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How To Cope With The Thought "No-One Understands Me"

What To Do When You're Thinking "No-One Understands Me"

When you’re fighting a mental illness like depression or anxiety – or anytime you’re going through a difficult, painful experience of any kind – it’s common to think the thought “no-one understands me”. In particular, according to members of The Depression Project’s community, while there are many, many different experiences which can fuel this thought, some common ones include, for example:

  • Having your depression compared to “just being sad”;
  • Being casually told that there’s “nothing to worry about” when you’re feeling anxious;
  • Being judged for struggling to function when you’re “depression tired”;
  • Having no-one know just how much a traumatic experience has affected you;
  • Being force-fed misguided, overly-simplistic suggestions which people are convinced will instantly cure your mental illness.
And, when events like these take place to trigger the thought “no-one understands me”, two things then tend to happen:
  1. Firstly, it’s common to become, as we say in psychology, fused to this thought – or in lay man’s terms, to believe that it’s a fact which is 100% true.
  2. Secondly, if you wholeheartedly believe this thought to be true, then it can leave you feeling lonely, miserable, hopeless, and in even more emotional pain than you were already in.
If you can relate, then we’re glad you’re with us, because in this blog post, we’re going to use a variety of cognitive behavioural therapy-based strategies to help you to de-fuse, or de-attach yourself from, the thought “no-one understands me”.

In particular, we’re going to:

  1. Firstly, help you view the thought “no-one understands me” as the thought that it is – rather than a fact which is 100% true.
  2. Secondly, we’re going to point out some of the reasons why this thought may not quite be as true as you think it is.
  3. And, last but not least, we’re going to help you reframe this thought in more positive, uplifting ways – so that rather than causing you to feel lonely, miserable and hopeless for example, you can feel more optimistic and better about your situation instead.

And, with all of that being said, let's now begin!

Part 1: Viewing The Thought "No-one Understands Me" As A Thought, And Not A Fact

Like we’ve said, the thought “no-one understands me” can cause you to feel lonely, miserable and hopeless when you fuse yourself to it – or in other words, when you accept it as reality and believe it to be true. However, not all of the thoughts we have are 100% true. Some are, but some might only be 90% true … some might only be 80% true … some might only be 50% true … some might only be 20% true … and, some thoughts might not be true at all.

For this reason, the first step to defusing yourself from the thought "no-one understands me” is to label it as just that – a thought – as opposed to automatically accepting it as a fact which is 100% true. In practice, this could take the form of, for example, simply repeating to yourself:

“I’m having the thought that no-one understands me …"

"I’m having the thought that no-one understands me …"

"I’m having the thought that no-one understands me …”

To further remind yourself that your thoughts aren’t always true, you instead may find it helpful to repeat to yourself something like:

“I’m having the thought that no-one understands me, and like all thoughts, it’s one that may or may not be true …"

"I’m having the thought that no-one understands me, and like all thoughts, it’s one that may or may not be true ..."

Alternatively, instead of repeating a phrase like this to yourself, you may find it more effective to, for example:

  • Repeatedly write a phrase like this down;
  • Write a phrase like this down once, and then repeatedly read over it.

No matter which method you chose, though, consciously making a point of labelling the thought “no-one understands me” as a thought is an important starting point in helping you to defuse yourself from it.

Part 2: Challenging The Thought “No-One Understands Me”, And Highlighting Some Of The Reasons Why It May Not Be As True As It Seems

Once you’ve recognised the thought “no-one understands me” as being just that – a thought – as opposed to a fact, the next step to defusing yourself from this thought is to “put it on trial”, so to speak, and try to determine just how true it actually is. With this objective in mind, let’s begin by focusing on the “me” part of the thought “no-one understands me”.

Putting the "me" part of the thought "no-one understands me" on trial

When you think about it, is it really all of you that isn’t understood, or just a part of you?

For example, let’s say that the driving factor behind your thought “no-one understands me” is having your depression not being taken as seriously as you would like it to be, and having it compared to just being “sad”. In this case, rather than “no-one understands me”, wouldn’t a more accurate variation of this thought be “no-one understands my depression”?

The same could be said if you think “no-one understands me” in response to being continuously told that there’s “nothing to worry about” when you’re feeling anxious, for example. Once again, in this case, wouldn’t a more accurate variation of the thought “no-one understands me” be “no-one understands my anxiety?”

On that note, we encourage you to pause reading, and put your own thought “no-one understands me” on trial. When you do so, start by asking yourself:

Is it really all of me that is being misunderstood, or just a part of me?

And, based on your conclusions, try to create a more accurate variation of your thought like we’ve done in our two examples. Then, when you’re ready, continue reading this blog post.

Could we make the "me" even more specific?

So thus far, we’ve put the “me” part of the thought “no-one understands me” on trial, and modified it to something much more specific. However, is it possible that it is still not specific enough?

For example, if you modified the thought “no-one understands me” to “no-one understands my depression”, then is it literally every single aspect of your depression that you believe is misunderstood, or only some aspects of it? And, if some aspects of your depression are understood to at least some degree, then wouldn’t a more accurate variation of the thought “no-one understands my depression” be: “no-one understands my depression completely"? Or, “no-one understands my depression as well as I would like them to"?

On that note, we encourage you to pause reading once again, and think about how you can make your thought even more specific. Then, when you’re ready, please continue.

Putting the "no-one" part of the thought "no-one understands me" on trial

Next, let’s put the “no-one” component of the thought “no-one understands me” on trial as well. When you do this, ask yourself:

Is it true that literally no-one understands?

Or, would it be more accurate to say that, for example, your parents don’t understand? Or that your brother, sister and mother don’t understand? Or that your friends don’t understand? Or that some of your friends don’t understand? Or, at the very least, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that no-one you currently know understands – which at least implies that there are people you don’t know, and could potentially meet, who would understand?

Additionally, as well as being specific about who doesn’t understand something about you, you can make the “no-one” part of your thought even more accurate by being specific about the time period which this lack of understanding relates to.

For example, a more accurate variation of the thought “my parents don’t completely understand my depression” would be:

"My parents don’t completely understand my depression right now."

Or:

"Throughout the last year that I’ve been struggling with depression, my parents have not understood what I’m going through as well as I would have liked them to”.

With that being said, we encourage you to pause reading once again, and reflect on who specifically doesn’t understand something about you, as well as what specific time period this lack of understanding relates to. Then, when you’re ready, please continue reading.

Adding a "but" to your new variation of the thought "no-one understands me"

By this point in time, your original thought “no-one understands me” has been cross-examined from a few different angles, and – at least we hope! – has been modified into a much more specific, much more accurate thought. For example:

  • "Most people I know don’t currently understand how much depression affects my ability to function."
  • "My partner and their family don’t currently understand that my mental illness does not have a simple, quick-fix cure."
  • "Right now, no-one in my life understands just how much the traumatic experience I went through last year still impacts me to this day."

And, to make this thought more accurate still – as well as more positive, encouraging and uplifting as well – we next encourage you to add a “but” to it. For example:

  • “Most people I know don’t currently understand how much depression affects my ability to function, but, the more I explain it to them, and the more they’re able to learn about depression, the more likely they are to understand this in the future."
  • “Most people I know don’t currently understand how much depression affects a person’s ability to function, but, a few people do, and if I prioritise spending more time with those people moving forwards, then I’m more likely to receive the understanding I’m looking for."
  • "My partner and their family don’t currently understand that my mental illness does not have a simple, quick-fix cure – but, if my partner comes with me to my next doctor’s appointment, then my doctor can thoroughly explain this to them, and also provide them with some resources to help them better understand anxiety. And, when they have a much better understanding of anxiety and why it’s much too complicated of an illness to have a simple, quick-fix cure, they’ll then be in a much better position to join me in trying to explain this to their family, which will increase the likelihood of their family being able to understand this as well."
  • "Right now, no-one in my life understands just how much the traumatic experience I went through last year still impacts me to this day, but, there are other people I don’t currently know who have been through a similar traumatic experience, and if I’m able to connect with them online or in person, then I’m much more likely to receive the understanding I’m looking for. Not only that, but one or more of these people may also be able to advise me on how I may be able to help the people I know now to better understand the impact my traumatic experience has had on me as well, which would also contribute to me feeling more and more understood."

With that being said, we encourage you to pause reading for a moment once again, and think of one or more “buts” you can add to your thought to make it not just more accurate, but also more positive, encouraging and uplifting as well.

Part 3: Conclusion, And Some Advice On What To Do If / When You Notice Yourself Thinking "No-one Understands Me" Moving Forwards

Now that you’ve made your way through this blog post, it’s our hope that you feel much less fused to the thought “no-one understands me”, and that you have at least one much more accurate, much more positive thought that you’d like to replace it with. If this is the case, then moving forwards, we encourage you to take steps to continuously remind yourself of this thought – such as by, for example, writing it on a post-it note and placing it somewhere you’ll frequently see it, saving it as the background on your phone, or just repeating it to yourself from time-to-time. If you do this, then anytime something happens to make you feel misunderstood, you’ll be increasingly more likely to fuse yourself to this more accurate, more positive thought than you will be to fuse to the thought “no-one understands me”.

On the other hand, if despite making your way through this blog post, you still feel fused to the thought “no-one understands me”, then please try not to be discouraged. After all, if you’ve been fused to the thought “no-one understands me” for a prolonged period of time, then it can take time – and work – to detach yourself from it. For this reason, any time you find yourself thinking “no-one understands me”, we encourage you to work your way through this blog post again. The more times you do this, then the more and more your “thought defusion skills” will develop, and as a result, the easier you will likely find it to de-fuse yourself from the thought “no-one understands me”. 

And, with that being said, we’ve now reached the end of this blog post. From the bottom of our hearts, we really hope that you’ve found it helpful.

All our love,

The Depression Project Team.

P.S. If you'd like to learn a lot more cognitive behavioural therapy strategies to help you cope with and overcome negative thoughts like "no-one understands me", then we've created a Bootcamp to help you do just that!

The Negative Thinking Bootcamp

Access to this Bootcamp and lots of others are included as part of our Depression Bootcamps Membership Platform - which you can learn more about by clicking the button below.