5 Myths About Depression

Many people assume that depression will manifest with obvious symptoms, like perpetually seeming depressed or being distant from loved ones. Even though these could be symptoms of depression, the illness can present itself in many different ways and frequently coexists with other mental health conditions, particularly anxiety.

Even if they are also feeling sad on the inside, a person with depression may appear more overtly irritable or anxious than sad, according to Cory Newman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania. Clinicians frequently inform parents who are concerned about a child’s behaviour that excessive, persistent grumpiness in their child or adolescent could be a sign of depression. Adults may be more likely to exhibit irritability as a sign of depression if they are less at ease expressing the emotions they view as signifying weakness or vulnerability.

But there are other misconceptions about depression besides those related to symptoms. Here are five myths to dispel since knowing the truth may enable you or a loved one to seek assistance.

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Myth: You’d know if someone was depressed.

According to Newman, many sufferers appear more agitated or anxious than sad when they go to school or work. The impact of depression on the brain also affects some motor functions, according to Jocelyn Smith Carter, Ph.D., director of clinical training in the psychology department at DePaul University. As a result, it’s possible that they will have difficulty concentrating, speak slowly, or move slowly.

The key is to look for noticeable changes, according to Newman. The person may start drinking more, start stress eating, or stop wanting to eat. They may also become more argumentative, hopeless, or noticeably less social. Be a good listener and suggest that they see a professional if you notice these changes, he advises.

Myth: Everyone experiences sadness occasionally.

The majority of us have at some point exclaimed, “Ugh, I’m so depressed!” But true depression is a distinct diagnosis that approximately one in six adults will experience throughout their lifetime. According to Newman, clinical depression is more persistent and lasts a longer period of time, frequently a month or more, whereas sadness is an emotion that tends to come and go.

According to him, “Clinical depression comprises a number of symptoms that you experience the majority of the day, almost every day, for at least two weeks.” You might not understand why you are experiencing these symptoms. Other symptoms include extreme feelings of guilt or worthlessness, a loss of interest in once-favorite activities, and/or suicidal thoughts. Another type of persistent depression that can ebb and flow is called dysthymia; symptoms can include hopelessness, a low sense of self, and exhaustion. Speak with a mental health professional if your mood is unusually low for two weeks or longer or if you are thinking about taking your own life.

Myth: Only mood is impacted by depression.

Although mood is a factor, depression has been shown to reduce energy, appetite, and sleep quality. According to Newman, it’s also related to a wide range of physical symptoms, including hives, migraines, respiratory, cardiac, and gastrointestinal problems. According to him, certain physical reactions can be brought on by your mental and emotional state and vice versa.

There appears to be a direct link between depression, autoimmune disorders, and inflammation: According to a significant Danish study, people who have autoimmune diseases are 45% more likely to experience mood disorders than people who don’t. Consider your mental health as well if you think you may have a medical condition, suggests Newman.

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Myth: You can get through depression by pushing through it.

It isn’t a matter of willpower. According to Carter, the condition both causes and contributes to physical changes in the body and brain. The sufferer cannot simply “snap out of it,” as mood-regulating chemicals are disrupted.

According to Newman, a therapist can teach a depressed person coping mechanisms to help them deal with symptoms more effectively or prevent them from occurring altogether. For example, patients learn to reframe the way they see things, resist defeatist all-or-nothing thinking, and celebrate small accomplishments, which makes them feel better and avoid giving up on themselves, he adds.

Therapy can also teach people to “complete tasks in small bursts and build their way back up to doing things they enjoy,” Carter says, which further lifts mood. Some may need medication to help balance mood and assist with sleep. “Depression is a disorder,” Newman says, but a treatable one from which recovery is often possible.

Myth: Depression is incredibly hard to treat.

It’s actually one of the simplest mental illnesses to treat. That’s because “it’s one of our most well-researched disorders in terms of how people respond,” Carter says. The tricky part is landing on the right treatment, Newman says, as well as addressing conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse that often come along with depression. With therapy and medication (which research shows is most effective for folks with moderate or severe depression), up to 70% of people with major depression show improvement.

The FDA has recently approved a version of ketamine as a treatment for some sufferers, and in several small studies the use of psychedelic drugs for treatment-resistant depression and PTSD has shown promise. The important thing is not to wait to get help: The sooner treatment starts, the more effective it is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you or someone you know is at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741 to message with a trained crisis counsellor from the Crisis Text Line for free.

This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Prevention.

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