Depression can be a complex illness to diagnosis and treat, and one byproduct of its sometimes tricky nature is the prevalence of depression myths and misinformation. These myths can be harmful to those who suffer from depression and their loved ones if it prevents those battling the disorder from seeking timely help. Often times patients prolong getting treatment because of some bad information that they may have heard from friends, family or have read on the internet. Better information and having the facts leads to better choices for those that need help. Below are some of the more common myths associated with depression along with the actual facts.
Common Depression Myths
Myth: “Depression is a woman’s disease”
Fact: No one is immune from depression. While statistics show that women are diagnosed and treated nearly twice as often as men, these numbers can be a little misleading. Men tend to resist acknowledging that they may have a problem with depression. They typically try to hide how they are feeling and put on a “strong” face. They often feel that depression may be a sign of weakness. Instead of exhibiting some of the signs of depression that women may typically show, men tend to exhibit agitation, irritability, physical complaints, sleep disruption etc. They may have been brought up to keep their feelings to themselves. All this may contribute to why men are less likely to seek help for depression than women. Depression is an equal opportunity illness, affecting both men and women.
Myth: “A family history means I will suffer from depression” and conversely “I don’t have a family history of depression, so I don’t have to worry about it”
Fact: A family history of mental illness is just one of many factors that may lead one person to suffer from depression over another. Having a family history is not a guarantee that you will have a major depressive episode in your lifetime, nor is not having anyone in your family who has battled with depression a guarantee that you will not at some point in your lifetime have a bout of clinical depression. A family history or lack of family history goes to a person’s risk factor for developing depression, it is not an indicator of direct certainty.
Myth: “Depression is a weakness or character flaw”
Fact: Depression is neither of those, it is a complex mental health disorder that has nothing to do with someone’s strength of mind or character. Having depression does not mean someone is weak minded. Unfortunately depression still has a stigma attached to it and this is the kind of myth that often prevents some from getting proper treatment.
Myth: “Suffering with depression is a natural part of the aging process”
Fact: While depression is not a natural part of getting old, the elderly tend to experience some of the triggers of depression such as declining health, loss of a spouse, abrupt change to living situation (being moved to nursing homes), financial hardships and lack of family support system for example. Often times elderly depression symptoms get mistaken for other medical ailments common in older patients. Symptoms such as an increase in physical complaints, loss of memory and trouble thinking clearly get misdiagnosed or attributed to other health conditions. As such, elderly patients often do not get the proper treatment for their depressive illness. Because someone advances in age does not mean that they will suffer from depression, but certain life experiences more common in elderly patients can make them more prone to the illness.
Myth: “Antidepressants are the magic cure. All I have to do is pop some pills to fix my depression”
Fact: While antidepressants may certainly help those suffering a major depressive episode, they are not magic. They are often used in conjunction with psychotherapy to better prevent a recurrence of depression. Antidepressants can help stabilize a patients mood and help their depression symptoms to make talk therapy more effective although they can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to take full effect. For more mild to moderate cases of depression, antidepressants might not have the same impact as psychotherapy. In either case, depression is not fixed by just taking pills alone.
Myth: “Depression will eventually just go away on its own”
Fact: For some lucky people this may be the case, but for the majority of depression sufferers it can have long lasting effects if not properly treated. It can severely interfere with a person’s life for weeks, months or years and can substantially impact the quality of their lives. It can disrupt sleep habits, weight, social interactions, careers, family relationships for example. Major depression also carries the risk of suicide. Believing depression will eventually go away on its own can carry significant risk for the patient, not only to the life of the person battling it, but their quality of life as well. Anybody who experiences any kind of depressive symptoms that negatively impact someone’s life and normal everyday activities for at least two weeks should look into seeking help from a qualified mental health professional. If suicide is an immediate concern then call or visit your nearest emergency center right away. Depression should never be ignored.
As depression awareness continues to grow and more and more people understand more about this mental illness, hopefully the less some of these myths will continue to spread. Bad information often times prevents those in desperate need of help from getting the treatment that they deserve. Reaching out for help is often the hardest obstacle to the road to recovery, but it is the most important hurdle to overcome. Don’t let any depression myths get in the way of getting help for you or a loved one.