There are a number of myths associated with depression. This article attempts to dispel common myths and provide factual information about depression to assist in reducing the stigma associated with depressive illnesses.
Depression is often misunderstood by the broader community and is one of the most common of all mental illnesses. It affects more than 19 million Americans annually. Generally known types of depression include clinical, manic, major, and dysthymia, which is a milder and longer-lasting type which may never be diagnosed or discovered.
What is depression?
Depression causes individuals to feel a lack of pleasure from activities in their day to day life. People say they have a general feeling of overall sadness, despair and inability to complete normal daily tasks to their satisfaction. Depression may also add complications to other medical conditions. There can be very serious consequences for those with depression who do not seek treatment. In the most extreme cases the feelings of despair and sadness can be significant enough to result in self harming behaviors including thoughts of death and may as a consequence attempt suicide.
One of the most common myths about depression is that it is not serious and that people suffering from it can just “snap out of it”. Her are some other myths that I have encountered and the facts that dispel these myths.
Myth: Depression is not a real medical illness. Fact: It is considered by medical and mental health professionals as a serious medical condition that not only affects an individual’s moods but also can have physical implications and can effect a person’s enjoyment of life and their ability to be productive in society. Higher levels of stress hormones are often present in an individual’s brain chemistry. Depression is known to decrease normal, healthy activity in some areas of the brain evidenced by brain scans conducted on sufferers during medical studies.
Myth: If you have depression you can think or will it away. If you don’t, you are a weak person. Fact: Depression can not be though away or willed away any more than physical health conditions. Would you tell a person with cancer or heart disease to will it away? Depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and body and no level of wishing or willing it will change these imbalances. People who seek help for depressive illnesses show great courage and strength given the unfair level of negative stigma associated with mental illnesses generally.
Myth: Depression is a normal part of the aging process – everyone get sad as they get older. Fact: It is true that people over sixty may have more triggers that may lead to depressive illnesses such as the loss of a spouse, family or friends, complicated health issues, loneliness or isolation. It is important to note that in this generation was not encouraged to speak openly about their feelings or difficulties which in turn can lead to further isolation and lack of effective treatment. Depression is well represented in this age group and it is relevant to note that the highest suicide rate is in the group of 65 and older, with men being more vulnerable than women.
Myth: Don’t worry about depression, it will go away. Fact: This is true in a very small number of cases however once you have had depression there is an increased risk of it returning in future. Most individuals who do not seek appropriate treatment can experience depression for months or even years. The most positive thing to do is to seek medical help if depression symptoms persist past a week or two. Major clinical depression is potentially fatal, many individuals who suffer from this type of depression experience thoughts of self harm, death and suicide. Effective treatment’s are available and can significantly reduce the risk of further depressive episodes.
Myth: So, if depression is a medical condition, it can’t be treated, nothing can be done. Fact: Depression is highly treatable and over 80% who seek medical treatment notice a marked improvement in their mood and their life in general with in weeks of commencing a treatment program. Most common forms of treatment are medication and psychotherapy and often successful treatment includes and combination of both.
Myth: Depression only affects women. Fact: Although approximately twice as many women suffer from depression than men, How Does Grief Counselling Work in men is likely to be under reported. This is because in our culture men are often discouraged from showing any sign of weakness. It is argued that women are also more likely to be diagnosed with depression symptoms because of the hormonal changes they experience throughout their lives. Hormonal changes can trigger chemical imbalances and therefore trigger depression.
Myth: It’s just the blues, a normal part of life, it will pass. Fact: Saying that depression is the same as the blues is like saying pneumonia is the same as a common cold. The blues generally last a day or two, depression can last for years or even a lifetime if not treated and the risks of untreated depression can result in self harm and even suicide.
Myth: Children and teens don’t get depression; they are just going through phases. Fact: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, studies show that 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 adolescents suffer symptoms of depression. Children and teens are not as experienced in articulating their thoughts and feelings and adults in their lives should be aware that excessive challenging and defiant behaviors may indicate a depressed mood or other mental illness.
Myth: Depression is just another word for feeling sorry for your self. Fact: Some well known and very successful people have suffered from depressive illnesses, some of these include;
o Napoleon Bonaparte
o Abraham Lincoln
o Theodore Roosevelt
o Winston Churchill
o George Patton
o Robert E. Lee
o Florence Nightingale
o Sir Isaac Newton
o Stephen Hawking
o Charles Darwin
o Ludwig von Beethoven
These people could not be accused of sitting around feeling sorry for them selves. It is also important to note that approximately 19 million people in America are diagnosed with depression each year.
Myth: My parent had depression, I’ll get it too. Fact: Genetic links have been made but not proven. Studies show that if your biological parent or sibling suffers from depression that your risk of developing depression may be slightly higher, however you will also be able to identify depression symptoms more quickly and are more likely to seek appropriate treatment without delay. Most importantly, there does not have to be a family history of depression for an individual to develop this illness.
To summarize the facts about depression; it can affect anybody, and can affect individuals of any age group. It is no more common in people of different race, culture or economic back ground. Depression is often kept quite within the family unit and sufferers have noted feelings of shame or inadequacy. Depressive illnesses should never be considered normal or typical part of daily life, regardless what your age, sex or health condition.
The good news is that treatment for depression is nearly always successful. Unfortunately less than 50% of those suffering will seek the appropriate treatment. Many individuals do not seek effective treatment options because they don’t think it is serious or important enough.
Depression myths often come from not only from broader society but also from the sufferers themselves. Some individuals mistakenly believe they can handle it alone, don’t need treatment or can treat themselves. Some others wrongly believe that it is a personal weakness or a failure on their part, something to be ashamed off rather than believe the truth, that it is a seriously debilitating medical illness.