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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What kind of words are used and which are avoided when talking to someone who's clinically depressed?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25505 points ) October 6th, 2012

I’m wondering about the language that professionals use and those with a lot of experience when talking to someone diagnosed with depression.

Do the words change, or is it just the tone of voice?

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11 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

When I was seeing a psychiatrist, he called my behavior “droopy,” However, I was also comfortable with being called “situationally depressed.” He confirmed the fact that anyone in my situation would have been depressed.

Fine-tuning the vocabulary was not an issue for me.

Sunny2's avatar

Avoid:
Snap out of it!
Think happy thoughts.
You’ll feel better tomorrow.
Let’s party!
Try:
Do you want to talk?
Want to take a walk?
Want to go to the movies?
Let’s listen to some music.

wundayatta's avatar

I remember being told it wasn’t my fault, which helped, even thought I knew it was my fault. I also remember being told I shouldn’t make any major decisions for three months while I was depressed. Major decisions included divorcing my wife, quitting my job, and killing myself. Not necessarily in that order.

This was a very important thing for me to hear. I knew I was ready to make a disaster even worse, and I didn’t care if I did. in fact, I wanted it to be worse. I had a gutter all picked out and I wanted to die in that gutter. Imagine that! Even when I wanted to die, I still had to have the most elegant gutter I knew of. The most gutterish gutter. With granite curbs and cobblestones and right outside a fish store in one of the busiest cities on the planet.

I found that my wife didn’t know what to say. I could get angry with her over anything at all.

The only people who knew what to say were people who were also depressed, or had been depressed, and they just spoke the truth about what they experienced. They didn’t try to pretend or act for other people, the way most people do in society. They knew there was no energy for pretense when you’re depressed.

augustlan's avatar

In my own battles with depression, specific words mattered less than the intent behind them. When talking to a friend who is depressed, I try to speak softly and carry a medium-sized stick. Be supportive, encourage them to get help. If I know the person very well, sometimes it’s helpful to us a little bit of tough love. Sometimes you need a reality check to really see what a bad state you’re in, in order to realize that you really do need to seek help.

flutherother's avatar

I would imagine that communication would be a difficult thing. If you haven’t been clinically depressed you can’t really understand what it is like and no words you choose can make it seem otherwise. You can be tactful but communication requires more than tact.

I’m just guessing but I think tone of voice would be vital. Bright and breezy would show a lack of empathy and would not help communication. Slow and sincere and simple might work. I have never been clinically depressed and so I don’t really know.

janbb's avatar

I hate being told “You’re strong; you’ll get through this.”

wundayatta's avatar

I wanted to be told I was loved. And shown it, too. It was very difficult for me to believe. It’s really hard for people to tell me they love me in the face of the powerful skepticism I have about myself when I am depressed. In fact, I think it became a challenge to deny love, even though it was what I wanted most. It’s a kind of reverse logic that I imagine it is hard for anyone who hasn’t been depressed to make sense of.

But the advice I give for people who care about someone who is depressed is to tell them you love them over and over, no matter how they may deny it. When I say “tell”, I don’t mean words only. I also mean in actions. Demonstrate you are there for the person no matter how they push you away. Understand that when they push you away, it is a symptom of the disorder. They wouldn’t mean it if they were healthy. I know this is hard to do, but if you really want to help, this has the greatest chance of helping. Not guaranteed, though. No guarantees in this disorder.

Nickky's avatar

All you need is a kick up the backside!
My ex used this regularly. If only it was that simple.
I know how you feel or I was depressed last week is a other thing I hate. Depression doesn’t only last a week

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

There are, as others have indicated many ignorant, ill informed things people can tell those who are clinically depressed. On the other hand dancing around relevant issues and words related to depressing is misguided. So long as the speaker has a valid understanding of the disorder and genuinely wants to be supportive and helpful to the person experiencing depression.

Professionals know to focus on common features of depression and to provide their clients with strategies for dealing with them, including effective behaviours and thought processes to overcome feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and irrational beliefs that support maladaptive functioning and attitudes. This is much more that just having the right tone of voice!

yankeetooter's avatar

I’ve been through depression a couple of times in my life, some worse than others. One particularly bad time (about ten years ago or so), I went to see a therapist, although I never felt like it helped much. What I do remember is that I told some of my family members about what I was going through…and I suddenly became the invisible person. They didn’t seem to know how to react, what to say, etc…so that I ended up feeling very alone and isolated.

Then, last winter, I was going through a very low point in my life…worse than the time ten years ago. And I remember that I felt like I had nobody I could talk to about everything, because, based on my family’s reaction to the earlier incident, they did not want to know what was happening. I remember being at my mom’s on Christmas day, putting on a “happy face” because it was expected of me…and inwardly not caring if I went on living or not. It was the worst time in my life.

And how much I wanted someone to tell me they loved me…or show they cared about me…

wundayatta's avatar

@yankeetooter I know that feeling so well. So much so that it makes me want to say I love you even though I hardly know you at all and you aren’t even in need of it at the moment. It’s a horrible place to be in. No one should ever be there. And I always feel great sympathy for people who are in that place.

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