What to Do When You Feel Nobody Cares

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

One of the common laments of someone who suffers from depression is, “Nobody cares.” When someone says these words it is often very hard to assess the reality of the situation. Is it really true that nobody cares or is this just how we feel at this moment in time?

I have said these words myself during a therapy session. I was feeling extremely depressed and was very gloomy about the prospects of anyone actually being able to help me. More so I questioned anyone’s motivation to want to help me. This translated into the words, “Nobody cares.” It was an emotional slap in the face to my therapist, who was desperately trying to help me but I was refusing to listen. It seemed easier to believe that nobody cared so I didn’t have to care myself.

I remember the image of my therapist cupping his face in his hands in frustration.

Now I have some perspective on what he may have been thinking. How do you convince someone that you care when they don’t feel worthy of love and care in the first place? How do you say “I care” without it sounding shallow or as a clichéd response? How do you show care to a person who refuses to receive it?

In this post we are going to explore the many meanings of the phrase, “Nobody cares” and challenge our assumptions in the process. In a follow up post we are also going to take a look at how depression can rob us of our ability to care about ourselves and others and what we can do about it.

What does it mean when someone says, “Nobody cares”? For some people, uttering the phrase “nobody cares” is a way of denouncing their own self worth.

Substitute, “I feel unlovable” or “I don’t feel worthy of care and love” and it makes sense that one would conclude that nobody cares. It is an assumption based upon a faulty initial premise.

How to challenge this belief: Know that you are worthy of both love and care. Suffering from depression doesn’t make you any less worthy.

“Nobody cares” can also be an angry statement said to provoke a response in others. Perhaps you are feeling resentful that the people in your life are not paying attention to your suffering. You want them to feel some of the pain you are feeling. So you say something to wake them up and make them feel guilty for not responding to you in the way that you want.

How to challenge this belief: You can’t force people to care in the ways you expect by using guilt. Rousing anger or guilt in others won’t make them care for you more or get your needs met. Being direct about what you need gives you more of a chance of actually being listened to and receiving a positive response.

This phrase might also be said as a dare as in “I dare you to say you care about me.”

It is a way to turn responsibility to another person for them to prove your worth. It is also a trap for failure because if the other person does say that they care it is easy to denounce. The all or nothing thinking which can go along with depression can elicit “nobody cares,” as well as “this is never going to get better.” These sorts of generalized statements ensure that you will stay at the bottom of your depression because you have made it impossible for anyone to offer you hope.

How to challenge this belief: Life is seldom all or nothing. The all or nothing thinking can be a way for you to maintain control. It is a way to validate the way you see the world with depression goggles on. Take a risk to realize that people do care. They just might not always meet your expectations. Forgive others for not being perfect. Let go of your need to be right in your view of the world as an uncaring place.

“Nobody cares” can mean “I currently have no emotional support.” Not everyone comes from a supportive family. In fact, there are some families that can make symptoms of depression feel worse because you can’t talk about it. Depression can also cause damage to existing relationships and friendships. It can add to your depression to feel that you don’t have anyone to turn to in order to gain support.

How to challenge this belief: It may very well be true that you are lacking in supports right now. Sometimes we have to create our own “family” as in developing a family of friends. It may seem daunting, but reaching out to others who are going through a similar battle with depression and joining a support group can be a good first step. Some people reach out to their place of worship. Others find support through therapy. Just because you lack support now doesn’t mean it has to remain this way.

When someone says, “nobody cares” it can also be translated as, “I don’t feel that anyone understands me.” To feel like others “get” you is a very deep human need. You want to feel accepted despite how ugly the depression can make you feel inside.

How to challenge this belief: Other people may not understand your depression. But it doesn’t mean that they have to remain in the dark. You can make attempts to explain how this feels and what depression does to you. Some people may be experienced with battling depression but they may lack the skills to articulate their empathy. Your depression may remind them of their own feelings they have pushed away and they may be reluctant to open up. There will, however, be people who do get it and can express their care to you in a way that makes you feel accepted. It may take some time to find these people but they do exist.

Some people feel that “nobody cares” because they are frustrated with the mental health care system. It can feel that the system does not care about you. Some have experienced calling hotlines only to be cut off or found that the help offered was inadequate or impersonal. Some of you have had the experience of trying to find mental health help with no insurance or money. It can feel like a desperate time when you can’t seem to get any answers anywhere.

How to challenge this belief: The truth is that our mental health system is a mess. There are no easy answers or quick fixes. The system is imperfect but this doesn’t mean that every professional that you come across is uncaring. They may simply be limited in what they can offer you. You may have to make a hundred calls before getting the person who can actually do something concrete to help you. Don’t give up. Be persistent. Your mental health is too important.

Saying that nobody cares comes from a place in our depression where we believe such things to be true. But it isn’t the truth. People do care. They just might not understand how to show it. Your loved ones may be unable to express care in the way you want or expect. In some cases you may have to reach beyond your family to find friends who will act as your support.

The main person you need to care about you is you. As much as others care, they cannot live your life for you. They cannot be responsible for your happiness or well being. When you care about yourself then you will find that others have an easier time to show their love and care for you. Allow your friends and loved ones to support you.. Reach out and don’t give up on finding support. You are not alone in this.

Anne Windermere
Meet Our Writer
Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."