Despite the fact that more and more awareness is being created about depression, many common myths still prevail. Kristin, our wonderful guest contributor clarifies some of these myths in her post and we can't thank her enough!
May is National Mental Health Month in the U.S. Depression is the common name to describe a range of mood disorders. There are many stereotypes and downright lies about depression and the people who suffer from it. Here are a few common myths about depression.
1. You Are the Only One Who Feels This Way
Sometimes you feel like nobody understands what you're going through. But depression is actually one of the most common mental illnesses in America. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 20 million Americans over the age of 18 have mood disorders. That’s 9.5 percent of the population!
2. Depression Isn’t a ‘real’ Disease
Almost everyone has ridden the hormonal roller coaster from time to time and experienced a bad day or two. But depression is more than a blue mood. It is a medical condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Feeling sad and down for several weeks at a time may be a sign of depression. You should seek medical help if you are having intense feelings of sadness, especially if they involve hurting yourself or others. There is no blood test that can conclusively prove that you have depression, but your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. Sometimes other medical conditions can have the same signs as depression, and your doctor will rule those out. It is important to be honest with your doctor and tell him or her how long you've been feeling this way. Keeping a journal of your moods can be helpful, as well as therapeutic.
3. You Can ‘think’ Yourself out of Depression
Depression will not go away on its own. You can not «snap out of it.» This is something people do not always understand. In the same way you cannot make your cold go away, you cannot just get rid of depression. It is also important to treat depression, because it can increase your risk for other diseases like heart attack and diabetes.
4. There is Only One Cause of Depression
No one knows what exactly causes depression. It can be triggered by a traumatic event, such as losing a loved one or stress. There may also be a genetic link. The way a person shows symptoms can be different too. Men with depression can have trouble sleeping, be irritable or angry. Women can have feelings of being worthless and guilt, which can add to the cycle of sadness. You can feel sad, you can feel anxious and unable to concentrate all the time. You may feel it at the same time! Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed is also a sign of depression. If you find yourself sleeping in bed all day, when you used to love rock climbing, you might want to talk with your doctor.
5. You Have Nothing to Be Depressed about
Having a loving group of friends and family or being in a certain tax bracket, does not keep you from being depressed. Depression can affect anyone no matter their age, gender, or ethnicity. Sometimes depression can appear for no reason at all! Depression can cause some people to feel guilty for feeling sad, which keeps them from seeking treatment. Your doctor won’t judge you for feeling sad, so talk to him or her.
6. Treatment is Expensive
Prescription medication is a big issue today. It seems like pharmaceutical companies are making money hand over fist and charging the consumer outrageous prices. It is true that some prescription medication can be expensive, and your health care insurance may not always cover the cost. But generic prescriptions are the same medicine at a much lower cost. If your doctor prescribes a specific brand, ask how much it will cost and then ask about a generic brand. Some pharmacies will only fill a prescription for the name brand written on the prescription, so make sure that your doctor knows you would like the generic instead.
7. Medication Will ‘change’ You
No one knows exactly what causes depression, so every patient is different. This means that the treatment each patient needs is different as well. You and your doctor may have to try a few different prescriptions before you find the one that works for you. It can take 2-6 weeks before you feel the medicine’s full strength. Anti-depressants can be powerful medicine and can have some scary side-effects. If you do feel like a different person (and not in a good way) then talk to your doctor about exploring other treatment options. Healthy eating and exercise can help reduce your symptoms as well, but shouldn't take the place of doctor prescribed medication.
8. One Pill Will Solve All Your Problems
While anti-depressants can have a positive effect on most people, they are not a magic pill. Some doctors will prescribe psychotherapy as part of a patient’s treatment. Psychotherapy is designed to help patients change their thoughts and behavior to better improve their lives. Another option a doctor might recommend is group therapy. It can be very comforting to be in an environment where you can share your concerns with others who are dealing with the same issues.
9. You Will Be on Medication for the Rest of Your Life
The first step to conquering depression is getting help. Less than half of people suffering from depression will seek help. But with treatment, 70% of depression sufferers will go into remission. It will not rule your life forever. If you feel like you’re drowning in your life and can’t find a way out, talk to a doctor or a mental health professional.
These are just some of the misconceptions people have about depression. Check out mentalhealthamerica.net for more information on specific disorders, and how to find a mental health care professional in your area.