Disproving the Myth that "Depression is Fake"

Updated February 17, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

A thorough, concise understanding of mental health is imperative, especially in today’s busy world. Mental and behavioral health are equally as important as physical health and thankfully, more and more people are starting to understand this. However, there remains a subsection of people who unfortunately believe common myths about depression. One of these depression myths, that “depression is fake” or otherwise not a real illness is particularly harmful. This can be seen when depressed individuals are told to simply "get over it" by people who may not choose to know any better. While most people are aware that depression is a mental illness, people who have yet to come to this realization is it’s so important to disprove depression myths  such as "depression is fake.”

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First, let's take a thorough look at depression and all that it entails.

What You Need To Know About Depression

Depression is clinically defined as a "mental illness characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life." There are millions of people in the United States who live with depression annually. Furthermore, the existence of depression alters brain chemistry and parts of the brain which deal with emotions, perceptions, and so much more.

What Causes Depression?

There is no one singular cause of depression. However, there are multiple risk factors and circumstances which are linked to increased risk of depression. Environmental, psychological, and even hereditary factors are connected to depression, as are majorly traumatic events that individuals undergo and struggle to process.

Family history of mental illness is proven to increase one’s risk of depression. If someone has a close family member who has struggled with depression, it does not automatically mean that one will experience depression themselves, but it does significantly increase risk.

Having another mental illness or behavioral health disorder such as eating disorders, substance use disorders or post traumatic stress disorder contribute to a higher risk of depression. Post traumatic stress disorder involves experiencing distressing symptoms following a traumatic event, and is highly linked with anxiety and depression.

It is also common for substance use disorders to co-occur with mental illness, as an individual may turn to substance abuse to cope with overwhelming symptoms. Behavioral health treatment addresses both the substance abuse concerns and mental illness at the same time.

Depression affects women at higher rates than men which may be due to hormonal and biological factors in females. However, women are more likely to seek out mental health treatment, which impacts the data gathered on prevalence of depression. It is important to note the unique ways in which depression affects women. Forms of depression specific to women include premenstrual dysphoric disorder, perinatal depression and perimenopausal depression. Depression affects women in different ways, therefore it is crucial to understand the ways depression might manifest. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, seek out medical advice from a health care professional who can provide mental health treatment options.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of major depression may vary among individuals. Anxiety, extreme fluctuations in weight, insomnia, and a lack of interest in normally enjoyed activities are common experiences of individuals who experience depression. Likewise, people with depression may also undergo feelings of hopelessness, concentration ailments, and even thoughts of suicide.

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.

Some individuals may turn to drug or alcohol abuse to try to self-medicate overwhelming symptoms of depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is common for substance use disorders and mental illness to co-exist. However, substance use disorders can lead to exacerbated symptoms of mental illness, spurring a vicious cycle. It is crucial to seek appropriate behavioral health treatment that addresses both substance use disorders and mental illness.

Treatment for Depression

Like any mental illness, depression cannot be cured, but there are ways to effectively treat and manage the condition. Typically depression treatment involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy). If an individual is not experiencing symptom relief from these methods, they may choose to explore other treatment options such as brain stimulation therapy.

A common type of psychotherapy (or talk therapy) that is found to be effective as depression treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. This method focuses on challenging unhelpful thought patterns to influence one’s mood and behavioral health. Behavioral health counseling can be beneficial for learning to cope with mental health issues. One will learn skills and techniques to incorporate healthy coping skills into their life.

Behavioral health involves the connection between an individual’s body and mind. The focus of behavioral health is how one’s habits impact their mental and physical wellbeing. It is important to recognize the connection between one’s physical health and mental health.Strategies for managing depression include engaging in healthy habits such as following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and prioritizing sleep.

It is also crucial for an individual experiencing depression to build a strong support system. Studies have shown the impact of social support and having a reliable support system on recovery from mental illness. One’s support system may consist of trusted friends, family members, an online community or support group.

What works well for one person may not work for another. It is imperative to seek medical advice and learn about mental health treatment options from a licensed, trained, accredited doctor. Under no circumstances should someone attempt to self-diagnose or self-medicate, nor should they accept diagnosis or treatment from someone who is not an accredited and licensed doctor.

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Why Do Some People Think Depression Is Fake?

Due to the studies, science, and well-documented evidence, it can be frustrating to learn that there are people who believe depression is fake. However, one of the best ways to combat this misinformation to explore the reasons individuals have for these incorrect beliefs and then handle these reasons with logic and facts about mental illness.

They Believe it's for Attention

One of the most common reasons certain people harbor skepticism towards depression is the belief that mental illness is simply a convoluted method of seeking attention. However, this simply isn't the truth. Many people with depression actually withdraw from other people and activities which they normally love. That's the opposite of attention-seeking. Depression is not a trend or a fad; it's a very real clinical and mental illness requiring treatment.

Telling an individual who experiences depression that they are simply seeking attention is very dangerous and reckless on multiple counts. Depending on how extreme an individual's depression is and whether or not they're currently getting help, that type of statement could seriously worsen their emotional health. Anyone who truly understands depression and how devastating it can be on people's lives would never dare to say that it's simply an act for attention.

They Believe it's about Hypersensitivity

Another toxic myth about depression is that it's all about someone being too sensitive about certain things. Like the false belief that people with depression are seeking attention, the facts and science simply don't support this idea. A mental illness that impacts the brain chemistry and parts of the brain which control basic functions goes way beyond simply being less sensitive. Many of the strongest, toughest people in the world deal with depression. It has nothing to do with merely being too hypersensitive.

They Don't Understand the Causes of Depression

Many individuals dismiss depression as fake do so due to utter ignorance about what causes depression. People with this mindset often wonder, "what does that person have to be depressed about?" It's more common than some would believe. Another typical misconception is the idea that being wealthy and successful automatically means that a person won't experience depression. Yet again, this is simply not factual. As stated previously, there are a series of risk factors that increase one’s risk of depression including biological factors (like brain chemistry), genetics, psychological and environmental factors.

Having another mental illness or behavioral health disorder such as eating disorders, substance use disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder also contributes to a higher risk of depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder involves experiencing distressing symptoms following a traumatic event and is highly linked with anxiety and depression. It is also common for substance use disorders to co-occur with mental illness, as an individual may turn to substance abuse to cope with overwhelming symptoms. Behavioral health treatments are available to address both substance abuse and mental illness at the same time.

A lack of understanding of depression does not invalidate the gravity or existence of depression.

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How To Help People Understand That Depression Is Real

When we encounter people who genuinely believe that depression is fake, it can be easy to become angry or want to lash out. While feeling this way is understandable, it does not solve the problem. Instead of lashing out at people who do not understand depression, communicating with them in a respectful, intelligent manner is the answer. Showing them the facts about depression, scientific data, and evidence about mental illness serves as the proper way to educate those who are uneducated.

Natural Progression

When mental illness is discussed in society, it can serve as a source of information for individuals who believe that depression is fake. Sometimes, it can take time for people to learn accurate facts about depression. An awakening or breakthrough will not always occur after one conversation. In many cases, people have to learn in their own ways and when they are ready.

What If You Or Someone You Know Is Dealing With Depression?

If you or someone you know is living with depression, one of the most important things to do is ensure a strong support system is in place. Living with a mental illness can be very difficult and challenging, and having a reliable support system makes all the difference in the world. When someone is living with a serious mental illness, knowing that they are loved and not alone can make a significant difference in their life. One’s support system may consist of trusted friends, family members, an online community or support group.

Being there for someone who is dealing with depression includes encouraging them to get the proper help. This could involve working with a counselor or therapist. Certain people may be more receptive to accepting professional help, while others may have reservations. In cases of depression, the individual could feel as though the suggestion of counseling or therapy means something is wrong with them. This is simply not the case. There is nothing wrong with seeing a mental health specialist; as a matter of fact, doing this can serve as an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

Sometimes, depression is the manifestation of an issue from the past which has not previously been resolved. As stated earlier, trauma is one of many culprits associated with the development of depression. When people don’t work through issues as they arise, it causes problems that can linger beneath the surface and also adversely impact the quality of a person's life. This is yet another reason why people with depression can benefit from working with counselors and therapists. Behavioral health specialists in this field are very good at what they do and can help a person get to the bottom of what is causing their depression.

Some individuals may turn to drug or alcohol abuse to try to self-medicate overwhelming symptoms of depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is common for substance use disorders and mental illness to co-exist. However, substance use disorders can lead to exacerbated symptoms of mental illness, spurring a vicious cycle. It is crucial to seek appropriate behavioral health treatment that addresses both substance use disorders and mental illness.

A Final Word

Depression is a very real illness. It is a serious mental illness which millions of individuals battle each year. While many factors and causes can lead to depression, that does not take away its gravity or severity of this mental health issue. Society will continue to improve as more and more people understand depression and how very real it is.

When faced with depression, one of the bravest things to do is ask for help. It may be nerve-wracking or challenging, but the proper help from behavioral health professionals can help strengthen you on your journey and positively impact the rest of your life. Everyone faces challenges at one point or another, but they don't have to face these challenges alone. Living with depression or other types of mental illness is much easier with the right reliable support system. It’s important to understand that you are not less of a person because of the challenges you are working to overcome.

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Guidance and assistance will always be available to those who are open and receptive to it. Here at BetterHelp, we have an amazing group of counselors and therapists who would be thrilled to work with you no matter who you are or what your story is. You can contact BetterHelp at whichever point you feel most comfortable.

Online mental health services are growing therapeutic resources in the field of psychological treatments. It has been noted to be a great alternative to traditional therapy sessions if they are not offered in your local area, or if your schedule is busy during business hours. A study published by the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences found that online computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) used both individually and with online support groups was highly effective in addressing symptoms of mental health concerns. Patients from ages 18 to 75 learned about CCBT programs after being referred by their primary care physicians. Over six months, more than 83% of patients entered the programs. They later reported that symptoms of anxiety and depression greatly improved over regular sessions.

If you are not sure about seeking face-to-face therapy, you may consider online mental health services as an effective alternative treatment. All you need is a working device and connection to the internet. Many options such as video conferences, live messaging systems, and phone calls are available depending on your preferences. Additionally, you can schedule sessions at your convenience. There is no need to drive to a physical office or wait a long time to see your licensed therapist. Here are just a few reviews of individuals who used BetterHelp to help manage their symptoms of depression:

“Jana is very supportive. She is good about connecting the variety of things we discussed and helping me take action steps to work on my depression and anxiety. She has a very comfortable nonjudgmental energy which I appreciate.”

“Debra is an excellent listener. After talking her ear off for several sessions, I believe we are getting to the core of my depression and anxiety and relating it to my trauma. She is helping me see patterns in my past that no longer serve me which are contributing to my fears and limiting my life. She is helping me learn new skills to improve the thoughts on which I dwell, my core beliefs, my relationship habits and my self-worth. I have a long way to go but I always feel better and more capable and empowered after a session with her. She is kind and understanding. Whenever I tell her, "this is gonna sound crazy" she always helps me feel that -not only is it not crazy- but why it was logical for me to look at it a certain way. Her calm, capable expertise is a very welcome port in the storm of my life.”


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