About 1 in 6 people are thought to experience depression at some point in their life. That’s a lot of people!
And yet, as common as depression is, many of us don’t truly understand it. A lot of us end up believing myths that we are told. Some of these myths can be harmful for those suffering from depression. Here are just a few of the most common myths…
‘Depression isn’t a real illness’
Depression may not come with clear symptoms like the flu or measles, but it’s still an illness. You could even argue that there is something physically wrong going on in the brain – clear links have been found between depression and a lack of monoamines (mood-related chemicals) in the brain.
It’s more than just a sense of sadness and it can be debilitating in the same way a physical disease is. It’s for this reason that you can’t ‘snap out’ of depression as you can with general sadness – recovery is a much longer process that requires finding physical cures.
‘Depression is a sign of weakness’
This is a very old-fashioned view of depression and is much like saying ‘cancer only affects the weak’. Anyone can suffer from depression – even the strongest people can be broken down by it. Don’t see yourself as weak by admitting you have depression. In fact, admitting you have depression takes strength!
‘Depression is genetic’
Studies have found that 40% of people with depression can trace it to a genetic link, whilst 60% had no link. This means that the jury is still out as to whether depression can be passed down from your parents.
On the whole, evidence would suggest that depression is something that is triggered largely by environmental factors. In other words, don’t feel that you’re doomed to be depressed just because your parents were – this kind of attitude prevents many people from fighting their depression by accepting that it’s in their blood and that there’s nothing that can be done about it. Depression can be cured and doesn’t have to be something that stays with you forever.
‘Depression only takes place after traumatic events’
Some people think that you can only be depressed if you’ve been through trauma such as coping with the death of a loved one or being a victim of crime or having one’s possessions destroyed in a fire. Whilst these traumatic events can all lead to depression, they’re not the only events that can trigger this.
Some people sink into depression simply from being overworked. Others get depressed because they are bored and feel their life is going nowhere. Many natural stages of life can also cause depression – especially when there’s a big change of lifestyle – such as moving out, coming back from college, having a baby, retiring and even getting married!
‘Taking anti-depressants will cure your depression’
Doctors will generally prescribe anti-depressants, but unfortunately these aren’t a magic pill. Anti-depressants help to numb the feeling of utter despair, which can stop you feeding off negative thoughts and allow people to start thinking more positively. However, this alone is generally not enough to beat depression.
Often other forms of depression treatment are needed such as getting counselling and making lifestyle changes. It’s a mental illness after all, which means you need to seek out the mental triggers and find ways to combat these.
‘Anti-depressants will just make you worse’
Some people do find that anti-depressants make them feel worse. This is because anti-depressants don’t just numb negative feelings, but also positive feelings of excitement and elation too.
Some people even report entire personality changes when taking this medication. Whilst this is something to be wary of, you shouldn’t steer clear of antidepressants just because other people claim this to be true – for the majority of people, anti-depressants do help.
By blocking out the most negative thoughts, they can encourage many people to take up a normal life again. They may numb some positive feelings in the process, but this doesn’t always mean you’ll feel worse overall. Ultimately, you should decide whether to take antidepressants based on how you react individually – if it makes you feel worse, stop taking them, but if it makes you feel better, keep up the dose. It’s important to remember that antidepressants aren’t a long-term solution and that you won’t have to put up with deadened positive feelings forever.
‘Eating healthy and exercising will cure your depression’
Diet and physical activity can have an effect on our mental state. Many people find that by eating more healthily and exercising more they are able to beat depression. However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Some people may find that even after exercising and eating healthy, they still feel awful. It’s definitely worth trying to live healthier – if only because it’s good for your physical health – but don’t see this as the only solution.
‘Going outside more will cure your depression’
It’s been scientifically proven that reduced exposure to sunlight can indeed negatively affect our mood. It’s for this reason that many people get depressed in winter – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a specific type of depression that some people suffer from caused by the shorter daylight hours in the winter. Whilst getting outside more could help you to get more sun rays (not to mention more fresh air to help re-oxygenate the brain), it isn’t enough to help everyone.
Some people spend most of their life outdoors and still get depressed. This just goes to show that other factors can be at play. Like dieting and exercising, going outside is important for your physical health and is something you should do if you spend most of your days cooped up indoors, however you shouldn’t view it as a miracle cure.