Talking about depression with our friends can be difficult. Though we know they have our best interests in heart, their knowledge and understanding about depression might be limited. They also may have questions they want to ask us which – when we’re in the thick of our illness – we might not feel equipped to answer.
Feeling prepared can make us feel more confident, so in this blog we share some questions friends may ask us about depression – and answers we might want to offer. We hope these are helpful.
QUESTIONS ABOUT DEPRESSION
If they don’t know much about depression, our friends may want to know more about the condition itself. While our friends will most likely be sensitive, there is a chance that their questions may feel a bit tactless or hurtful. If this happens, remember it’s the myths and misconceptions that exist about depression that are to blame: it’s not necessarily a reflection of your friend’s opinion of you.
What causes Depression?
There are lots of different things that could cause someone to develop depression – it could be due to environmental factors, biological factors, or a mixture of a few different things. More often than not, we won’t be able to pin our depression down to one single cause.
Are you just sad all the time?
Depression can cause us to feel sad, but sadness isn’t the only symptom and not everyone who has depression does feel sad. Depression can cause us to feel numbness, nothingness, or anger. We can also experience happiness at times – we aren’t necessarily sad or depressed all day every day.
Your life is lovely, how can you be depressed?
Depression doesn’t discriminate according to who we are, where we come from, or how much money we have. Having a ‘lovely’ life doesn’t mean that we can’t experience depression.
Have you just had a bad day?
Just like people who don’t have depression, we may well have bad days. We can also have good days! However, our depression isn’t a series of bad days, it’s a real illness. It affects over 300 million people worldwide, and at its worst it takes lives.
QUESTIONS ABOUT SYMPTOMS
If your friends will want to know more about the symptoms and signs of depression, especially if they’ve noticed changes in you.
How did you know you had depression? What were the signs? How do you know you’re not just sad?
Often our friends might ask this to try and understand our illness and our experience a little more. Share as much as you feel comfortable to here – you are under no obligation to tell them anything, but opening up can be really beneficial for both of you.
It’s also worth noting that friends who ask this question might be wondering about their own mental health or that of a loved one. Depression is a very common condition, but one that people often feel obliged to keep to themselves. Your honesty may give them licence to be honest too.
In either case there are a number of signs which could indicate that someone is living with depression – but it is worth noting that these vary from person to person. If someone thinks they might be depressed a GP appointment is a good first port of call.
Why are you worrying so much?
Depression can cause us to worry more. We can’t always help or control our anxieties, but if we’re feeling up to it, we could ask our friends to help us work through the things we’re worrying about. It might help them to understand where we’re coming from, and could help us to put those particular worries to bed.
What’s with your sleep?
When we have depression, our sleep can be affected. It can cause us to sleep too much or not enough. Insomnia isn’t always due to over-thinking , and tiredness certainly isn’t a sign of laziness. If sleep issues are becoming a real problem, it’s something we could speak to our GP about.
QUESTIONS ABOUT TREATMENT
Our friends want the best for us so naturally want us to get better as soon as possible. However, unlike some other illnesses it’s difficult to predict when we will recover from a particular bout of depression or which treatment might help.
You take medication for it, why aren’t you better?
Anti-depressants, or other medications, can take a while to work – and some of us have to try a few different types before we find one that helps us. While medications can be a real help in our recovery, they’re not a magic fix.
How long do you need to take medication for?
Unlike some medications, anti-depressants can take a number of weeks to have any effect, we might need to increase the dose, too, which can take a few more weeks. Different people will have to take medication for different lengths of time. Guidelines suggest that people continue to take their anti-depressants for at least 6 months, or up to two years for people who have a previous history of depression. People with recurrent depression may need to be on medication for longer than that, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of; medication is just a tool we use to help us with our depression.
Have you thought about [something that might help depression]?
Often when our friends are asking us if we’ve tried something, it’s because they really care and want to help. Occasionally it might come across as patronising, or as if they’re telling us we’ve not tried hard enough – but that’s not normally the case. Our friends just might not be completely sure how to react, and you never know, they might suggest something we haven’t tried which could really help!
Does anyone else know how you’re feeling? What help do you have?
Sometimes we might have a few people helping us, sometimes our friend might be the first person we’ve ever spoken to about how we’re feeling. Our friends might be asking this because they want to make sure that we’re okay and that we’re getting the help we deserve. Our GP can be a great place to start if we are worried that we are experiencing symptoms of depression, and they can be hugely supportive when it comes to our recovery. However low we’re feeling, help is out there.
Questions about our friendship
As well as caring about you, your friends care about your friendship – and how depression might affect it. If a friend talks about themselves when you open up, they’re not necessarily being selfish – they may need reassurance that your friendship doesn’t make them unhappy, and that they’re being the best friend that they can be.
Why are you sad when you’re with me? Don’t I make you happy?
Depression doesn’t really care what we’re doing or who we’re with. As much as being around people might be helpful, it can be overwhelming at times. Friends can be wonderful and being around them can be lovely, but it won’t necessarily make our depression disappear.
I’m sorry that I can’t understand – can you help me understand?
Our friends may never have experienced depression before – and might not know anyone else who’s experienced it either. If we feel able to, we could try to explain things a little bit to them, or point them in the direction of online resoucres that explain depression. Our Understanding Depression page is a good place to start.
Can I help?
This can be a really tricky question to answer. Often our friends might really want to help, but not be sure how best to help us. If you can think of something that could help, don’t be afraid to ask for it; but equally it’s OK if you’re not sure of anything that could help at that moment in time.
If a friend is very keen to help you, you might want to point them to online resources about supporting people with depression. You may also want to remind them that they are already being a massive help – just by listening and by being there for you.
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