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Thread: you can't understand depression unless you've been depressed

  1. #41
    RETIRED Array CzeCze's Avatar
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    Sep 2007


    This reminds me of an article (or actually several) on how to speak with people who are grieving or have had gotten bad news. Don't say "I know how you feel" - sometimes at all - because even if you have gone through something similar (same disease, loss of child, traumatic event) you don't know exactly how *that* person feels.

    I think after a while it becomes splitting hairs (i remember that long serpent's tail of a thread on the difference between 'sympathy' and 'empathy'). For individuals I am more likely to ask them to tell me how they feel and be more of a listening source.

    On a more serious note, I think the desire to have someone know exactly how you feel is sometimes a hindrance in therapy and counseling. Therapists are not meant to have experienced everything you have, they are meant to be screened and licensed to give you tools to deal with your healing process. While direct empathy or shared experience gives additional insight, bonding and understanding - they aren't necessary to correctly diagnosis the issues and how to resolve them - so I hope that doesn't block anyone's ability to trust therapist or accept and really try therapy. The only issue I see is if the therapist is completely clueless to the true nature of the beast, but that's not purely an issue of experience or empathy (for instance Freud didn't know sh*t about women but he lived in old school sexist times where being a misogynist was seen as sign of education :P)

    I've experienced anxiety, OCD behavior (including mantras and all that good stuff), and depression, however never been diagnosed so can't really say whether how what I have experienced is similar to clinical cases or not. However, my own experiences help me imagine and gain a level of understanding to what others may be experiencing that may be totally foreign to people who have never experienced these things. I wouldn't presume to say "i know exactly what you are feeling and therefore will tell you how to fix it" however.
    “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” ― Oscar Wilde

    "I'm outtie 5000" ― Romulux


  2. #42
    eating bugs out of hair. Array prplchknz's Avatar
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    Jun 2007


    I really dont think you can. I don't mean exactly either, I mean you can maybe begin to comprehend how much it sucks. But I dont know what it's like to have my best friend die so I wouldn't understand that, I know it would suck. But for me fully comprehend it I can't.
    by @magpie

  3. #43
    Senior Member Array guesswho's Avatar
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    Jul 2010


    Yes, you are right.

    You can understand depression without experiencing it, but in order to fully "understand" what it means you must experience it.

  4. #44
    Meat Tornado Array DiscoBiscuit's Avatar
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    Apr 2009


    I've been going through a fairly bad bout since I was laid off in May.
    Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    - Edmund Burke

    8w9 sx/so

  5. #45
    He pronks, too! Array Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
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    I think excessive weight is put on subjective experience and it hinders the ability for people to help one another.

    You don't have to have been depressed to have a good enough idea of what depression is like to be understanding and give help. What does it matter if a person doesn't know exactly how it felt to you?
    Go to sleep, iguana.

    INTP. Type 1>6>5. sx/sp.
    Live and let live will just amount to might makes right

  6. #46
    Diabolical Array Kasper's Avatar
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    May 2008
    9w8 so/sx


    There is a major difference between understanding and helping, anyone can learn the skills to help, but someone who hasn't lived through it cannot read a book to gain true understanding, unless experienced first hand it will remain theoretical.

    Someone with mental issues generally won't go to see a psych who has lived that same issue, empathy does not imply being able to help, they go to someone who has learnt the skills to help.

  7. #47


    I think the problem I have with this whole "You can't really understand another person's pain" notion is that it gives me the mental image of many isolated islands of pain that can't reach out to and connect with each other. That seems horrible. I wouldn't walk up to a person in pain and tell them that I understand exactly how they are feeling but I can certainly listen.

  8. #48
    Warflower Array Nijntje's Avatar
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    Jun 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by JocktheMotie View Post
    I agree. I don't understand it. I don't understand how people can lack the will to fix it. I just know that the chemistry in their minds is preventing them from being able to help themselves and for me, it's a terrifying concept. Seems like a prison.
    It is a prison.

    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    You guys realise there is more than one type of depression right? Depression characterised by serotonin dysfunction associated with chronic stress and anxiety (and HPA axis hyper-activity) compared with dopaminergic deficiency, increased serotonin and hypo-activity of the HPA axis. Of course there are other neurotransmitters associated with mood disorders, including the rest of the monoamines, the cholinergics etc, so there are many more possibilities.

    So having a depression diagnosis wouldn't necessarily translate into knowing how others with depression may feel.
    I agree with this so much. I stuggle with bipolar and clinical depression, I can RELATE to prpl, but i dont truly understand as she may have a different kind of depression to me, same as DB, his depression (i'm taking a liberty so correct me if im wrong), seem to be related to a specific thing, rather than a for-no-reason clinical style, so i dont know what he's going through.

    All i know is that some days it's all i can do to get out of bed. I dont want to die, but i dont see the point in living. Why do anything if fundamentally you cant find any reason for it? Why bother when you are simply a hollow shell of who you used to be, and cant even find the point or reason to get that person back?

    Terrible things happen to good people every day.
    Consequentially, I am not one of the good people.
    I am one of the terrible things.

    Conclusion: Dinosaurs

  9. #49


    ^ Sounds like I've been depressed...

  10. #50
    Senior Member Array Synapse's Avatar
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    Dec 2007


    I hear this story a lot.

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