The world has never been so open to talking about mental health as it is today – we’ve been learning about these disorders and sharing experiences like never before. Still, for every few facts about anxiety and depression, there are dozens of common misconceptions about depression and other similar disorders. The battle against stigma has only begun, but we have to use this momentum and do our best to spread awareness and accurate information – this article will help do just that.
People often wonder – why does this happen to some of us, and how does it feel like to be depressed? Unfortunately, not everything you hear or read about a certain mental health crisis is an accurate representation of psychiatric disorders. There are many misconceptions surrounding the symptoms and treatment of depressed individuals. If you’re interested in learning the truth, keep reading – we will share the scientifically proven information that will allow you to understand this difficult illness better.
Misconceptions About Depression – Learn to Tell Apart a Fact From a Myth
Have you ever thought about what percentage of depression is misdiagnosed? It’s 65,9% for major depressive disorder, which is one of the most severe conditions that fall under the specter of depressive disorders. Sounds horrible, don’t you think? Of course, it is – the misconceptions and stigmatization of mental health are still widely spread, despite hard efforts to end them. The best way to do so is through education – so, let’s talk about the myths surrounding depressive disorders and debunk them once and for all.
What Are the Characteristics of Depression?
To understand the common misconceptions about this disease, you must first get familiar with its basics. What are the signs and symptoms of this condition? We often think that being depressed just means being sad, but this is the furthest from the truth as it can be. So, let’s see what this illness does to a person and how it usually manifests.
- Constant low mood or sadness,
- Feelings of guilt and hopelessness,
- Low self-esteem,
- Lack of belief that life will be good in the future,
- Irritability and anxiety,
- Various unexplained physical pains and lack of energy,
- Lack of interest in everyday activities, friends, and family,
- Lack of motivation,
- Not being able to enjoy anything,
- Suicidal or self-harming thoughts,
- Changes in appetite, sleep, and libido.
#1 Depression Isn’t Real
Sadly, this is a widespread belief. Some simply think that being depressed is a character trait and that it speaks about your weakness. Others, however, believe that depressed individuals are just faking it for attention. Both claims are incorrect – science can back us up here.
We often hear that famous, annoying statement – it’s all in your head. Well, obviously, it’s in the head – it’s an illness that affects brain function and levels of neurotransmitters. It changes your brain chemistry. Where else would it be if not in your head?
If You Can Function Normally, You’re Not Really Depressed
This goes hand in hand with the “it’s not real” claim. Yet, it’s not so simple. Some severely depressed people can function entirely normally – they can handle work stress, have rich social lives, and maintain healthy relationships. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re not depressed.
You can never know how a person feels based on their appearances. There are cases where someone seems perfectly happy and functional, but deep inside they are struggling – it’s called high-functioning depression. The moral of the story? Always be kind – you never know what’s going on under the surface.
#2 You Can “Snap Out of It” and Get Better on Your Own
Family and friends can sometimes, in a misguided attempt to help a loved one, claim that you can try and snap out of these horrible feelings and thoughts. But these are not rational thoughts that you can turn on and off at your own pace. It’s an illness, and just like other medical conditions, it requires treatment.
But the fact is that we treat physical and mental illnesses differently. When you’re coming down with a cold or break a leg, no one tells you to “snap out of it”, right? Instead, they urge you to go to the doctor. The principle is the same – you need professional assistance to get through this.
You’re Just Lazy – Positive Thinking and Lifestyle Changes Can Cure You
Sure, self-care is important, but it won’t cure you. Telling depressed people that they should exercise or eat healthier food to get better will most likely just annoy them. Change of lifestyle might be slightly beneficial, but it’s not nearly enough to cure a severe disorder such as this one. The same goes for positive thinking.
If you have a family member or a friend who is struggling, don’t advise them to “think positively” – they will feel guilty for not being able to do that, and it will cause a setback. This is known as toxic positivity – trust us, depressed people won’t appreciate it.
#3 Being Depressed Means You Are Weak-Minded
These accusations are related to almost any psychiatric issue, but they make no sense. It’s quite the opposite – it takes a lot of strength to go through life with these problems. They can vary in severity through different periods, but they are always there – unless you treat them. However, you also need a lot of courage to contact a medical professional and schedule your first appointment.
Mental Health Is a Matter of Strong Will
False. Your character traits aren’t related to this whatsoever. You can be the strongest person ever and still become depressed. This health issue can happen to anyone. You can’t get yourself out of the problem simply with your firm will – you must work on it. It takes time, but it is possible to get better with therapy sessions and medication.
#4 Antidepressants Will Change Your Personality
Medication can in no way change your personality – this is a simple fact. The only thing antidepressants can do is change your brain chemistry and improve your health. When that happens, you feel better – you’re in a better mood and feel more energized. Now you have the strength to go to the therapist and hear out what they have to say. What’s more important, you will also be able to apply what you learned in sessions or coaching/consulting and improve your quality of life.
However, it’s understandable that many people feel scared to take medication. They worry that they will feel different. But here’s the catch – you should feel different. Those who begin using medicine to help improve their symptoms often say that they feel like their old selves – they see the effects of treatment quickly, which is essential for their self-esteem and can help them believe that, with time and treatment, they will get rid of this disorder.
#5 You Can Only Become Depressed After Going Through Something Sad or Traumatic
While it is true that unfortunate events in life can be related to symptoms or can exacerbate the condition, bad experiences don’t necessarily have to be the trigger for this disorder – they can be related but don’t have to be. You can go through something tragic, such as a death of a loved one, and not become depressed – remember, being depressed isn’t the same as being sad. Yet, some people will become severely depressed after a bad life experience and will require treatment and support.
Some patients are just unfortunate to have a genetic predisposition. However, if your parent has this disorder, that doesn’t mean you will develop it as well. It just means you have a predisposition, but countless other factors are at play here. Lastly, let us mention a vital piece of information to keep in mind – you can have an absolutely perfect life, with no struggles at all, and still, become depressed, this disorder really isn’t picky. It can happen to anyone, with or without rational reasons.
Depression Is a Serious Medical Condition, and It Should Be Treated – Make Sure to Schedule Your Therapy Appointment
All the information you’ve just read can be summarized in one sentence – this is a severe disorder that can make your life hell if not appropriately addressed. When treating it, it’s crucial to have a perfect blend of therapy, antidepressants, and support from family and friends. Of course, it’s better if the diagnosis is given on time – the sooner you start seeing a therapist, the better.
Sadly, many patients wait for a long time, sometimes years, until they are finally ready to contact a professional – whether because of fear, stigma, or even not recognizing the problem in themselves. This is why we spread awareness – in the hope that, if you find yourself in need of a therapist, you won’t hesitate to contact one.