, people who feel depressed can’t force their brain to produce serotonin which helps create the feeling of happiness.

3) You have such a good life, I can’t understand why you are depressed!

What someone’s life looks like on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect how they feel on the inside. Depression is a very personal experience and no one can know what it feels like to be in their shoes.

4) Smile and stay positive, things will be ok.

This is another statement that sounds encouraging, but to a person who is depressed, it’s very frustrating to hear this. They find it difficult to stay cheerful although they want to, so staying positive seems like a huge task.

5) It’s all in your head, stop overthinking!

This statement makes them feel so guilty that they begin to wonder if they are overthinking when in fact they are not.

It is the caregivers who have to be very careful because sometimes the following statements can make their way into conversations:

  • “Why are you trying to draw attention to yourself all the time?”
  • “You don’t think of anyone else but yourself”.
  • “Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else?”
  • “You are a strong person, I’m sure you will come through.

When these sentences appear the caregiver is likely experiencing burnout.

People who care for those suffering from depression need to look after their emotional health if they want to help their loved ones. Talk to a professional about your fears and frustrations.

It is important to remember that when a person suffering from depression tries to talk to you, they are placing their trust in you and hoping that you will listen and empathize and not try to advise or disregard their feelings.

~ Sujatha Kumar (Clinical Psychologist, Mind Your Fitness)

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