Six Common Misconceptions About Depression

shutterstock_300313046According to allaboutdepression.com, one in 20 Americans experience depression in a given year, making it one of the most common and prevalent medical conditions. Although lots of people experience depression, many don’t know very much about its symptoms or treatment. Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge is one of the reasons why Mental Health America says only about 35% of people with depression seek treatment. There are many myths and misconceptions regarding depression. Knowing the facts can help reduce the stigma and ultimately increase the chances a person experiencing depression seeks help. Below are six of the most common misconceptions about depression.

It’s all in your head. Some people deny the fact that depression is a real illness. The truth is that depression is a legitimate medical condition related to brain chemistry, function, structure, and sometimes involves environmental or biological factors. Symptoms of depression can include aches and pains, sleeping too much or too little, and extreme lethargy. Additionally, it can cause people to have feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and self-doubt. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. It’s important to know that depression is treatable through medication and/or psychotherapy, and that recovery is possible.

Depression only affects women. Our culture sometimes discourages men from discussing their feelings, asking for help or showing signs of weakness. As a result, some men turn away from treatment. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and white males over the age of 45 are most vulnerable, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are a man experiencing depression or have thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone. According to research done by the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately six million American men go through depression each year. Our culture must acknowledge the importance of mental health treatment for everyone who needs it and this includes men.

Depression is a sign of weakness. Depression can affect anyone regardless of physical or mental strength. Some of America’s most well-known citizens – including Abraham Lincoln, Terry Bradshaw, and Judy Collins - have experienced depression. Oscar De La Hoya, one of boxing’s all-time greats who won 10 world titles in six different weight classes, has been treated for depression.

Talking about it only makes it worse. Try not to ignore the symptoms of depression if you see it in your spouse, children or co-workers. Showing support can be very valuable for the person going through depression. It is a relief when someone notices a change in your mood or behavior and has the compassion and courage to ask how you’re doing. Friends and family members can be very helpful to a person experiencing depression by listening and offering steady support and encouragement.

Medication will change your personality and you’ll be taking it forever. Today’s anti-depressants are safe and effective. For most people, taking an anti-depressant makes them feel more like themselves. Antidepressants are not the same as painkillers or sedatives and they don’t typically make people feel “medicated”. Their job is to correct the brain chemistry that is causing your symptoms of depression. Your doctor will help you know if a particular medication is working for you and when you are feeling well enough to stop taking it. In most cases, engaging in therapy while using an anti-depressant will speed up your recovery.

The best way to help someone with depression is to cheer them up. Well-meaning people will often tell a person with depression to look on the bright side. Or snap out of it.  Or stop thinking about it.  However, it’s much more complicated than that. The best way to help a person with depression is to make sure they have access to screening and treatment.  A depression screening can be done during a primary care visit, during an intake appointment at a counseling center or in the privacy of your home with a confidential call to a crisis hotline.

For more resources and information, go to www.communityreachcenter.org or call (303) 853-3500, Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call Colorado Crisis Services for 24-Hour assistance: (844) 493-8255 (TALK) or dial 911 for emergency assistance.