Depression is a difficult condition to navigate, and it is surrounded by some unhelpful misconceptions and stigma that can prevent people from recognizing when they have it and getting the help they need.
Here is a look at some of the most common myths you might have heard surrounding depression. We’ll also explore why they are misleading and look at the scientific facts of the disease. Understanding these facts and myths about depression can give you a clearer idea of the best way forward.
Myths about the Nature of Depression
Myth: Depression is not a real illness
One of the most harmful yet persistent myths about depression is that it is not a real illness. Some people believe that if you are depressed, it’s because you are overly emotional or not strong enough to handle the typical ups and downs of life. They may claim it is a choice you make or that it’s all in your head.
Fact: Depression is a very complex mental health disorder that is officially listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychologists to diagnose mental health disorders, and it has biological causes as well as social and psychological ones.
It is marked by a period of at least two weeks in which a person experiences a depressed mood and a loss of pleasure or interest in their daily activities. This is accompanied by five or more officially listed symptoms, including:
- A sudden change in appetite or weight
- A lack of energy or unusual tiredness
- Trouble concentrating, making decisions, or thinking
- Feeling sad or irritable most of the time
- Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping more than usual
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, especially about things that don’t normally spur these emotions
- Thoughts of harming yourself or suicide
- Feeling restless
Experts believe depression may occur when certain chemicals in the brain go out of balance. This can be caused by a combination of factors, including genes, illness, medication, and stressful life events.
Myth: Depression occurs because of a traumatic event or sad situation
It is natural to feel sad when a loved one dies or a close relationship in your life ends. While it’s true that these incidents can raise your risk of depression or trigger it, a negative incident is not normally the root cause of depression.
Fact: Depression is marked by unexplained periods of sadness and hopelessness, and this may be accompanied by suicidal tendencies. An episode of depression can arise even when things are going well in your life, and it can last for a long period of time.
Some non-emotional potential triggers for depression include hormone problems, using alcohol or drugs, childbirth, and certain medications. Sometimes there is no clear reason.
It is important to understand that you are not alone in your suffering. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is one of the most common mental disorders seen in the U.S.
In 2017, an estimated 17.3 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode. This amounts to 7.1 percent of adults in the U.S. Moreover, 63.8 percent of all adults who had a major depressive episode experienced severe impairment.
Myth: Men cannot develop depression
Some cultural stereotypes have perpetuated the myth that men cannot develop depression, causing the condition to be overlooked in men in many cases.
Fact: Although depression appears to affect more women than men, neither sex is immune to it. Depression in men may manifest itself differently than it does in women. For example, some men might display anger and aggressiveness instead of sadness.
Because men often tend to be less open when it comes to discussing their feelings, they are less likely to ask for help. Unfortunately, men have a greater likelihood than women of dying by suicide related to depression, so it is essential to seek help if you believe you are depressed.
Myths about coping with depression
Myth: You can just “snap out of it”
Some people believe that those who are suffering from depression are letting themselves wallow in their sadness and that a simple attitude change will be enough to shift their feelings.
Fact: Depression is a medical condition, not a sign of emotional weakness or self-pity. It may be related to a person’s brain chemistry and not their character. Like many other health conditions, such as heart disease or epilepsy, you can’t simply “will it away”.
If you think you are experiencing depression, it is important to reach out to a mental health professional for an assessment. It is unlikely to go away on its own and could even get worse without expert guidance.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255 for confidential, 24/7 help.
Myth: Medication is the best way to treat depression
Many people believe that a person suffering from depression can simply get a prescription for antidepressants and be cured.
Fact: Antidepressant use is on the rise as people increasingly seek a “quick fix” to their problems. Although antidepressants do help some patients, they do not work for everyone or in every situation and are not a cure-all for depression.
Moreover, some people are unable or unwilling to take them because of the potential side effects, which may include nausea, sleepiness, stomach upset, reduced sex drive, weight gain, and other issues depending on the medication in question.
Many people find that other approaches can be helpful to cope with depression, especially talk therapy. This involves talking to a therapist online or in person regularly about the condition and related issues.
Here is a look at some of the ways psychotherapy can help:
- It can help you replace negative beliefs and behaviors with healthier and more positive ones
- It can give you a better sense of control over your life
- It can help you improve your self-esteem and relationships
- You can find better ways to deal with the challenges and problems that arise in your life now and in the future
Some lifestyle changes may also help alleviate the symptoms of depression. These include:
- Eating a more nutritious diet: In particular, it can be helpful to focus on nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Getting plenty of regular exercises: Physical activity, particularly outdoors in sunlight, can give your mood a boost.
- Getting an appropriate amount of sleep: This generally ranges from seven to nine hours for most adults.
Getting help for depression
If you believe you could be suffering from depression, it is essential to seek help. A trained therapist can help you address your feelings and guide you toward the right approach to treating your depression.
There are lots of options when it comes to getting help for depression, but they all begin with proper counseling. These days, online therapy is a great way to get immediate help from the comfort of your home from a qualified mental health professional. At Calmerry, you can schedule sessions around your work and life commitments so you can get on the path toward healing quickly and conveniently.