MYTH: You Can Snap Out of Depression.
Depression needs to be addressed like any other medical condition. If you broke your leg, would someone tell you to “snap out of it” to deal with the pain? Not likely. I vividly recall moments in college when friends encouraged me to “rally” to get through a tough time, but you can’t put a bandage on depression.
“Depression is a medical disorder that causes physiological changes in sleep, energy, appetite, and more,” says Gerald A. Maguire , M.D., chair of psychiatry and neuroscience at University of California Riverside. “ In fact, the name depression doesn’t really do it justice. It’s much more than that. This is a clinical diagnosis.”
MYTH: It’s Possible to Push Through Depression on Your Own.
In 2017, the World Health Organization cited depression as the number one cause of disability in the world. It’s not something that will just clear up, and not dealing with can lead to even more problems.
“Let’s say you have heart disease or cancer. If you have depression along with it, the condition increases all the risks and complications of your other medical illness,” says Prakash Masand M.D., a psychiatrist and founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence, an organization in Durham, NC, that supports psychiatric treatment clinics. “If you don’t treat the depression, your other medical illnesses don’t get better.”
Even without another illness in the mix, untreated depression can spiral, increasing the risk for everything from substance abuse to suicide.
Myth: Depression isn’t a real illness
Fact: Depression is an actual illness with very real symptoms and impact.
Depression is not just a temporary bout of sadness, but an actual mental illness. Myths stating that depression is not a real illness contend that depression is just a simple case of the blues. However, depression is a multifaceted condition that is caused by a combination of biological, environmental and social factors. Depression is a mood disorder that impacts a person’s thoughts, emotions and actions.
Depression causes a significant amount of distress and impairment in an individual’s day-to-day functioning, leading to a considerable amount of emotional, social, academic and occupational difficulties. Depression may require long-term treatment and is not always easy to overcome.
MYTH: Depression is rare and will not happen to me.
FACT: Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of sex, race or age. It affects 121 million people worldwide and is one of the most common mental health problems. The World Health Organization estimates that 5 – 10% of people may need help for depression at any time and as many as 8 – 20% of people carry the risk of developing depression during their lifetime.MYTH: Depression can only be treated by medication.
MYTH: Depression Affects Only the Brain.
This condition affects the whole body. “An alarming fact about untreated depression is that it kills, and not only because of suicide, which is an epidemic in the United States,” says Dr. Masand. “Depression also affects other systems in the body, including the cardiovascular system, which can lead to premature death.”
According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, heart-disease patients are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and on the flipside, people with depression have an increased risk of heart problems. Scientitsts attribute this, in part, to the way in which depression increases stress-hormone production, which makes it more difficult for the heart and arteries to respond to a demand for increased blood flow.
MYTH: Only Major Depression Requires Treatment.
There isn’t a certain threshold someone needs to reach before seeking professional help. As is the case with most medical conditions, depression affects people to varying degrees. When I was a teen, I was self-aware enough to know that my sadness and hopelessness wasn’t typical, but the last thing I wanted to do was talk to a stranger. Plus, committing to therapy felt like something only people with “real” problems would pursue.
In fact, plenty of people with depression appear to be just fine. They put on a happy face, get up, go to work, and do what they have to do. This type of high-functioning depression can sometimes make it even harder for people to get the help they need. “It’s hard to spot precisely because the people dealing with it look, from the outside, like they’re holding it all together,” writes Annie Wright, founder and clinical director of Evergreen Counseling in Berkeley, CA. “This can lead to a lack of ability to self-identify (or have those around you identify you) as depressed and, moreover, a possible resistance to seeking treatment because of the stigma surrounding more ‘typical’ depression.”
Here’s the bottom line: If something doesn’t feel right, see your doctor or check in with a therapist. It can’t hurt, and can only help.
Myth: Depression only affects women
Fact: Depression impacts both sexes.
The misconception that depression only affects women suggests that depression in men is non-existent, which is untrue. Men may not be as likely to admit or report it due to social pressures. Social and cultural norms make it difficult for men to show vulnerability, discuss their feelings or reach out for help. Some men fear that admitting depression will make them appear weak or less masculine. Thus, men are not as likely to identify their symptoms, discuss their struggles or access treatment.
Depression in men also presents differently, as men tend to display angry,irritable and aggressive symptoms. Men are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors and can potentially go on to develop substance use disorders. These factors can make it challenging to diagnose depression in men. More than 6 million men in America experience depression each year. Depression can have significant consequences for men, as they are more likely to commit suicide than women. The suicide rate among men is nearly four times higher than the rate for females.
MYTH: Friends Can’t Help Friends Who are Depressed.
Empathy is more important than ever. It may sound ridiculous, but there are people who take the tough love approach with a friend or loved one struggling with depression. When friends would tell me “not to wallow” or to “move on” from whatever I was feeling at the time, I felt as though my problems were being dismissed. While it’s true that depression is best treated by a professional, friendship can go a long way in making a person who’s suffering feel supported and safe. Dr. Maguire suggests approaching him or her in a way that isn’t confrontational, but connected.
If you see behaviors in a friend that have you worried, reach out gently and ask how they’re reallydoing. Share what has you concerned, and ask if you can help them figure out what might help. Or simply ask if they want company. Just being with someone who cares can help a lot!
Myth: Talking about depression makes it worseFact: Talking about depression can help lessen symptoms.
Talking about depression is encouraged to help a person to overcome symptoms. People who suffer from depression can feel like a burden to others, and silence often perpetuates the negative stigma of mental health conditions. Talking about depression with friends, family members, or mental health practitioners can help people struggling with depression feel they are not alone.
Myth: Depression is only brought on by a traumatic eventFact: While depression can be brought on by a traumatic event, it usually results from other causes.
The exact cause of depression is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors. While traumatic events can trigger depression, they are not the only risk factors. Depression can also occur without cause, even when things seem to be going well in a person’s life. If a traumatic event occurs to someone already dealing with depression, it will likely intensify their symptoms.