say to someone who self harms

50 Things Never to Say to Someone Who Self Harms, Has an Eating Disorder or Struggles with Depression

If you want to know what to say to someone who self harms, has an eating disorder, or who is struggling with depression, please please please don’t use these lines.

You may not realize it, but what you say to someone who self-harms could seriously do more harm than good. Listen up–please.

Yes, I realize I’m going out on a limb here, but….I felt like a serious post today, and from personal experience, these hurt. A lot.

If you want to help someone who self-harms, has an eating disorder, or who is struggling with depression, please please please don’t use these lines. These have all been said to me at one point or another, and they really hurt.

Don’t try to minimize my pain or pretend it away. It doesn’t help, it just makes me not trust you. Therefore, without further ado…

50 Things Never To Say or Do to a Self-Harmer:

1. “You’re just being over-dramatic.”

Sometimes, yes, I will get over-emotional. But I am not being dramatic just to get your attention.

2. “Stop with all the teen angst already.”

Trust me, if you think this is teen angst, you’ve clearly not seen teen angst. Teen angst is to look cool. My pain is not.

3. “It’s spiritual.”

I don’t know how many times I can say this! Not. Everything. That. Afflicts. You. Is. Spiritual! 

4. “Just stop cutting.”

It’s not that easy, it really isn’t. 

5. “Just eat normally.”

Again. Not. That. Easy. 

6. “When you feel this way, you should pray.”

Umm…you could pray for me? 

7. “If you cared about me, you would get better.”

This just makes me feel like I can’t tell you anything because you can’t handle it. 

8. “But you have a good life!”

As if I don’t feel bad enough already without you making me feel bad for feeling bad?!

9. “Cover up those scars.”

Not only is this mega triggering, it’s shaming and makes me want to go curl up and die in some corner. Please don’t. 

10. “You just need to learn how to cope.”

Umm…hello? This IS me coping! 

11.”Promise me you will never (cut, purge, starve) again.”

I can’t promise you that. I’ll break it, and you’ll be disappointed in me. 

12. “Cutters are attention seekers.”

If I was doing it for attention, I would cut right in front of your blasted face. I wouldn’t hide away in my room in the middle of the night and cover the scars with sleeves and bracelets so no one sees! 

13. “But you’re skinny enough as it is!”

*facepalm* My eating disorder screws with my perception and I literally cannot see myself the way you do. It’s a legit mental illness, not just low self-esteem. 

14. “But you’re so pretty!”

You do realize I have a mirror, right? 

15. “Do you want scars for the rest of your life?”

Hmm.. do you THINK I want scars?!…what do you prefer? Scars or a tombstone!?

16. “If you cut, I’ll cut.”

I know you mean well. But this won’t make me stop cutting. It just makes me stop telling you if/when I do. 

17. “I’ll tell your parents.”

Okay, unless I’m legitimately on the verge of suicide—as in, I have a plan, deadline, and the means with which to do so, this has the same effect as the previous comment. 

18. “You creep!”

*hides and cries* … please don’t. 

19. “You need help.”

…I know that. But I don’t need you to tell me that. I just need you to love me and be my friend. Ok?

20. “Happiness is a choice.”

Well, mental illness isn’t. And depression isn’t. I didn’t choose to be depressed, I can’t just choose not to be depressed. 

21. “Medicine makes people crazy.”

So you’d rather I stopped taking them, slipped back into severe depression, and worse case scenario, committed suicide?…seems legit. 

22. “Just snap out of it!”

Try telling this to someone with cancer…what about these issues being mental cancer does no one understand?! 

23. “You don’t look anorexic.”

Well, you don’t look like a dumbhead, either…guess looks can be deceiving, huh? 

24. “You should go see a counselor.”

All this says to me is ‘I don’t want to have to deal with you so go away’. Doesn’t help one ounce. 

25. “Go take your meds and calm down.”

Translation: I am going to use your mental illness as an excuse to illegitimate [sic] your problems/pain

26. “You have no reason to be depressed!”

No reason but genetics and a brain sickness and chemical imbalance and living in a fallen world…

27. “Are you emo?”

No. I’m not. 

28. “Do you worship Satan?”

If I did, you’d be dead by now…so no, clearly I don’t. 

29. “What happened to your arm!?” *shocked face*

Just….don’t. Not in public. Not in front of people. If you ask me alone, that’s one thing, but otherwise? No. 

30. “How are you going to explain those scars to your future husband/kids?”

I honestly don’t know…maybe I shouldn’t have a husband or kids, should I?

31. “Let me see.” *touches scars without asking*/ “you’re not fat” *pinches arm/stomach*

The last thing to ever do is touch me—my scars, my body—without asking. I don’t care if you’re my freaking parent. Do. Not. Touch. My. Scars. Without. My. Permission. Do not pinch my stomach. Do not touch my scars. At least ask, and if I say no, respect that. 

32. “You’re depressed because you listen to metal”.

If you only knew the number of times the music I listen to has saved my life..literally.

33. “Congratulations, you actually ate a decent meal!” *sarcastic clap*

Y’know, I feel bad enough already without you drawing everyone’s attention to the fact…. 

34. “You just want to believe in chemical imbalance so you don’t have to take responsibility for your depression”

Again. Not. Everything. Is. Spiritual. Someone explain to me how getting help, taking my meds, and doing all in my power to stay well, is avoiding responsibility?!

35.”There are children who are starving in China. Eat your food.”

.. I know. May I be excused now, please?

36. There are people who have it way worse than you.”

And there are people who have it way better than I do. Your argument is invalid. 

37. “You’ve gotten so thin you look ugly.”

Oh. Wow. Way to be encouraging. This isn’t even concern  [sic] this is just plain old mean! 

38. “You’ve gained weight! You look healthy!”

Please don’t comment on my weight. If I’ve gained weight, chances are I know it all too well and all I’ll hear in this comment is the ‘you’ve gained weight’ and I’ll drive myself crazy over it. 

39. “No boy will ever love you because you’re too thin.”

….I have no words. 

40. “You won’t be depressed/ on meds/ self-harm/ have an eating disorder in 5 years. This is just a rough phase.

But what if it lasts a bit longer than just ‘a rough phase’? What then? Will you still care? Or will you simply assume that I’ve failed to get better? 

41. “I could never be anorexic. I love food too much…”

Because you think I don’t love food? I would kill to be able to eat carelessly like you.

42. “You have so much to be grateful for!”

I know. I know…..honestly, if people could stop guilt tripping people for feeling bad, maybe we’d get somewhere in all this! 

43. “Just recite positive affirmations to yourself in the morning and evening.”

Okay. Those don’t work, and they don’t solve a blasted thing! 

44. “You should go gluten-free/dairy-free/meat-free.”

If you think a simple diet change is going to solve everything, you’re mistaken. 

45. “Go work out/exercise!”

*slumps in defeat*

46. “I understand exactly how you feel.”

Unless you have experienced exactly what I have…do not say this. It automatically destroys any and all credibility which you may possess. 

47. “It’s all in your head.”

Well, where else would it be?! My kidneys? What about my liver? *sarcasm*

48.”I’ll always be here for you.”

Nope. You won’t. Especially not at 4 am in the morning when I’m sobbing, trying to figure out whether I’ll live to see another morning…. you’re peacefully sleeping just like everyone else. 

49. “Depression is a chemical flaw/genetic damage.”

Because I totally adore being told I’m damaged. Thanks, why don’t you go ahead and stab me with that kitchen knife lying right over there… it would complete the ‘damaged’ at any rate. 

50. “Get over it.”

Stop, Just, stop talking. I’m trying as hard as I possibly can, and I don’t need you to tell me to get over it, I need you to take my hand and help me get through it! 

So…there you have it…the top fifty I could think up off the top of my head–what never to say to someone who self harms!

See, these don’t help. They only hurt more. I’ve heard every single one of these at some point in time, and they’re miserable.

If you want to help, the way to help is to listen, don’t try to solve everything, but just listen and love.

<3 Tirzah

Tirzah is 17 and a self styled "wonderer". She questions everything. She's also an avid reader, tree-climber, writer, and music enthusiast. Between the above, she juggles work, blogging, and life adventures with God.

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