“Depression Is A Choice”: Myths About Depression
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated February 16, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
As a society, we believe a lot of myths about all kinds of things. People either decide to form their own opinion about something even if they're not educated on the topic, or they see a post on social media and believe it without really researching it themselves. While some myths don't hurt us as a society, there are other ones that do. There are plenty of common myths and misconceptions about depression such as "depression is a choice" that we need to put an end to.
Allowing myths about depression to perpetuate can lead to larger problems. It causes people that are experiencing depression to believe untrue things about it, which can lead them to not getting the help that they need. These myths may also leave people with depression experiencing shame and embarrassment about their struggle.
Here are some of the common depression myths and misconceptions followed by their truth.
Myth: Depression Is A Choice
There are many people in society who believe that depression is purely a choice. They think that it's all in someone's head and that they can just decide to stop feeling depressed if they want to. They may say things like "suck it up" or "just choose to feel happy" when talking with someone that is experiencing depression. It’s important to comprehend that an individual with depression does not choose to remain in feelings of sadness.
According to depression medically reviewed articles, symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in usual activities, change in eating or sleeping patterns, fatigue, physical aches and pains, and difficulty concentrating.
Medically reviewed articles on Healthline Media (a Red Ventures Company) declare that clinical depression is a medical condition which develops due to a complex set of factors such as brain chemistry, genetics, and environment.
Someone that is struggling with depression cannot just choose to feel better any more than someone with the stomach flu can just choose to feel fine instantly. People with depression can choose to seek treatment and get help, but that is hard for them to do with this particular belief clouding things.
Mental health and physical health are connected far deeper than many people realize. Many mental health conditions such as depression can lead to physical symptoms. Someone with depression may experience aches and pains, digestive problems, and headaches. We don't expect people that have a physical illness to just decide to feel better, and people with depression deserve that same understanding and consideration.
Myth: Depression is Caused by Circumstances
There are several different things that can cause depression. There are some people who experience symptoms of depression after experiencing a traumatic event in life. This could include the loss of a loved one, a medical diagnosis, or the end of a relationship such as a divorce. Any person going through situations like these are going to experience a wide array of emotions. Ups and downs, and feelings of sadness are a normal part of life and many individuals can move past their feelings of distress on their own.
However, there are some people that are unable to move past it and instead of the feelings going away, they may become stronger, causing the person to go into depression. But depression does not need to be caused by an event that happened in your life. A major life change or traumatic event is only one factor that can lead an individual to develop depression. A medically reviewed article on Heathline Media (a Red Ventures company) lists numerous risk factors that can increase one’s risk of depression such as brain chemistry, genetics, substance abuse and other medical illnesses.
Brain chemistry is thought to play a significant role, as depression is correlated with low levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine (neurotransmitters in the brain).
Genetics are also a factor, as a family member with depression increases one’s risk of depression. Not meaning that if someone in your family has been depressed that you definitely will be, but it is more likely if you have a family history of depression. If you are predisposed to depression because of things like this, you may be more likely to experience depressive symptoms when going through stressful life circumstances.
Medically reviewed articles state that substance abuse is another factor that increases an individual’s risk of depression.
Myth: If You're Depressed, You Need an Antidepressant
According to depression medically reviewed articles on Healthline Media, there are many different treatment options for depression. Medication and antidepressants are just one form of a treatment available. Some people find it very helpful to take antidepressants in order to get their symptoms under control. But there are other people who prefer not to take any medicine.
There are also various myths and misconceptions about antidepressant medication. Many individuals believe that antidepressants change your personality. Medically reviewed sources found that taking antidepressant medication correctly will allow you to return to previous functioning and feel more like yourself, not change your personality. If feelings of apathy or numbness are occurring as a result of antidepressant medication, work with your doctor or psychiatrist as you may need to adjust dosages or try a different medication.
There are other treatment options that you might explore. One effective treatment for depression is going to therapy. Many therapists like to use cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT to treat patients experiencing depression. Through this type of therapy, patients can learn important skills to help them cope with their symptoms of depression instead of just trying to identify what is causing it.
Many people that are struggling with depression find that a combination of several different types of treatment such as medication psychotherapy is most effective in helping them with their symptoms.
Myth: Men Don't Deal with Depression
Some people believe that only women are diagnosed with depression. While it is true that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, there are a few things that you need to consider when looking at that statistic.
Medically reviewed articles on Healthline Media convey that men are less likely to seek help when experiencing the signs of depression. This means that the statistics indicating depression in men could be much higher but there are men that cannot be counted because they are not reaching out for help.
Also, men have some different symptoms and signs of depression than women tend to. Signs of depression in men include participating in risky behavior, substance abuse, and anger or irritability. A better understanding of what depression in men might look like is helpful in recognizing it.
The stigma around depression and also the myth that men shouldn't show emotion also get in the way of men seeking help for their depression.
Myth: You Are Weak If You Are Depressed
Some people believe that depression is a sign of weakness. This cannot be further from the truth. People who are living with depression are often overcoming things that many other people cannot even fathom. Depression is not a weakness in the same way that cancer is not a weakness. They are both health conditions, it's just that one impacts your mental health and the other impacts your physical health.
Myth: Depression Will Just Go Away
This is a dangerous myth for anyone that is experiencing symptoms of depression to believe. Some people assume that depression is not a big deal, that it doesn't need to be treated, and that it will just go away on its own.
Depression is a treatable condition. You can learn how to overcome it and deal with the effects of depression through therapy, but if you're waiting for depression to just go away on its own you can be waiting for a very long time. Depression should also be taken seriously and addressed because when left untreated the condition can become worse and lead to serious health consequences.
If you are experiencing symptoms or signs of depression such as ongoing feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in usual activities, change in eating or sleeping patterns, it is important to seek mental health treatment.
Myth: Depression Is Just Feeling Sad
There are people out there that think that depression is just feeling sad. They may even believe that it's feeling very sad, but this is not true either. Yes, some people who experience depression may experience feelings of sadness, but depression is a lot more complex than this.
Feeling sad is a normal part of life that everyone experiences at some point. Depression is something that is ongoing and can last a long time. It often includes many other feelings and emotions other than sadness.
Depressive episodes may include fatigue, loss of energy, loss of interest in usual activities, change in eating or sleeping patterns, physical aches and pains, feelings of loneliness, emptiness, worthlessness, anxiety, anger, and irritability. Individuals living with depression are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
Myth: Depression Looks the Same in Everyone
We've already covered that depression can look different in men than it does in women, but it can also just look different from one person to the next. While some people may experience feelings of worthlessness and loneliness, others may be feeling more irritable and angrier. Some may struggle with eating too much and sleeping too much, while others are unable to sleep or eat. Some people feel anxious and others feel nothing at all.
Depression can look a lot of different ways and it's not going to look the same in each person that's why it's important to understand all of the various signs of depression so you can recognize if you are exhibiting any of them.
Find Out More
If you think that you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it's important to seek help from a trained professional. You can talk with an online therapist or a local therapist in your area. They can help you identify if what you're dealing with is actually depression and if so, they can help you form a treatment plan that will work for you.
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