Depression is a common mental health issue in the United States, and yet, there are still a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the disorder. We’ve learned a lot about depression and mental health, though stigma can still present a barrier to treatment for many people. Learning the facts about depression and mood disorders may help you combat stigma. If you feel like you’re struggling with depression symptoms, you should learn more about mood disorders to dispel the myths that may be preventing you from getting the help that you need.
But what are the common misconceptions about depression?
Depression is All in Your Head
Many people that are struggling with depression symptoms may believe that it’s just in their head and thus able to be fixed with a simple mindset shift. While it’s true that depression is a mental health issue that has to do with your brain, emotions, and how you think, which are all things associated with your head and brain, depression is an officially diagnosed disorder. When someone says, “depression is all in your head,” it sounds like they’re saying that it’s not a real problem, just a perceived problem. However, depression is one of the most common health issues in the United States. It can affect all kinds of people, even people that are thoughtful, well-organized problem solvers. Even famous people like Abraham Lincoln are thought to have struggled with depression.
Depression can cause emotional and psychological issues that are difficult to control and defy your attempts to reason through them. In many cases, depression can have genetic and biological causes. Researchers believe that major depression can have a heritability of around 50%. That means having a parent or grandparent with depression makes up about 50% of your risk of getting the disorder. Other forms of depression may have different heritability percentages. However, that doesn’t mean that depression is inevitable if your parents have it. There are other risks and protective factors that can contribute to your likelihood of getting the disorder.
In many cases, depression is rooted in a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be treated with medications. For that reason, biological factors are thought to play a role in depression. Depression can also cause physical symptoms like aches and pains, sleep problems, changes in appetite, and changes in weight.
You Can Just Snap Out of It
The idea that you can just snap out of it goes along with the myth that depression is just in your head. Depictions of depression in the media often show a friend that encourages a depressed person to get out of their funk by going out for a night of fun. However, no one decides to be depressed, and if there were a way to snap out of it quickly, most people would do it. It can help to exercise and become more active, but this involves pushing through and learning to cope with depression symptoms that may not go away.
Some people assume the root of depression is laziness or self-pity, but it’s actually a complex biological and psychological issue. It is true that treating depression often requires action. More specifically, you may need to speak to a doctor or therapist to learn ways to address the disorder. However, this often involves more work than just snapping out of it.
There’s Just One Depression
Depression is a common name that’s used for all mental health issues that cause low moods. However, there are several mental health issues in a category called mood disorders that involve depression symptoms. What most people think of when they think about depression is major depression, which involves a loss of interest in normal activity, low mood, and several other possible symptoms. There is also persistent depressive disorder which usually lasts longer than major depression but includes less intense symptoms. Bipolar disorder is also a mood disorder that involves both depression symptoms and symptoms of very high moods called mania. Peripartum depression involves depressive symptoms during or after pregnancy. Seasonal depression is a depression that shows up around the same time each year, usually during the winter months.
Antidepressants Cure Depression
Antidepressants are useful medications in treating mood disorders like depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) are first-line medications to treat depression and anxiety. However, there is no cure for depression. In fact, there are no single treatment approaches that work for every person. Antidepressants may be necessary to effectively treat your depression, but there are many different kinds of antidepressants that can be used. People may respond to specific medications differently, and it may take time to find the right one for your needs. You may need to go through a trial and error process to find the right dose of the right drug that provides relief without uncomfortable side effects.
There are also several therapy options that can help you learn to cope with depression in effective ways. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, general talk therapy, and other forms of psychotherapy are some common therapy options that can be used to treat depression. In many cases, a combination of both options is the most effective treatment.
Depression Means I’m Weak
Depression has several complex causes that work together, but it likely has nothing to do with your own strengths or weaknesses. Many that most people would consider strong and capable may struggle with depression. Depression may be caused by genetic, environmental, and developmental factors that are out of your control. Trying to get through a persistent mood disorder just based on strength of will may not help you effectively address the problem. Like other health issues, you may need to seek treatment and learn better ways to cope with your symptoms.
Depression Lasts Forever
Depression can cause you to feel like the way you will feel will never end. Even when you get used to the ups and downs of life, depression will make you feel like the downs are long, and the ups are fleeting. However, depression usually comes and goes. Major depressive episodes usually last around two weeks before you return to a normal mood. However, in the middle of a depressive episode, it’s often difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even when you know it will pass. The longest-lasting depressive symptoms come with persistent depressive disorder, which can last for months or a full year. However, even that may come and go. With treatment, you may also see an improvement in symptoms that shorten or alleviate depressive episodes.
Everyone Deals with Depression as a Part of Life
It’s true that everyone experiences a low mood from time to time, especially around upsetting, disruptive, or overwhelming life events. However, the sadness that the average person feels around these difficult life events isn’t the same thing as a depressive disorder. Sadness is a normal human reaction to certain things you will experience throughout your life, and there’s no need to treat it. Someone that is sad will feel their negative emotions fade with time. It’s also easier to be cheered up when you’re in a naturally low mood.
Depression can be more troublesome, and it may come and go with no noticeable causes. Someone that’s going through generally positive life events may still struggle with depression symptoms. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has an official diagnosis for major depressive episodes. In it, there are specific qualifiers, including a list of symptoms, a time frame for symptoms, and the necessity that symptoms cause significant disruptions in your life. One of the major differences between normal emotions and mental health issues is the fact that mental disorders lead to disorders in your life. If you struggle to cope with your psychological symptoms in a way that leads to health issues, social problems, or financial instability, you may have a disorder.
A major change in the diagnosis of major depressive episodes between the fourth and fifth editions of the DSM is the presence of typical causes of sadness like the loss of a loved one. The fifth edition dropped the qualifier that symptoms can’t be better explained by normal causes. In other words, clinicians and researchers now believe it is possible for normal life events to cause disordered major depressive symptoms that require treatment.
Depression is Caused by Bad Events
While depression can be triggered by a negative life event like the loss of a loved one, a breakup, or major disappointments, it can also come on randomly. Many people struggle with depression despite positive life events and major accomplishments. In some cases, positive news can’t cheer up a person with depression; if it does, their positive moods don’t last long. In some cases, people with depression may feel frustrated because they believe they should be happy with their current stage in life, but they still feel sad. Depression can cause unexplainable periods of sadness, low energy, feelings of worthlessness, and hopelessness.