Depression is a serious mental health issue that affects millions of Americans. Whether the symptoms are episodic or lifelong, depression makes life unbearable for the people who have it.
There are a lot of misconceptions and social stigmas surrounding depression and many of them do real damage to the people who suffer from the mental illness. Here are the five biggest depression myths that only make things worse.
1. Depression Isn’t an Illness
Many people dismiss a diagnosis of depression as if it was just psychobabble. They couldn’t be more wrong about it. Depression is a medical condition—not a point of view, not an attitude, not something that people can change about themselves. Brain scans show evidence of the disease when imaging the human brain: depressed brains actually act differently than everybody else’s, disproportionately firing neurochemicals.
2. Everyone Gets Depressed
While it is true that sadness and despair are common feelings, the condition of clinical depression does not affect everyone. For people who have depression there is no way to “snap out of it” or “cheer up.” They are not physically able to be happy. That is why doctors prescribe antidepressants for people with depression and not for everyone who feels sad from time to time.
3. Work Helps
One folk remedy for depression is the idea that it can go away if you throw yourself into your work. The opposite is true. A depressed person may be in so much pain that they will not be able to carry out their job, or find it a source of agitation.
4. Depressed People Are Just Weak
A common dismissal of depression is that the people who have it are just too lazy or too weak to deal with the pressures of life. It’s true that daily life can be too much for someone suffering from depression to bear, but that kind of stress is not the cause of the illness. Even people who have everything they want in life like money and success can still be clinically depressed. There is no way to toughen someone up so that they won’t be depressed—the disease is part of their DNA.
5. Men Don’t Get Depressed Like Women Do
Men suffer from depression the same way that women suffer from depression, but because of the expectations of society and gender norms, it is easier from men to hide this fact than women. Most depressed men mask their feelings with anger, alcohol and drug abuse, or absenteeism. None of these things are seen as signs of depression, and are instead dismissed with a boys-will-be-boys shrug of the shoulders. The truth is that men who are depressed should seek out treatment just like everybody else with the disease.
The good news is that if you are depressed you can get help. Call a doctor.