Why Some Depressed People Hate Being Told to ‘Cheer Up’

Why many find it so hard to support people who are depressed.

Why many find it so hard to support people who are depressed.

Some people, when they feel depressed prefer ‘negative validation’, a new study finds.

Negative validation is letting people know that the feelings they have are normal and reasonable in the situation.

Those who have low self-esteem prefer this type of comforting, as opposed to someone trying to cheer them up.

Professor Denise Marigold, who led the study, said:

“People with low self-esteem want their loved ones to see them as they see themselves.

As such, they are often resistant to their friends’ reminders of how positively they see them and reject what we call positive reframing-expressions of optimism and encouragement for bettering their situation.”

It’s a natural reaction to try and help ‘reframe’ the situation for someone who is feeling depressed.

We want to remind them about all the positive aspects of their lives and their situation.

However, as Professor Denise Marigold says:

“If your attempt to point out the silver lining is met with a sullen reminder of the prevailing dark cloud, you might do best to just acknowledge the dark cloud and sympathize.”

This is probably why some people find it hard to support those who are depressed.

They feel their natural way of dealing with depression — trying to cheer someone up — just doesn’t help.

For the study, the researchers used hypothetical scenarios, lab interactions and real-life instances of received support.

They discovered that some people found it particularly difficult to help others with low-self esteem.

Not only did their attempts to cheer the other person up not work, but they themselves felt worse about themselves and the relationship.

It is better to match support to the type of person.

People with high self-esteem don’t mind being ‘cheered up’, but those with low-self esteem prefer a more empathic approach.

The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Marigold et al., 2014).

Smile cry image from Shutterstock

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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