There are many myths about depression we all need to understand.
Myth 1: Everyone Gets Depressed
This is probably one of the most common inaccurate assumptions regarding Depression.
First, we need to define Clinical Depression apart from “Sadness.”
Everyone gets sad; this is a normal and appropriate human emotion. We can be sad after losing a pet or a loved one or if a valued object breaks. We can be sad at the end of a tear-jerker movie. This feeling of sadness will usually pass and does not affect our day-to-day functioning.
However, not everyone gets depressed.
Typically, people are susceptible to developing Major Depression if this condition runs in the family. Depression is diagnosed when the symptoms begin to cause dysfunction in the person’s life. It is a persistent feeling of sadness that does not go away. It is a struggle to get out of bed and start the day. It is the inability to feel joy or pleasure.
Depression creates other daily symptoms and struggles, but it is not simple sadness and is not to be considered healthy. It is a condition that typically needs some type of treatment intervention.
Myth 2: Depression Is In Your Head
Depression is not something someone makes up to gain attention.
It is not something anyone can just wish away or “snap out of it.” It is a debilitating condition that affects emotional and physical health. Depression can be triggered by an environmental stressor (if genetically susceptible.) It can also develop without any particular trigger.
Depression can present in someone who has a great job, a great family and a great life. Depression doesn’t care. It is similar to how Diabetes can occur in someone who maintains a healthy diet and is thin. Depression affects our way of thinking, but it also negatively affects our energy, motivation, concentration, sleep and appetite.
Depression is not just a brain condition; it is a body condition that requires treatment to eradicate the symptoms.
Myth 3: Medications “Cure” Depression
To date, there is no known available “cure” for Major Depressive Disorder.
Depression is conceptualized in terms of “remission” and “recurrence.” Depression is known for being episodic; it comes and goes. The more episodes of depression one has, the more they will continue to have. This is known as the “kindling effect” of depression.
The goal is to prevent recurrent episodes and keep the symptoms in remission.
There are various treatments that are used to achieve this. Preventative measures can include: daily medication, weekly talk therapy, a healthy diet, regular exercise, relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, and new innovative technology such as monthly maintenance TMS.
Myth 4: Depression Is Treated By Thinking Positively
Depression is not something you can just use will power to overcome. It robs you of your will power. It affects your thought patterns and thought process. When you are depressed, your thoughts are typically of a negative content only. You are a total failure. You are unworthy.
Depression makes you feel:
- lonely even when you have friends and family around you.
- guilty even if you have done nothing wrong.
- inadequate even though you have achieved successes.
Yes, using positive affirmations as a way to combat the automatic negative thoughts of depression does help, but it does not treat the clinical constellation of symptoms of depression.
Telling someone with depression “just think positively” is like telling an asthmatic “just take a breath.” The truth is, it is not just about saying the positive affirmations to yourself; it is believing them.
Myth 5: Depression Only Affects Women
The term hysteria comes from the Greek word that means uterus. Hysteria describes uncontrollable emotional excess. Due to the word’s origin, depression has long been assumed to be associated with and affecting only women.
This is a myth.
In reality, both men and women of all ages are susceptible to depression. Women are twice as likely to develop depression and are more likely to speak up and report their symptoms compared to men, but men do get clinical depression. Men are becoming more comfortable presenting their depression symptoms to a healthcare provider.
Myth 6: Everyone Experiences Depression The Same Way
Depression does affect thought patterns, typically seen as very black and white, all or nothing thinking.
Depression is described by symptoms including:
- feelings of deep sadness
- loneliness, hopelessness
- feelings of guilt
- appetite changes
- sleep disturbance
- decreased energy
- difficulty concentrating
- inability to experience pleasure
- struggles to motivate to do daily activities
- suicidal thoughts
Not everyone with depression experiences all of these symptoms. Having the majority of these symptoms for 2 weeks or longer is enough to meet criteria for a depressive episode.
Men tend to isolate more when depressed and women tend to have more irrational guilt.
Children and adolescents tend to experience more irritability and anger compared to adults when depressed.
Bottom line, we are all individuals, and we all have individual experiences, including if or how depression affects us.
Myth 7: Depression Is Triggered By Trauma
Hereditary factors do contribute to why some people develop depression and why some do not. We all experience stressors and some even traumatic events, but not all people who experience trauma develop depression. This is likely the genetic factor at play causing a susceptibility.
However, neither trauma nor genetics are the only contributors.
There are many medications used for various medical conditions, such as oral steroids like prednisone, antivirals like interferon, beta blockers used for blood pressure and even antibiotics, that have been long associated with having a direct causal effect on depression.
Patients who have had cardiac bypass surgery are at risk of developing depression. In addition, the state of pregnancy, the state of postpartum as well as menopause have also been shown to induce significant hormonal shifts in women that can trigger a depressive episode.
Even a traumatic brain injury, like from a concussion or even neurosurgery can cause depression to occur in someone who might not have eventually developed depression.
Myth 8: You Can Tell When Someone Is Depressed
People can be very good at hiding their depression symptoms. Many times, the people closest to you might not even know it.
Depression does not always show as persistent sadness. You won’t always see a depressed person crying in a corner somewhere. That is one of the myths about depression.
The important thing is if you see any of these kind of changes in a loved one, or you are feeling this way yourself, say something. There is something you can do about it.
Dr. Lindsay Israel is a board-certified psychiatrist. Her goal is to help patients feel empowered because their symptoms can leave them feeling powerless. She specializes in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy for the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. TMS is FDA-approved for depression and is a non-invasive, non-medication alternative to traditional treatments. Dr. Israel’s depression treatment center,Success TMS, focuses on this advanced therapy which allows patients to achieve remission from depression and return back to their best lives.