As with most mental health diagnoses, there is a significant amount of misinformation that is circulating among the general public. Centuries ago, individuals with mental health issues were looked down upon by society, thought to be of weak moral character, purposefully deviant or difficult, or possessed by evil spirits. Although we have come a long way in combating the stigma surrounding mental health challenges, many falsehoods remain. Here are five common myths about depression that make it difficult for individuals to understand and treat this diagnosis.
Many people believe that depression is synonymous with sadness, or perhaps even weakness of character. However, this is far from the truth. Depression is a complex mental health disorder; a disease of the brain.
There is typically not one cause of depression. Depression has social, psychological, and biological origins. Depression can occur when certain brain chemicals become imbalanced. Many factors in conjunction with one another, including genes, stressful life events, illness, and medicines, can cause this imbalance. Depression is a medical condition as real as any other.
Depression and sadness are not interchangeable. Everyone experiences sad thoughts or unhappiness sometimes. For example, you may feel upset following the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Although events like these can raise your risk of developing depression, depression isn’t always caused by a negative incident.
Depression has a number of causes and triggers that vary from person to person. Sometimes the cause is unknown. Depression can arise suddenly and without warning, even when the external factors of your life are going well.
Depression is a disease. It is a problem with brain chemistry, not character. Someone can't force themselves to “snap out of it” any more than you can make asthma or a heart attack go away.
No one chooses to be depressed. Depression isn’t a sign of self-pity, weakness, or laziness. It is a medical condition in which your brain chemistry, function, and structure are negatively affected by environmental and biological factors.
Depression is a biological disease that requires treatment. The same way you would not expect someone with any other medical disease to just “wait it out” and hope things get better is the same way depression needs to be viewed.
Without proper treatment, depression can last for months or even years. It is next to impossible to recover from this illness on your own. Debunking the myths and stigma that surround mental illness is critical to allow individuals that are struggling to have the courage to seek help.
Antidepressants provide a long-term treatment option for many people with depression. However, the length of time that you’re advised to take them can vary based on the severity of your depression and your prescribed treatment plan.
You may not need to take antidepressants for the rest of your life. In many cases, your doctor may prescribe psychotherapy along with medication. Therapy can help you learn new ways of coping with life challenges and may lessen your need for medication over time.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from depression, reach out to a mental health or medical professional as soon as possible. There is treatment for depression available, and by breaking the stigma through education, we are that much closer to creating a culture where it is that much easier to get help.