Popular depression myths often keep people from getting the treatment they need. We’ve sorted out the facts from the fiction for six common misconceptions.
Six Depression Myths You Might Not Know
Depression is the leading cause of medical disability in the United States. And here’s another: Depression affects roughly 5 to 8 percent of American adults every year. Despite its prevalence, however, many depression myths remain. One reason for the persistence of these myths is that there’s a lot of stigma around depression and mental illness. Too often, people who have depression are ashamed to admit it, and those who have never experienced it may think being depressed is a sign of weakness. It’s time to tackle some of the most virulent depression myths.
Depression Symptoms Are All Mental
Depression symptoms do include mental symptoms, like sadness, anger, anxiety, confusion, hopelessness, emptiness, loss of interest, and thoughts of suicide. But physical symptoms are also common and can include a lack of energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, slowed movement, headaches, stomach problems, and body aches. If you have several of these symptoms that last for two weeks or more and interfere with your ability to function normally, you could have depression.
It Isn’t a Real Illness
While its symptoms may be difficult to recognize and it doesn’t boast a “one size fits all” treatment, depression is a serious medical condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with depression have physical differences in their brain, and neurotransmitter and hormone imbalances that determine their status, not to mention its severity. Depression, like many illnesses, affects a person on every level, from their moods to their thoughts to their physical existence. Categorizing this condition as a matter of character only belittles how people with depression feel and deters them from seeking treatment.
Depression is Untreatable
One persistent and dangerous depression myth is that treatment doesn’t work, and therefore you should just wait till you snap out of depression. The truth is that depression therapy and treatments usually work well and leaving untreated depression can be dangerous. About 80 to 90 percent of people with major depression are successfully treated and can return to the normal activities of living. Untreated depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide.
Depression – It’s All in Your Head
Emotional symptoms are often thought of as the key features associated with depression, but it doesn’t stop there. Many people with depression find themselves coping with ailments all over their bodies. According to the National Institute of Health, depression can manifest as fatigue, insomnia, unusual changes in appetite, chronic muscle aches, and chest pains. By promoting the idea that depression is only mental, we overlook these physical signs of a more serious issue at hand.
Depression – Always Brought on by a Traumatic Life Event
While certain circumstances can (and often do) trigger depressive episodes, the events themselves cannot take all responsibility for a person’s depression. Loss of a loved one, divorce, and other upsetting life experiences will leave any emotionally sensitive person feeling sad, remorseful, lonely and empty, possibly for a prolonged period. However, those who are depressed find their symptoms lasting longer than two weeks and reoccurring frequently — one of the key symptoms a doctor looks for in a depression diagnosis.
If Your Parents Have Depression, You Will, Too
While a genetic predisposition to depression can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the condition themselves, that risk is relatively small -only 10-15 percent. Older research suggested that depression was far more hereditary, but newer studies have questioned that claim. People with a family history of depression may be more aware of certain symptoms, but anyone exhibiting signs of depression should express concerns to a medical professional.