It’s all in your head. Only women get depressed. If you have depression, you’re stuck with it for life.
Do any of these statements sound familiar? For all the misconceptions about clinical depression, it seems that there’s a depression myth for every truth — and this makes it difficult to get a real sense of the illness and its capacity to be treated.
Perhaps part of the problem stems from our vocabulary for moods and mental illness: We use “depression” to describe so many ranges of experience that the meaning of clinical depression can get lost in the mix. Furthermore, because simple bad moods are a universal experience, many people think if they’ve had the blues, they know all about depression.
Here are the depression myths that I’ve heard the most, and the truth behind these misconceptions:
1. Myth: Depression is not a real medical illness.
Clinical depression is a serious medical condition that affects not only an individual’s mood and thoughts, but also the individual’s body. Research has shown that depression has genetic and biological causes. Individuals coping with depression have a higher level of stress hormones present in their bodies, and the brain scans of depression patients show decreased activity in some areas of the brain.
2. Myth: Even if depression is a medical illness, there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Depression is treatable, and more than 80 percent of individuals with depressive disorders improve with treatment. As new medications and treatments are discovered, the number should continue to rise.
The first step to finding effective treatment is to get a physical examination by a doctor to rule out other causes for your symptoms, such as thyroid problems. Once you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you and your doctor will decide on a course of treatment, which will include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
3. Myth: Depression is no different from getting the “blues” – and this is just a normal part of life.
Equating depression with the blues is like saying that a common cold is the same as pneumonia. Everyone gets the blues or blahs from time to time, usually in reaction to disappointment or an upsetting event, or sometimes in reaction to something as simple as a rainy day. But the blues only last a day or two. Depression, on the other hand, can last a lifetime, and the illness is much more pervasive and disabling. No one commits suicide because they have the blues.