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10 Common Myths About Depression: Debunking the Misconceptions

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses that people experience. However most of the general public is grossly misinformed when it comes to clinical depression and major depressive disorders. Many people think being depressed is always caused by some external “sad” event that happened – this isn’t always the case.

Additionally, many people fail to understand that being depressed isn’t something that is experienced by “weak minded” people – many very strong people fall victim to depression and other forms of mental illness. Below I’m going to address some common myths about depression.

10 Common Myths About Depression: Debunking the Misconceptions

1. Depression is just from a “chemical imbalance.”

Most people believe that if they aren’t aware of the etiology of their depression that it is simply a “chemical imbalance” in their brains. To make things worse, most people assume that the neurotransmitter “serotonin” is always at fault for their depression. If you have low serotonin, you must be depressed right?

This statement is far too simplistic to be generalized to the entire population. To say that a complex mental illness like depression is simply a result of serotonin and “chemical imbalances” is merely an unfounded hypothesis. There are many other factors that could contribute to someone’s depression.

2. Men don’t get depressed, only women get depression.

Although men may be less likely to admit that they have depression, men can suffer from depression just like women. Some women may never get depressed, and some men may get extremely depressed. It totally depends on the person. It should be noted that women are 2x more likely to get depressed as men throughout the world – according to statistics.

However, just because more women suffer from this illness than men does not mean that men simply cannot get depressed – that’s simply hogwash. Men may be less likely to exhibit outward symptoms such as crying, but it can affect them just as profoundly as women.

3. Antidepressants cure depression and are the best treatment.

Antidepressants typically do NOT cure anyone’s depression. In most cases antidepressants are used when no other treatments are deemed to be effective. These drugs simply help mask the depression by preventing the reuptake of serotonin and/or other neurotransmitters in the brain.  Most people that take antidepressants may experience some relief, but as soon as they come off of the drug, they experience depression – sometimes to a more extreme degree than when they started treatment.

Additionally, many people’s body’s and brain’s become dependent on these medications for everyday functioning. Although they do work for some people, they are by no means a permanent cure for depression. Additionally, non-drug treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy have been found to be just as effective as antidepressants in treating the condition.

4. Depressed people are weak, lazy, and feel sorry for themselves.

It should be noted that some people who are not clinically depressed may simply be weak and lazy – two factors that could make anyone depressed. However, the majority of people suffering from clinical depression and major depressive disorders simply cannot “snap out of it” or they would. Just like any other major medical condition, depression can be both physically and mentally debilitating.

Depression can make people not want to exercise, not want to work, and can make people so tired that all they want to do is sleep. Most people who are depressed try to do everything they can just to muster up enough energy to make it through the day. For people without depression, looking at someone’s life with depression may seem as though they are simply not trying hard enough, but it may be because their condition is holding them back.

5. Depression is only for losers and old people.

The truth is that depression can affect anyone regardless of social standing, salary, and age, and sex. Depression can affect some of the most successful people in society the same way it can affect someone who is homeless. The symptoms are the same and are difficult to deal with for anyone that is experiencing the condition.

The false belief that successful people don’t get depressed is commonly spread throughout society. The fact is that some of the most successful individuals throughout history such as: Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo, Winston Churchill, and Sir Isaac Newton have all experienced depression. Additionally, depression does not affect old people any more than it affects teenagers and adults. The reality is that anyone can get depressed.

6. Depression is a choice.

Depression is not a choice at all. Although non-depressed people that don’t understand the condition may believe this to be true, many times it is a physiological response that we are experiencing. It is our body and brain responding to our situation and environment a certain way. Saying that depression is a choice is like saying that people chose to be born with arthritis – this is uncontrollable.

Certain individuals may make themselves depressed by moping and not exuding willpower to make changes in life, but for some people, the depression never goes away. The only way to cope with it is to accept it and continue fighting another day. No one chooses to experience clinical depression or major depressive disorder any more than someone chose to be born with a receding hairline.

7. Depression requires lifelong antidepressant medication treatment.

Most people when diagnosed with depression assume that they will have to be on medication for life. Although many people may find relief in taking medications, the reality is that most people do not stay on them for life. Some people end up trying them out for a few months and find relief enough to wean off of them and stay off of them. Much research demonstrates that treatment can be completed with medication in as short as 6 months.

For many people, taking medications helps them kick-start various lifestyle changes that needed to be made and when they withdraw, all they need to do is sustain the lifestyle changes for an antidepressant effect. Additionally, there are plenty of alternative treatments and natural cures for depression that can be pursued – including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

8. Depression is the same as feeling sad and grief.

In most cases of clinical depression, it is not a result of grief over a death or loss. Although death of a loved one or relationship break up can cause someone to feel really depressed, in these cases, we know what caused the depression. In someone with major depression, there is no clear-cut external situation that caused depression in the individual.

In people with grief and depression as a result of a loss, they can rebound and eventually recover to live a happy life. Among individuals that have had depression, they may not seem to ever recover from feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

9. Depression is always inherited from family members.

Is it true that if your parents have depression so will you? No. Just because one or both of your parents have depression or mental health issues doesn’t meant that you will inherit it. Although research suggests that people can inherit depression, the degree to which it is inherited is up for debate.

Having a relative with depression tends to increase the probability that you will also have it by up to 15%. With that said, you are not guaranteed to get it just because a first-degree relative also has the condition. On a similar note, you may develop depression with absolutely zero family history of any mental health issues.

10. Depression is a medical disease.

Many people claim that depression is a medical disease just like “arthritis” and “diabetes” but is this really the case? No. Although most of the major drug companies like to simplify depression as solely a medical disease, there are a number of other factors that could contribute to the disease. It cannot always be diagnosed based on a specific set of symptoms and successfully treated with pharmaceuticals.

Depression is a very complex condition that has biopsychosocial roots. In other words, biology, psychology, and socialization all play a role in contributing to this condition. When people treat depression with just medical intervention via popping antidepressant pills – it often results in failure. Most people need a more holistic treatment that targets biology, psychology, and social areas of life. Diseases like diabetes can be successfully treated and managed with insulin and blood sugar levels – there is no exact fix for depression.

Have you heard any other myths and misconceptions about depression?

Chances are that most people have heard a myth or two about depression. In order to help put a rest to the ignorance surrounding depression, show someone this article or educate them. Many people are still uneducated when it comes to mental illness.  Depression is a complex mental illness that often gets labeled interchangeably with the normal sadness that most people experience every so often as a natural human emotion. Depression is significantly more severe than a normal case of sadness and is a condition that can affect anyone: old, young, successful, rich, or poor.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Sophie S December 29, 2015, 10:15 am

    In response to some points outlines in this article:
    The language used actually perpetuates stereotypes in subtle ways. The article creates two “types” of depressed people: the ‘moper’ and the ‘heroic stoic’. Living with depression is different for every individual, but there are many depressed people who feel the world is just “muted”- music, especially very peppy music, is unbearable, colours are darker, and jokes that would have had you in stitches before now barely elicit a spark.

    1. It’s important to note that there is a link between low serotonin and depression and not dismiss this correlation entirely.
    2. Women are 2x more likely to *report* depression, not get depressed. There is also the possibility that men are just as likely to get it but not disclose it. This claim perpetuates the idea that depression is associated with “feminine” traits such as “weak willpower” and “hypersensitive”.
    3. Antidepressants are often used alongside CBT or DBT, and are only begun once CBT has not shown improvements.
    4. Depression doesn’t make people not want to work or exercise- it makes them totally unable to.
    5. ‘Heroic stoic’
    6. “Certain individuals may make themselves depressed…” Individuals do not make themselves depressed. They may not have the coping mechanisms in place that others have and are therefore vulnerable to depression. There is a distinction.

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