Living with major depressive disorder, or MDD, is much more than just having an “off day.” As our Help with Depression community knows, you can’t just wake up on the right side of the bed tomorrow and feel instantly better.
Here’s a sample of things that you shouldn’t say to someone living with MDD, and some suggestions on what you should try saying instead.
Depression isn’t something to take lightly, particularly MDD. Also known as clinical depression, MDD is a medical condition that affects approximately 7 percent of American adults each year.
Treatment often relies on a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments. Creating — and sticking to — a treatment plan can make all the difference in terms of healing.
If you’re concerned your friend isn’t getting the treatment they need, offer to call a new physician, psychologist, or therapist for them. Ask the healthcare provider if you can join your friend during their next appointment. It may help your friend feel more supported and jumpstart their recovery process.
Telling your friend with MDD to just “cheer up” isn’t going to help them feel better — in fact, it may have the opposite effect. If they could magically turn on a “feel good” switch, they probably would.
People with MDD often feel lonesome. They’re also more likely to be irritable and have a lack of energy. Just sitting and talking with your friend can be encouraging, and by taking the time to go and visit them, you’ll take the pressure off of them having to get ready to go and see you.
A common misconception about people with depression is that they want others to feel bad for them and pity them. Someone with MDD isn’t seeking attention. They’re in pain and are likely looking to feel better.
Not only does complimenting your friend show that you’re paying attention to them, but it also shows that you’re looking out for their best interests. You’re a loyal friend and are displaying your kindness and compassion, too.
Those with MDD often lose interest in activities that they once loved doing. Maybe your friend was an avid reader, but can’t stand to go to the public library or visit the local bookstore these days. Or maybe your friend loved to cook, but you find that their fridge is mostly filled with takeout containers today.
Suggesting an activity for both of you to do together can take some of the pressure off of them planning something. Even if they say “no,” chances are they appreciate the thought and will hopefully say “yes” to another one of your ideas in the near future.
Everyone with MDD has different symptoms. Even if you were diagnosed with the condition too, you would never understand how your friend feels. And although you can’t offer medical advice or suggest a new medication or treatment plan, you can ask how to help them.
If your friend says there’s nothing you can do, don’t take that literally. Simple things like getting their mail, going with them to buy groceries, or even taking out their trash can mean the world to someone with MDD.
While your friend may not be sneezing, coughing, or have any noticeable physical symptoms, that doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain. MDD is categorized as a mental condition, and whether you can see it or not, it can have a physical affect. Don’t assume your friend is doing OK because they look OK at first glance.
As you do more research and learn about depression, you’ll discover that there’s no one “look” to a mental illness. It’s different for everyone, and one of the most important things you can do for your friend is recognize that they’re more than their MDD.
If you knew your friend before their MDD diagnosis, chances are your friendship is built on something stronger than their day-to-day outlook. Perhaps you shared common interests, or maybe you met through a mutual friend. Whatever the situation, your friend needs you now more than ever. They may not ask for it, but reaching out and just letting them know that you’ve got their back shows how much you truly care.