What are the symptoms of depression and what can cause it? 

Depression feels like there is no pleasure or joy in life. It’s so much more than being sad. Depression robs people of things they once loved, and for many people they feel like nothing will bring them joy again.

Concentration and focus becomes much more difficult, which can makes any kind of decision making very challenging. Sometimes people describe this as being in a fog as they are unable to think clearly or follow what is happening around them.

For many with depression it feels like there is no way out. Everything feels hopeless, like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This can lead to feeling of failure, worthlessness, and lead to suicidal thoughts or action.

Depression also has a significant impact on sleep. This often manifests as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, frequent night time awakening, feeling tired upon waking despite getting an adequate number of hours of sleep. This can lead to feeling of exhaustion and low energy which can prevent people from even being able to get out of bed, or perform daily activities like showering, eating and brushing their teeth. 

Sometimes depression can be physically painful. It is not unusual for people with depression to feel body aches, headaches, muscle tension, and even nausea.

There are several conditions that can cause depressive symptoms including hypothyroidism, anemia, and vitamin D deficiency to name a few. This is why it is important to also be evaluated for co-morbid medical causes that may be contributing to be sure the root cause of the symptoms is being treated.

Why does what you say to someone with depression matter? 

People with depression often feel like they are alone, a burden to others, like their depression is a weakness or a character flaw. Depression acts like a filter that screens out all things positive and only focuses on the negative. People amidst a depressive episode are already having a difficult time, and can be very affected by the things people say around them especially if the feedback they are getting is negative.    

What do you consider the most important things not to say to someone with depression and why?

“Snap out of it.” Living with depression is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. So when someone tells you to just “snap out of it” when you’re already trying your best, life can feel even more hopeless.

“It’s all in your head.” This phrase is unempathetic, dismissive and hurtful. People who live with depression may not know why they are depressed which can make them feel even worse. They often feel guilty for not being able to enjoy the things they do have in their lives that are positive.

“It could be worse.” The level of pain a person is experiencing is not a competition. While it is true that others may appear to have it worse than a person struggling with depression, it doesn’t negate the feelings a person living with depression has. What may seem like a small problem to others can feel insurmountable to someone living with depression.

Why is it bad to tell someone with depression to cheer up and what can you do instead that’s positive? 

A common mistaken belief is that depression is a choice. Family, friends, and other close to a person who is depressed can often become frustrated as they don’t see why a person can’t just turn their depression off like a light switch. People with depression are unable to simply turn the symptoms off, or decide one day to stop feeling depressed. Depression is a real mental illness and recovery is a process. And like any of us who have ever recovered from an illness, accident, surgery, etc. we all need help sometimes.

What can you say to someone instead of invalidating their feelings? 

Instead try asking them if they want to talk, remind them that they matter, and if you’re not sure what to do, ask how you can help.

Why is it bad to blame someone for their depression? 

There are many factors that can contribute to a person becoming depressed. Genetics, psychology, brain chemistry, chronic medical conditions, physical pain, environmental circumstances, inadequate nutrition, etc. can have an impact on whether or not someone develops depression. The bottom line is that depression is not a choice, so blaming someone for something they did not ask for and can not control is insensitive. 

Why is it bad to ignore someone with depression? 

People with depression are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts or self-injurious behaviors. Ignoring someone who is struggling is not only unhelpful, but it can also be harmful.

How can telling someone with depression that others have it worse or shaming them have negative consequences? 

Shaming is not helpful, and can actually make things worse. A common misconception is that people with depression are selfish, when in reality it’s quite the opposite. People living with depression care deeply about other people and the impact they have on their lives. They often experience guilt about being depressed, feel like they are a burden, and often blame themselves for not being able to feel better. 

What are ways to support someone with depression/help them get the treatment they need? 

Encourage them to see a doctor if they have not yet, and provide reassurance that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Depression is treatable, but people often feel embarrassed or ashamed of their depression and may be skeptical of whether treatment is possible.

What should you do if someone has expressed harming themselves, others, or is having suicidal thoughts? 

Take those statements seriously and get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255 to assist.

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