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Mostly we are afraid that we will say the wrong thing and cause the person we are trying to comfort further distress; thus, we opt to err on the side of caution and say nothing at all. This does not have to be the case.
Many of us find it difficult to talk to someone who we know is suffering from depression. Why? Mostly we are afraid that we will say the wrong thing and cause the person we are trying to comfort further distress; thus, we opt to err on the side of caution and say nothing at all. This does not have to be the case. The following are some tips on how to talk to someone who is depressed.
Understand That Depression Does Not Always Have an Obvious Cause
Many of us mistakenly believe that there must be an obvious reason for someone to feel depressed. This is not always the case. There may be numerous small events culminating in an episode of situational depression. Everyone has their limits, and what you may be able to withstand may not be the same for others. People with clinical depression resulting from a chemical imbalance may not be able to verbalize why they feel depressed if their depression is due to an abnormality in brain chemistry. Some people may not feel comfortable disclosing why they feel depressed, or may be unable to articulate their feelings. Severely depressed people may find it hard enough to simply attend to simple activities (if they are able) and may be incapable of discussing with others their thoughts and feelings.
Stating that you know how a depressed person feels is unnecessary and may make the depressed person feel as though you are patronizing them or downplaying their feelings. The bottom line is you donâ€™t know how they feel, and you should be careful not to pretend that you do. Depression is a unique experience and no one can truly understand how another is feeling. What you can say is that you are there for that person whenever they need to talk. Offer a nonjudgmental ear and a shoulder to cry on, but donâ€™t pretend to understand if you truly donâ€™t.
Downplaying the seriousness of someoneâ€™s feelings is just as harmful. Donâ€™t offer platitudes such as â€œThings will be better tomorrowâ€ or â€œLook on the bright side of thingsâ€. People suffering from depression have difficulty believing that things will improve, and it may take some time, counseling or medication before their depression begins to lift. Minimizing their feelings wonâ€™t make them feel better; in fact, they may feel angry and may turn away from you.
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