Myths About Depression
Why are there so many myths about depression?
Depression can look very different for each person. Different age groups afflicted with the disorder can manifest different symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms appear contradictory. Also, there is not one concrete laboratory test that can diagnose depression. To complicate things even more, treatment methods vary widely, and medications commonly used to treat the disorder are not an exact science, although they are effective.
So what are the myths about depression, versus the facts?
One of the most common and also most harmful depression myths is that someone can “snap out of” their negative mood. A person with depression, with willpower alone, can overcome the disease with positive thinking. This myth is dangerous and contributes to the stigma surrounding depression and other mental illnesses.
Some of the most common and outwardly visible depression symptoms are feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and guilt. But these feelings don’t exist in a vacuum when it comes to depression. These negative, pervasive emotions are an indicator of something much more profound. In this case, they are part of a medical condition that requires treatment, not an attitude adjustment.
When people with depression are led to believe that their feelings are a sign of weakness or laziness, it can prevent them from realizing that in actuality, they are sick and need medical attention. The sooner someone can recognize that their negative feelings are an indicator of depression, the sooner they can get the right treatment and recover from the disease.
For some people, depression symptoms can go away without intervention. But believing this myth can be a problem for many reasons. For one, there is no way of knowing how long an episode of depression will last. It can be weeks, months, or even years. Plus, there is also no way of knowing how much worse symptoms can get. A mild episode of depression can turn into a severe episode without intervention.
In severe depression, suicide is a huge risk factor. Sometimes, depressed patients with severe depression will also experience psychosis. When depression is allowed to go this far, patients will need more invasive techniques to alleviate symptoms. Stopping depression when it first arises prevents these risks. Also, untreated depression can go away, but it can even come back worse than before. By intervening with therapy and possibly medications as well, patients can prevent a relapse of symptoms.
While stress, grief, and loss can trigger an episode of depression, that’s not always the case. Depression can happen to anyone at any time in their life, even when things are peaceful.
Women have higher diagnosed rates of depression than men, but rates of depression are similar between the two genders at certain ages. Before puberty, boys and girls have equal rates of depression, but after puberty and during young adulthood, young women are twice as likely to experience depression than men. But in middle age and past the age of 65, depression rates between men and women even out.
Believing that only women get depression is a particularly dangerous assumption to make, especially for middle-aged men. Middle-aged men are at increased rates of suicide and are twice as likely to commit suicide than depressed women.
Antidepressant medications are designed to change specific chemicals in the brain that regulate feelings of mood, well-being, and energy. If a person has been suffering from depression for a long time and displayed signs of lethargy, irritability, and sadness, antidepressants can change these feelings and behaviors.
It may appear that their personality is different after taking medication, but depression symptoms are abnormal and painful. Antidepressants give people the ability to feel like themselves again, and alleviating depressive symptoms with medication uncovers the person’s real personality and gives them the ability to shine. Antidepressants do not change a person’s values or motivations that make up their unique character.
Depression is a complicated illness that can affect people in many different ways. There is no “cure” for depression. It is a lifelong condition that can be managed with a combination of different treatment options, including therapy and medications.
There are many different medications for depression. Each one affects vital neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for feelings of mood and alertness. Some drugs will not work, and patients will have to try a different one. It’s crucial that depression patients are under a doctors care when trying different medications. For every three people hospitalized for depression, two of them will respond favorably to medication. But what about the one out of three patients who don’t respond to depression medication?
Between 10 to 30% of all depression patients will not respond at all to medications, or they will only experience a partial reduction in symptoms. All is not lost for these patients. There are alternative, deep brain stimulation techniques, combined with talk therapy, that can alleviate their symptoms.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a promising treatment for depression. With this treatment, up to 35% of all patients will see a full remission of depression symptoms for up to a year.
TMS treatment sessions last between 40 and 60 minutes, are non-invasive and produce minimal side effects. Patients can resume work or school activities soon after a session. With TMS, a magnetic coil is placed over specific areas of the head and used to stimulate regions of the brain responsible for mood regulation. 70% of TMS patients find relief with this treatment method.
Depression is a severe illness and a lifelong condition. But with quick, effective treatment and therapy, patients can go on to experience full remission of symptoms and live a life free from debilitating symptoms. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, please reach out to a mental health professional today to explore your depression treatment options.