Depression is a mental illness that affects how you feel, think, and act. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally 1 out of every 4 people will be impacted by poor mental health or mental illness at some point in their lives. Despite the high prevalence of depression, many myths and misconceptions persist. Depressed people often face prejudice due to the stigma attached to mental illness. This stigma might prevent people from seeking treatment. That is why it’s important to learn facts about depression and encourage people to ask for help.
Myth 1: “Depression is not a real disease”
There seems to be a widespread belief that depression is not an illness. Some people even believe that depressed people play the victim and dramatize their feelings. They view depression as a weakness of character or mere sadness. Although sadness is indeed a common symptom of depression, it is only a small part of it. Feeling anxious, hopeless, fatigued, angry, or empty are also symptoms. Furthermore, sadness is temporary and fades with time. In contrast to depression, which is a longer-term illness and impairs social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning. The reason why depression is seen as a disease is that it causes biological changes, such as inflammation, neuroendocrine regulation, platelet activity, autonomic nervous system activity, and skeletal homeostasis. In this way, depression is linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Myth 2: “Depression only affects women”
There is a huge misconception about depression only affecting women, suggesting that men don’t experience depression. Men may not be as likely to admit or report that they feel down due to social pressures. Social and cultural norms make it difficult for men to show their vulnerability. Men are usually concerned that it will make them look “weak” or less masculine. As a result, men are less likely to seek treatment.
Depression can have major consequences for men, as they are more likely to commit suicide. Suicide rates are four times higher among men compared to women. That is why it’s important to encourage fathers, husbands, brothers, and male friends to talk about their feelings. Note that I am talking about encouraging them to open up by adopting a neutral attitude. I am not talking about forcing them to open up or to seek treatment.
Myth 3: “Depression only occurs after a traumatic event, such as a breakup, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, or car accident”
Life throws lemons at everyone. It is normal to be sad from time to time especially when you have just experienced a breakup. Events like a breakup or the loss of a job are triggers for depression but are not necessarily a cause of depression. Triggers intensify symptoms of depression. Depression is caused by both biological and environmental changes.
Myth 4: “Depression will go away on its own”
Depression might come on its own, it does not disappear on its own. Treatment is needed to address the symptoms of depression. A psychologist provides tools to you so you can restore happiness, get control over your life, and return to normal levels of functioning. Not seeking treatment for depression means that you are prolonging depression for months or even years. Worse, it can lead to self-harming behaviours.
With professional help, depression is treatable. Just make the call to ask for treatment options or call a friend to talk about how you feel. There are always people out there who are willing to help. 😊
Self-care is how you take your power back.