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7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

These words can just make it worse
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"Depressed? Get over it, sister!"

If you had a friend who was suffering from depression, you most likely would not tell her to snap out of it. Yet so many of the well-meaning things we do say ring just as cruel in the ears of the one in ten Americans who have reported suffering from depression.

Today's Christian Woman asked those who've endured depression to let us know which "well-meaning" comments were the hardest to hear. We share them with you so that you'll be better equipped to care for those who suffer.

1. "Your sin has caused your suffering."

If "sin" includes all that misses the mark of God's gracious intentions for humanity, then yes, sin—in its most sweeping expression—is at the root of all manner of diseases and afflictions. This trite aphorism, however, more often serves to dismiss the biochemical reality of depression.

To someone who's hurting, this admonition sounds like telling a person who lives with paralysis of the legs to 'run faster.'
  • "Maybe you need to ask Jesus what sin has you captive." This is no doubt offered in the hopes of seeing someone who is hurting experience relief. Yet it also carries shame by suggesting that the sufferer is responsible for her emotional anguish.
  • "You aren't really trusting the Lord enough." To someone who's hurting, this admonition sounds like telling a person who lives with paralysis of the legs to "run faster." Most likely, the Christian person enduring depression is already trusting God as much as she is able.
  • "If you have enough faith, you will feel better." Spiritualizing depression—denying its biochemical component—is a subtle form of spiritual abuse. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The person without emotional resources—sometimes due to a chemical imbalance—isn't able to generate either "faith" or "good feelings."

2. "You should be thankful."

Insisting that a person who suffers should be thankful might make the speaker feel a bit better, but it offers nothing to the person on the receiving end of the insensitive remark.

  • "There are people with much bigger problems than yours." There are . . . and there aren't. Yes, others do suffer horrific atrocities. However, this curt dismissal minimizing the experience of those who are hurting communicates to someone that her pain doesn't matter to you.

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Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck is a TCW regular contributor. Follow her on Twitter @MargotStarbuck.

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From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2014, May Week 2
Posted May 14, 2014

also in this issue

May Week 2
How Can You Manage Depression?

How Can You Manage Depression?

Try "catching" your thoughts
Not What I Expected

Not What I Expected

Along with my baby came another new arrival: postpartum depression.
Kay Warren on Depression, Grief, and Hope

Kay Warren on Depression, Grief, and Hope

Choosing joy "even if my worst nightmare came true"
Confronting the "D" Word

Confronting the "D" Word

How to find help and hope in the midst of depression

ratings & comments

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Displaying 1–3 of 9 comments

Dave Bruce

May 21, 2014  11:14am

Ladies: After going thru a few decades of the peaks & valleys of depression listed here; and hearing at least 50% of these comments; I can't help but offer a firm AMEN! Great Job! Always Pray! A *MUST* for all those in this sad state & those who care for them. Thank You Very Much! Dave

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May 19, 2014  11:33am

Excellent article! Sometimes we expect others to "get over it" in whatever amount of time we personally deem "appropriate" and when it takes longer than our arbitrary magic number we lose patience. (I know when I get the flu it knocks me out for a week. My husband bounces back after just 1 day and cannot understand why it takes me so long to recover, as if I enjoy being ill!) Likewise depressed people do not want or choose to be depressed. (Depression runs in my family in various forms.) I like the advice from Laura from Pasadena (see comments) - try it and see how you like it!

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May 17, 2014  11:17pm

this is the one that i'm dealing with your stuck in your pity party and you want others to feel sorry for you. not the case at all but i am tired of being condemned because i struggle with this. i didn't choose this issue and i'm sick of my faith being scruntinized and attacked by those who are supposed to be praying for me.

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