Depression is a debilitating mood disorder involving persistent feelings of unexplainable sadness, loss of interest in life, decreased appetite, low energy levels, inability to concentrate, and low self-esteem. It’s enough to ruin someone’s quality of life, and to make things worse, there’s an unfortunate stigma in our society attached to depression that makes people with depression feel ashamed. The facts and myths of depression are confusing so buckle up, there is a lot to learn.
There’s also a common misconception that those with depression don’t have any reason to feel sad and should just be able to snap out of it by thinking happy thoughts. We’re here to set the record straight and to separate myths from facts. We hope that, in doing so, we can spread awareness of the condition and help more people feel comfortable talking about depression so they can get the treatment they need.
Myth #1: Depression results from a sad life event.
It’s no question that people who have recently experienced the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, a job loss, or unfortunate medical news will experience feelings of depression. But with clinical depression, a person often feels unhappy without a reason — even if they have what others consider to be an “easy” or a “good” life — due to brain chemistry and risk factors.
People with depression due to brain chemistry experience an imbalance of neurological chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are out of their control. However, antidepressants can help by balancing out these chemical levels and stabilizing the person’s mood.
Risk factors for depression fall into two categories: factors that can be controlled and factors that cannot. For example, some people are genetically predisposed to depression, and they can’t change that. On the other hand, some people experience depression as a result of their lifestyle, which they can change with enough support and desire.
Myth #2: Those whose parents have depression will always inherit it from them.
As we mentioned before, depression is something that can be inherited. But even though you may be genetically predisposed to depression, this only increases your likelihood of developing the condition. It’s not a guarantee. And either way, it isn’t productive to dwell on your family history, as you can’t control it. Instead, focus on things you can do to help yourself with depression, such as getting more sunlight, seeing a mental health professional, and building up a support group to lean on.
Myth #3: Depression only impacts women.
According to Harvard Health, approximately one or two out of every ten men will develop major depression sometime in their life. What’s worse, depression is a major contributor to suicide, and four times as many men die from suicide compared to women.
In our society, there’s an unfortunate stigma around men discussing their feelings. Perhaps this is because, historically, men have been made to feel less masculine if they show “weakness” in this way. Talking about depression is a sign of strength, and talking about it just might save your life.
Myth #4: Depression is the same thing as just being sad.
Sadness and depression are not the same. If you think you might be clinically depressed, there are several ways to distinguish this from just being sad:
- Duration of feelings: If you’re feeling down about something specific, the odds are you’ll feel better in a few days to a few weeks. Depression, on the other hand, can go on and on for years when left untreated.
- Comorbidity with other conditions: People who are clinically depressed aren’t just sad. They’re also detached from life, unmotivated, tired, hopeless, empty, anxious, suicidal, and uninterested in things that once brought them joy. These feelings can lead to the development of a secondary condition such as generalized anxiety disorder.
- Resolution: Sadness can resolve itself over time with help from loved ones, but most of the time, depression doesn’t just go away without professional intervention. A patient needs therapy, medication, support, or a combination of these to start getting better.
Myth #5: Depression isn’t an actual illness.
Depression is just as real of a health problem as asthma or cancer. It’s a multifaceted brain disorder that develops out of psychological, social, and biological factors, and it negatively impacts the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. Fortunately, it’s treatable, so if you think you have depression, don’t just brush it off. Get the help you need so you can get back to a happy, healthy life.
Myth #6: Having depression makes a person weak.
Depression doesn’t pick and choose its victims based on who is weak and who is strong, and those who develop it don’t have a say in the matter. People facing depression are commonly misjudged as lazy, self-pitying, or simply weak. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Depression patients face a constant daily battle against their brain chemistry, and it drains all their energy. It has nothing to do with their character or strength.
Myth #7: Antidepressants are the only solution.
While they’re commonly effective in treating depression, antidepressants can’t always cure depression on their own. Patients usually need support from their friends and family to supplement the medication. Having this support system ensures the person has the love and encouragement they need to get through it as well as people to keep them on their medication. Patients also need a therapist who can help them talk through feelings, understand what’s going on in their mind, and suggest helpful coping strategies.
Myth #8: Antidepressants can cause a change in personality.
Antidepressants are designed to balance out the chemicals in your brain so that it functions the way it’s supposed to. Most people feel like a different person when on medication, but in the best way. It helps them function better and helps them feel more normal. If your depression gets worse while you’re on medication or if the medication simply isn’t working, speak with your doctor. There are many antidepressants available, and you might have to try several different ones to find the one that’s right for you.
Myth #9: Once you start using antidepressants, you’ll need them forever.
The duration of time in which you use antidepressants is decided by your doctor. Most people don’t need depression medication forever because they couple it with therapy, which teaches them new ways to deal with the disorder long term. In learning these skills, a person may find they need less of their medication or don’t require it anymore. In severe cases, however, some physicians may recommend staying on it for long periods of time.
Myth #10: Talking about depression will just make it worse.
You may have heard that talking about depression keeps you focused on negative feelings, but that’s not always true. Keeping depressive thoughts to yourself can be much more destructive than sharing them with others. Talking about depression can be therapeutic for the person experiencing it and may even alleviate feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
Myth #11: Depression is all in the person’s head.
Depression isn’t a made-up condition, and it’s not limited to the mind. The symptoms are real and often have physical manifestations. Some of the physical symptoms of depression include:
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Back and neck pain
- Muscle and joint aches
- Chest pain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Digestive issues
- Appetite changes
- Weight changes
Myth #12: Depressed people can just snap out of it.
Someone who has never experienced real depression might think you can cure it with a simple attitude change or a shift to a more positive mindset. What they fail to realize is that depression is not the result of poor attitude or wallowing in negativity. It’s a medically recognized condition that requires treatment from a health care professional to overcome.
Myth #13: Depression isn’t that big of a deal.
Mental health disorders are just as big of a deal as physical conditions. Depression can lead to substance abuse, loss of enjoyment of life, social withdrawal, drastic weight gain or loss, and even suicidal thoughts — all of which can keep a person from being able to hold down a job, take care of a family, or fulfill other duties in life. If you know someone facing depression who isn’t getting treatment, you may need to intervene for their own good.
Myth #14: Everyone with depression experiences the same thing.
Not everyone experiencing depression is going through the same thing. Every person is different and each body reacts to genetic/environmental factors and chemical changes in a unique way. One person may have mild depression and be able to function almost normally while another has very severe depression and can barely get out of bed each day. Both of these people have the same condition, but their bodies are equipped to handle it differently — though this doesn’t make one person stronger and the other one weaker.
Myth #15: Depression is a normal experience in life.
Depression is a common and prevalent mental health condition, but you don’t have to just suffer through it. Some people think that depression is a natural part of the aging process. It’s not, and you don’t have to live with it forever. Consult your doctor about ways to keep depression at bay. They will guide you to treatments best suited to your individual condition.
Myth #16: Children can’t get depression.
Again, depression isn’t selective. It can impact any gender, any age group, any socioeconomic class, any ethnicity — anyone. Children tend to display the same symptoms as adults but in a different way. For example, in the same way an adult withdraws from social settings, a child may struggle to make friends at school. While an adult may feel overcome by silent hopelessness and despair, a child may burst out in a fit of crying. But despite the disparity of symptoms, the treatment is mostly the same.
Seek Care for Depression Today
The main thing to remember out of all this is that depression is treatable. If all you can manage to do today is make the phone call to your doctor, do it — you won’t regret it.
ABOUT CHOOSE MENTAL HEALTH
Choose Mental Health is changing nationally the approach to mental health for children. As advocates for our nation’s youth, we must do better. Our children need a stigma-free space to explore, communicate and get answers, real answers on how to solve mental health problems.
Kids and youth deserve our best mental health solutions, help and support. They deserve to not be afraid of their thoughts. They deserve the best we can give them. By supporting Choose Mental Health you are standing up for 20 million children and youth with chronic or debilitating mental health needs suffering right now.
Choose Mental Health needs your best, to give help to children who need our best.
Join us and make mental health a positive topic.
Founded in Orem Utah, Choose Mental Health leads the mental health movement nationally for youth and children with a determination to leave the world and our children better than we found them. We invite individuals and corporations to stand up for our most vulnerable children population. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
See ChooseMentalHealth.org/about/ for more information.