More than 300 million people worldwide struggle or have struggled with depression at some point during their lifetimes. It’s the world’s leading cause of disability, and it affects over 6% of Americans each year. Although we’re becoming more socially informed about mental illnesses and their implications, many misconceptions continue to prevail.
Unfortunately, these misconceptions tend to perpetuate shame and resentment. Furthermore, they can make it challenging for people to seek the help they need. Let’s get into the top depression myths that we must debunk immediately.
Depression Is An Attitude Problem
Depression is a medical condition, and it’s a chronic combination of various biological, psychological, and social factors. Ask anyone who’s struggling- they’ll be the first to tell you that depression is the last thing they’d choose and they can't simply perk up.
It’s not a matter of “sucking it up” or “putting a smile on your face.” Depression is a serious and pervasive illness. And similar to other health conditions, the symptoms don’t just go away on their own. In fact, the opposite is often true. The longer one delays treating their depression, the more their symptoms are likely to progress.
Depression Is Caused By Something Traumatic
Traumatic events can undoubtedly affect one’s mental health. It’s not uncommon for someone to experience depressed symptoms (i.e,. appetite and sleep changes, feelings of worthlessness, extreme guilt, lethargy, suicidal thoughts) after a trauma occurs.
That said, depression doesn’t necessarily need to have an origin. Many people struggle with depression without any history of trauma. Your depression doesn’t need a reason; it can manifest regardless of your circumstances. Depression can also come on suddenly, leaving you feeling confused by what is happening.
Depression Equals Sadness
When you think of depression, do you only imagine the hopeless individual lying in bed with the curtains drawn shut, crying and feeling sad? If so, you’ve fallen prey to a common stereotype. Many people dismiss their own depressed symptoms because they think they aren’t experiencing extreme sadness.
Yes, some people with depression struggle with sadness. However, others feel irritation, anger, physical aches and pains, boredom or numbness.
Depression Leads To Suicide
Suicide is a complex and devastating issue in today’s society. To date, it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. And while many people who do commit suicide struggle with depression, it’s faulty to assume that depression inherently leads to suicidal behavior.
The severity of depression lies on a spectrum, and everyone’s condition is different. Many people struggling with depression never experience suicidal thoughts. However, the absence of suicidal thoughts or behavior doesn’t make the condition any less valid.
Moreover, suicidal thoughts can emerge at any time- just because someone hasn’t experienced them in the past doesn’t mean they are immune.
Depression Requires Medication
There are numerous ways to improve depression symptoms, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment method. Some people respond favorably to medication, and they stay on a particular regimen for many years. Some people take medication to stabilize their symptoms, and then they eventually taper off.
Others never take medication at all. They may treat their depression with psychotherapy and/or with other holistic measures like healthy eating, exercise, social support, meditation, and spiritual connection. In fact, recent studies show consistent exercise can be more effective than antidepressants.
It is always best to consult the benefits and risks with a primary care physician or psychiatrist before starting any medication or making any medication changes.
Depression Can Be Cured
Mental illness symptoms can and do improve. Depression is treatable. With the right treatment, you can live a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. That said, cure tends to be a dangerous, misleading term because it implies that you can eliminate depression forever.
While it may seem idealistic, a cure just isn’t a realistic goal. Depression, like all health conditions, can ebb and flow. Prevention and management should be the focus. By planning ahead, building a healthy support system, and developing proactive coping skills, you can be prepared if a downturn occurs.
Relapses may occur. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means you’re struggling, and you need help.
Putting An End To Depression Myths
Depression myths hurt everyone. They hurt the people struggling, the people who love them, and the people who can’t understand them. By raising awareness about the truth of mental illness, we move closer towards creating societal acceptance and change.
Your struggles don’t need to define you. Change doesn’t need to feel hopeless or impossible.