Depression is a common medical condition, but is still widely misinterpreted. Depression can be mild or severe, and in extreme cases, can even lead to suicide. Clinical depression is a term used to describe the more severe form of depression. The stigma associated with mental illness makes it difficult for people suffering from depression to talk about their condition, and seek proper treatment. To top that, prevalent myths and misconceptions come in the way of creating and spreading awareness about the condition. Following are some of the common myths about depression.
Myth#1: Depression is extreme grief and sadness, not a medical condition.
Reality: Perhaps the biggest mistake people make is when they think that depression is just an extreme manifestation of sadness or grief, and hence, nothing serious. Very few people are aware of the fact that depression is a serious medical condition, which requires immediate treatment. It can be caused by various factors, and sadness is just one of the many symptoms of depression. Research has shown that people with depression show increased levels of stress hormones in their body, and it can also affect the pattern of functioning of certain areas of the brain. While sadness can last for a few days, depression can even last for a lifetime, if not treated.
Myth#2: Strong willpower will help you overcome depression.
Reality: This is not true, because depression is not just a state of mind, but more often than not, is caused by chemical changes occurring in the body. So, just like sheer determination, strong willpower, and a positive outlook towards life cannot help you recover from other medical conditions, they cannot help you overcome depression either. In fact, instead of using one's willpower to overcome depression, or even waiting for the condition to go away by itself, one should seek medical help. Neglecting the early symptoms of depression can be dangerous, and can even lead to suicide.
Myth#3: Depression only affects the weak.
Reality: Depression has nothing to do with one's strength, physical or mental. It's like any other disease or disorder, and one can do little to get rid of depression, other than seeking treatment. There are many factors that can trigger depression, and the truth is that depression can strike anyone. Some of the most powerful people in the world have had to deal with depression at some point in their lives.
Myth#4: There is no effective treatment for depression.
Reality: Many people believe that depression cannot be treated, and once you're diagnosed with clinical depression, you're destined to live with it forever. However, this is not true, because depression can be effectively treated with antidepressants and psychotherapy. The fact is that, around 80% of people diagnosed with clinical depression recover completely with proper treatment. However, one should understand that recovery from depression takes time, and one might have to continue treatment for several months together.
Myth#5: Depression only affects women. Men are immune to depression.
Reality: Most people believe that only women suffer from clinical depression, because depression is twice as common in women as in men. Men also suffer from depression, but they shy away from seeking help, because certain cultures teach men not to show their weakness.
Myth#6: Antidepressants are the only treatment for depression.
Reality: Many people have the false belief that only popping pills can help cure depression. The truth is that psychotherapy is equally effective, more so in cases of mild to moderate depression. Most doctors recommend a course of treatment that is a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants. It has been observed that different patients respond differently to treatment.
Myth#7: Once you start taking antidepressants, you'll have to be on medications for the rest of your life.
Reality: Most people diagnosed with depression refuse to go on medication, because they fear they would have to continue treatment for the rest of their lives. However, this is not true. Most patients recover completely from depression with just a few months to a little over a year of treatment, depending on the severity of the condition.
Myth#8: There are no physical symptoms of depression.
Reality: In addition to feeling sad, one who is depressed also feels lonely and helpless, and loses interest in activities that he/she once loved to indulge in. Depressed individuals cut down on socializing and withdraw into a shell. In addition to the psychological symptoms, a patient suffering from clinical depression may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches, sleeplessness, extreme fatigue, etc. In some cases, depression can even lead to eating disorders and substance abuse.
Myth#9: If your parents or a close relative suffers from depression, you'll inherit it.
Reality: This is partially true, because if one has a family history of depression, there is an increased risk of experiencing the symptoms. However, the possibility of this risk is only 10 - 15%, and does not indicate that one is bound to suffer from depression if a close relative has been diagnosed with the condition.
Myth#10: Depression is a normal part of growing old.
Reality: Since statistics show that depression is more common in people above the age of 65, many people believe that it is normal for the elderly to experience it. However, this is not true. Depression in the elderly can be due to various factors, including the loss of meaningful work, loss of a loved one, or health problems.
Depression is a medical condition, and not a mere 'phase' of life. One should seek treatment when experiencing the symptoms of depression, irrespective of age. And it's not just the elderly who suffer from depression, but also children and adolescents.
Many people believe that talking to a person about his/her depression can make things worse, which is far from the truth. If you have a loved one who is depressed, motivate him or her to seek help.