< >

Top 5 myths about depression debunked

Posted on Oct. 11, 2018 ( comments)

If you had a painful and debilitating physical ailment, would you seek treatment for it? Many people would. But too often, that's not the case when it comes to mental illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 16 million people in the United States have experienced a major depressive episode, and 350 million are affected globally. Nearly 10 percent of American adults age 65 and older have a diagnosable depressive disorder.

Yet 50 percent of Americans with major depression don't seek treatment, and myths and stigma about the condition are still prevalent.

Because Oct. 11 is National Depression Screening Day, we'll explore some of the most frequent misconceptions about depression, and what you can do if you think you might be depressed.

Myth #1: Being depressed is the same as being sad

Because we often associate depression with its primary symptom of sadness, many people confuse the two states. As a result, we can neglect depression, a serious condition that usually requires treatment, or overreact to sadness, a normal human emotion that ebbs and flows on its own in response to difficult events.

Depression is pervasive and ongoing, affecting our thinking, emotions, perceptions and behaviors, and can cause someone to feel sad about everything.

But depression is much more than just sadness. If someone is truly depressed, they can't get out of bed, they lie there without sleeping or they sleep too much; they don't want to eat; and they're not doing any of their normal daily activities.

In general, situational depression is triggered by a difficult life event or situation, while chronic depression can arise seemingly out of the blue but still has underlying causes, even if they're primarily biochemical.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, we can help.

Learn more about our programs and how to reach us.

Myth #2: Depression is all in a person's head

Some people underestimate depression, believing that a person can choose to be happy and just snap out of it if they're depressed. But that's not the case.

In fact, sometimes clinical depression is genetic. A family history of depression may increase the risk of depression, similar to other illnesses like diabetes or heart disease.

But just because a family member has depression doesn’t mean you will also suffer from this condition.

Other times, people become depressed as the result of traumatic life events.

Other common triggers for depression include separation or divorce, death, aging, multiple losses around the same time or something that shakes someone's confidence like a nightmare on the job that isn't their fault, says Eric Lundstrom, Social Worker at MultiCare Behavioral Health.

"Helplessness is a strong theme in depression, the feeling of being pushed into a corner,” Lundstrom says. “If you have a predisposition, that's really likely to push you into depression," he says.

Regardless of the underlying cause, depression often takes some time and effort to resolve.

Myth #3: Being depressed means being weak

Older generations don't always want to seek help. But wanting to figure it out isn't a weakness; it takes a lot of strength to talk about your emotions and really examine yourself as a person.

Depression can hit very hard, yet some people are resilient and still able to function.

Myth #4: The answer is always antidepressants

Lundstrom says that medication in combination with talk therapy tends to produce optimal results. But medication isn't often used right away, because sometimes talk therapy is all that's needed.

For example, with childhood abuse, someone who's been blaming themselves for it their whole life can feel more powerful when they realize that it wasn't their fault.

Changing the narrative around painful life events and finding meaning in them is important to getting better, Lundstrom says.

Myth #5: Depression will go away by itself

Keeping quiet about depression and hoping it goes away isn't usually effective, Lundstrom says.

"It's important that people do get help and try to get past the notion of the stigma that they're crazy or weak,” he says. “They'll be joining a league of many other people, very functional people who just needed a little help."

Sometimes people don’t want others to know that they're depressed.

"But it's OK to go and get help,” Lundstrom says. “It's normal. And often it can be resolved." 

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, we can help.

Learn more about our programs and how to reach us.

Posted in: Behavioral Health
View all articles