Why Can’t You “Just Get Over” a Mental Health Condition?

“Can’t you stop being so lazy?”

“Why don’t you quit worrying?”

“Just be happy already.”

“Change your thinking.”

“Can’t you just get over it?”

When you or someone you know suffers from a mental health injury or illness, it can be hard and frustrating. It can be even more frustrating when you hear statements like ‘just get over it” or others try to convince you to “just be happy.” You might even start to think of things like “Why can’t I just get over it?”

Mental health injuries and mental illness affects everyone differently. For some people, it comes and goes. For others, it can feel almost constant. You might experience one episode of depression or an anxiety attack, or it might be a lifelong struggle. You might experience multiple illnesses over time, or all at once.

When it comes to mental health, there are many things that are outside of our control that prevent us from “just getting over it.” Often there is a chemical imbalance or genetic predisposition to mental health issues. While some of the factors in mental health can be genetic, there are also environmental factors that can contribute to mental health. If you are constantly surrounded by unhealthy things, it can make it very difficult to change how you feel. In addition, when you have experienced a significant trauma, loss or been involved in an accident, your brain responds in ways that are often beyond your control.

It’s hard to predict what your experience with mental illness will be. But if your symptoms are severe, or if you’ve experienced multiple types of mental illness, it’s not likely to go away on its own—and if it does, it may come back. The good news is that with the right attention and help, illnesses are treatable and improvement is possible.

Unfortunately, the “just get over it” phrase is still something we hear over again and isn’t helpful advice for a person living with a mental illness. When someone breaks their leg, we wouldn’t expect them to just get over it. Nor would we blame them if they needed a cast or other help in their daily life while they recovered.

When we tell someone to get over their illness, we trivialize their condition and deny their pain. For example, for those with depression, “cheering up” is not a simple task, and it’s important to recognize that they probably wish they could, too. “Getting over it” also diminishes the fact that mental illnesses are serious health conditions, and reduces it to something that can be fixed just by changing their thinking habits. People living with mental illness are aware that life isn’t fair and can be challenging. Reminding them of this fact doesn’t help them cope with their illness.

What might feel like a beautiful day to you could be a much different picture for someone with a mental illness or injury, who may have difficulty seeing the same joy you recognize in everyday life. Implying that the person should feel happy ignores their condition and may make them feel guilty.

Instead, try some of these statements:

  • I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. Is there anything I can do to help?

  • I will try my best to understand.

  • I can see that you’re struggling, and I really admire/respect you for pushing through this.

  • What you’re going through is real, and I think that almost anyone in your situation would feel that way.

  • Can I come over and keep you company?

  • Would you like to go for a walk or drive with me?

Mental health injuries and illnesses are real and can be very painful. Learning why mental illnesses need to be taken seriously can help save someone you love from a life lived in pain. To help them through a challenging time, compassionate statements, learning about and understanding what they are going through and being there for them can make a world of difference.

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out for mental health support by visiting Do More Ag resources.

This website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are in crisis, please visit your local emergency department or call 911 immediately.