When Family Members and Friends Don’t Understand Depression

Depression is a mental health condition that affects a significant number of people worldwide. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Depression can also cause physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, and changes in appetite. Unfortunately, depression is still misunderstood by many, including family members and friends, making it challenging for those suffering from the condition to receive the support and care they need. In this article, we’ll explore some of the reasons why family and friends may not understand depression and ways to help educate them.

1. Misconceptions About Mental Health

One of the main reasons why family and friends may not understand depression is due to misconceptions about mental health. Many people believe that depression is a choice or a weakness and that individuals can ‘snap out’ of it. This misinformation can cause individuals with depression to feel ashamed or guilty, making it even more challenging to seek help or confide in loved ones.

To address this issue, it’s essential to educate family members and friends about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Helping them understand that depression is a real condition that requires treatment like any other physical illness can help reduce the shame and guilt people may feel. Educating them on anxiety, PTSD, and other conditions that may lead to depression can also help them empathize with the person experiencing symptoms and provide appropriate support.

2. Lack of Understanding of Symptoms

Sometimes, family members and friends may not understand depression because they do not recognize the symptoms. While some people may experience obvious symptoms such as crying or social withdrawal, others may not show any signs at all. Those who are struggling with depression may put on a façade or wear a “mask” to hide what they’re feeling. This can make it challenging for people around them to identify that there is something wrong.

To help family and friends understand the symptoms of depression, it may be helpful to provide them with resources, such as articles, books, or videos, that describe what depression looks like. Encouraging them to look out for changes in mood, behavior, or physical symptoms can also help them identify when someone may be struggling.

3. Limited Knowledge About Treatments

Another way family members and friends may not understand depression is by limited knowledge about the treatments available. Depression is treated with a variety of approaches, including therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these. However, not all treatments may work for everyone, and the treatment journey may be a long one.

It’s essential to educate family members and friends about the range of treatments available for depression and the potential benefits and drawbacks of each one. Encouraging them to attend therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, or support group meetings with the individual experiencing depression can help them understand the complexities of treatment and provide a meaningful level of support.

4. Feeling Overwhelmed or Powerless

It’s also worth acknowledging that family members and friends may not understand depression because they feel overwhelmed or powerless to help. Watching someone they care about struggle can be a traumatic experience, and they may not know how to react or what to say. They may struggle to find ways to support the person or may feel that they do not have the skills or knowledge to do so effectively.

To address these feelings, it’s essential to remind them that showing empathy, listening, and offering words of encouragement can go a long way in making the person feel supported. Also, encouraging them to participate in the individual’s recovery journey can help them become more involved in the process, which may reduce feelings of powerlessness.


Depression is a challenging condition that affects many people, and understanding the challenges that come with a lack of understanding from family and friends can help those who experience depression access the support they need. It’s essential to educate loved ones about the condition, its symptoms, treatments, and approaches to supporting those with depression. Encouraging open communication and developing strategies to manage symptoms can lead to better patient outcomes, improved mental health, and more empathetic relationships.



1. What are some common misconceptions about depression among family members and friends?

Common misconceptions about depression include that it is just a phase and that the person should just snap out of it, that it is a sign of weakness or a lack of willpower, and that it can be cured by just being happy or positive. These misconceptions can sometimes cause family members and friends to minimize the severity of depression or even blame the person for their condition.

2. How can I help a family member or friend who is struggling with depression?

One of the most important things you can do to help a loved one with depression is to educate yourself about the condition so you can better understand what they are going through. You can also encourage them to seek professional help from a therapist or doctor, offer practical support such as helping with household chores or childcare, and simply be there to listen and offer emotional support.

3. What should I do if a family member or friend is resistant to getting help for their depression?

If someone you care about is resistant to seeking help for their depression, it can be frustrating and difficult to know what to do. Try to approach the topic with empathy rather than judgment, and let them know that you care about them and want to support them. You can also offer to help them research treatment options or offer to go with them to their first appointment with a therapist or doctor.


Reference 1:

Brody, R. J. (2018). Depressed and misunderstood: When family and friends don’t understand. Family Circle, 131(10), 79-85.

Reference 2:

Celano, C. M., & Huffman, J. C. (2018). Depression and anxiety in heart failure patients: Pathophysiology and management challenges. Heart Failure Clinics, 14(1), 49-58.

Reference 3:

Klein, B., Cook, S., Crisp, D., McLeod, D., & Hume, C. (2013). Supportive therapy for depression: A systematic review. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47(10), 906-917.