These days, it seems like depression is all over the news. It usually gets publicity when a high-profile tragedy occurs. You don’t hear people talking about how great they feel now that their depression is being effectively treated. A lot of inaccuracies and half-truths get thrown around, and it can be tough to dig through them and find the facts.
Here are 10 particularly troubling myths and misconceptions about depression. I’d love to hear what you would add to the list!
1. It’s Something You Should Be Ashamed Of
The shame people often experience with depression (or any other mental health issue) is real, but this doesn’t mean embarrassment is warranted. In the United States and its territories, as many as 9% of the population currently meets the criteria for depression. Hundreds of celebrities, athletes, and political figures are known to have struggled with depression. You have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Depression doesn’t mean you’re lazy or pouting or ungrateful.
2. If You Have Depression, You Will Always Feel Depressed
Depression comes in all shapes and sizes. For many people, their depression changes throughout their lives. Medication, life events, hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause, illness, or stresses can change depression. Some people find that psychotherapy relieves their symptoms, others seek out medication or homeopathies, and some make behavioral changes, such as exercise.
3. Depression Is Always Hereditary
Studies have shown that between 40% and 50% of depression is rooted in genetics. So if your parent or sibling has depression, it’s not a guarantee that you will develop it. There are also things you can do that might minimize your risk of developing depression. These include maintaining a strong support network, staying active, having a healthy diet, and learning positive coping skills such as meditation and deep breathing.
4. If Something Horrible Didn’t Happen, You Should Not Be Depressed
This is simply not true. Many people have a trigger in their lives, a trauma they can pinpoint as a starting point for their depression, such as the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job. Sometimes a passing challenge, such as failing a test or moving, can bring on a major depressive episode. Or the depression can appear with no known trigger at all.
5. Depression Is Simply a Feeling
Depression is not having “the blues” or feeling sad. The DSM-5 (a handbook used by mental health professionals to determine what constitutes a diagnosable issue) includes a list of symptoms. People who are clinically depressed have a cluster of these symptoms, such as thoughts of suicide or death, insomnia or hypersomnia, significant weight loss, and depressed mood most of the day nearly every day.
6. Medication Is a Sure Cure for Depression
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can obliterate depression. Depression is a complicated beast that can be incredibly hard to treat. Medication can be helpful at managing depression for some people. Others find that medication doesn’t help or, due to side effects, can even make things worse. It can take trying several different medications or combinations of treatments until you feel better.
7. Therapy Is a Sure Cure for Depression
Psychotherapy certainly can help people who struggle with depression. It’s been shown to decrease many symptoms and help people manage their moods. Like medication, though, therapy is not a cure in and of itself. Many people respond to therapy, but some don’t. A combination of therapy and medication tends to yield the best results, and many people incorporate both in their healing.
People with depression aren’t always depressed. Like everyone else, they have their good days and bad days.
8. If You’re Depressed, You Can’t Be Happy
People with depression aren’t always depressed. Like everyone else, they have their good days and bad days. When their depression is being effectively treated, the good days outnumber the bad. You cannot look at people’s Facebook pages with pictures of them laughing and enjoying life and conclude they’re not depressed. Many people are good at hiding their feelings and present to the world a persona that is much different from what they are experiencing.
9. Depression Shouldn’t Be Talked About
Millions of people throughout the world will experience depression sometime in their lives. You’re far from alone, and it doesn’t have to be something you keep secret. I’ve worked with people in therapy who, upon sharing their experience with friends and family, expressed surprise at how many of them also have struggled with depression.
10. If You Have Depression, You Will Never Have a Fulfilled, Productive Life
Depression is not a life sentence to misery. Depression is a treatable condition, and people who are diagnosed with it can go on to have wonderful, happy lives. The key is getting the correct treatment. If something you try isn’t working, keep searching. Find a psychiatrist or doctor who will patiently work with you to find the best medication, if you go that route. Find a skilled therapist who specializes in depression and whom you trust and feel a connection with.
Depression does not have to hold you hostage. The more people are honest about their struggles, the more accepting and understanding society will be—and the better off we all will be.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Current Depression Among Adults – United States, 2006 and 2008. MMWR 2010, Vol. 59 No. 38.
- Levinston, Douglas F., & Nichols, Walter E. (2015). Major Depression and Genetics. Stanford School of Medicine, Genetics of Brain Function. Retrieved from http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html
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