Myths and facts about depression
Depression is an often-misunderstood mental health condition. There are plenty of misconceptions about how depression manifests, who it can affect, and what kind of impact it can have on people suffering from it. Here are some of the most common myths about depression, along with the truth about each.
Myth: Depression is just a phase that everyone goes through from time to time
Fact: Clinical depression is more than just a period of feeling low; it’s a disease of the brain. Experts believe that certain brain chemicals go out of balance when we’re depressed.
However, that doesn’t mean that’s the only cause of depression. Depression can be caused by a lot of factors, such as genetics, stressful life events, trauma, illness, or imbalances caused by certain medications.
Myth: Depression is just feeling sad all the time.
Fact: Depression, like grief or any other illness, has stages. These don’t always occur in a particular order and could also be referred to as the phases of depression. These phases include:
- Pulling unintentional all-nighters
- Losing interest in things without realizing what’s happening or why
- Periods of self-loathing
- Weight or appetite/hunger fluctuations
- Some people may lose their appetite, while others may overeat. Some people experience both in phases.
- Depression manifesting as anxiety
- Depression and anxiety can coexist, but sometimes depression manifests as anxious thoughts, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and trouble focusing. It’s important to consider if these symptoms are caused by depression, not anxiety.
- Suicidal ideation or self-harm
These can fluctuate and change over time as circumstances change and as you try to get help and seek treatment. These changes in your depression don’t necessarily mean your depression is going away. However, it also doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re doing to treat and manage your depression isn’t working. Change is inevitable in depression, just like everything else.
Myth: Depression isn’t a significant life challenge.
Fact: Depression can be disabling – literally. You might be wondering, is depression a disability? The Americans with Disabilities Act categorizes depression as a psychiatric disability. It’s a significant mood disorder that’s well-known for interfering with daily activities, sometimes including your ability to work and support yourself.
Not everyone with depression qualifies for disability benefits, but viewing it as a legitimate health condition can help you understand it and manage it accordingly.
Myth: Treating depression is simple and one-size-fits-all.
Fact: Treating depression has stages, just like depression itself:
- Identifying your symptoms and triggers
- Finding a doctor or therapist to listen to your concerns and help you manage your symptoms
- Getting a diagnosis
- Trying different treatment options, which can include:
- Talk therapy
- Alternative holistic treatments like supplements
- Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, hydration, meditation, etc.
- Finding a treatment plan that lets you enjoy your life, which includes adjusting treatment as needed
Myth: Depression can always be cured.
Fact: Sometimes depression is situational and goes away with time and proper treatment (like if you’re in a non-traumatic, stressful stage of life). But sometimes, it’s a lifelong condition. It depends on the person.
For many, there is no cure for depression, but it can become manageable with time and effort. The key is learning to manage your depression so the natural highs and lows don’t take over your life.
Myth: Depression can be fixed with medication alone.
Fact: For some people, medication is enough to make their depression manageable. But for a lot of people, the best solution involves a combination of techniques. This often includes non-medical interventions like cultivating and relying on a support system, developing self-awareness and self-knowledge, and finding things that bring them joy. It also often involves therapy to help them notice and address thought patterns and behaviors that can make their depression worse.
Myth: Anxiety and depression are the same things.
Fact: Anxiety disorders and depression can cause similar symptoms, like irritability and nervousness. Both can cause issues with sleeping, eating, and other daily activities. And both can interfere with daily life in a lot of ways.
But they’re two different conditions. Some people have both, which can contribute to the myth that they’re the same thing. But it is possible to have one without the other, and the treatments for anxiety and depression do tend to be different.
Myth: Kids can’t be diagnosed with depression.
Fact: Anyone at any age can develop depression. Depression often appears during adulthood, but millions of children and adolescents suffer from it, too. In 2017, more than three million US adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 had a major depressive episode. Depression symptoms in children and teens should never be ignored.
Myth: Depression goes away on its own.
Fact: Depression, like any disorder or disease, needs proper treatment to reduce harm and avoid complications. Ignoring your depression symptoms won’t help you. In fact, it can make your condition worse.
If left untreated, depression can lead to serious health complications – both physical and mental. This can include sleeping problems, eating disorders, poor nutrition, chronic stress, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
If you think you might have depression, don’t wait to seek help. Reaching out to a qualified mental health care professional sooner than later will help you get back to feeling like yourself and will prevent your depression from getting worse in the meantime.
Depression, like many mental health disorders, is often misunderstood. But by understanding the many myths and facts of depression, you can handle your symptoms (or the symptoms of a loved one) with more confidence and grace.