Depression: Myths vs. Facts
Some information below courtesy of "Top Ten Depression Myths Debunked" by Ms. Deborah Gray
Myth: It's normal for youth to be moody? They don't suffer from "real" depression, it's not a real medical illness anyway.
Fact: Depression can affect people at any age or of any race, ethnic or economic group. Clinical depression is a serious medical condition that affects not only an individual's mood and thoughts, but also an individual's body. Research has shown that depression has genetic and biological causes. Individuals coping with depression have a higher level of stress hormones present in their bodies, and the brain scans of depression patients show decreased activity in certain areas of the brain.
Myth: Youth who claim to be depressed are weak and just need to pull themselves together. It's no different from getting the "blues" - a normal part of life.
Fact: Depression is not a weakness, but a serious health disorder. Equating someone's "blues" to true depression is like saying that a common cold is the same as pneumonia. Everyone gets the "blues" or the "blahs" from time to time - usually in reaction to disappointment or an upsetting event - or sometimes in reaction to something as simple as a rainy day. But the blues only last a day or two. Depression, on the other hand, can last a lifetime, and the illness is much more pervasive and disabling. No one commits suicide because they have the blues - there are treatment options that are available for people. There is no room to be "too strong" or "too proud" when you may need help from a professional. Certain persons may need medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, or sometimes just someone to talk to. People suffering from lifelong depression are no different than someone with a permanent injury or impediment.
Depression, which saps energy and self-esteem, may interfere with a person's ability or wish to get help.
Myth: Talking about depression only makes it worse.
Fact: Talking through feelings may help a friend recognize the need for professional help.
Myth: People who talk about suicide don't commit suicide.
Fact: Many people who commit suicide have given warnings to friends and family.
Myth: Even if depression is a medical illness, there's nothing that can be done about it.
Fact: Depression is treatable, and more than 80% of individuals with depressive disorders improve with treatment. As new medications and treatments are disocvered, the number should continue to rise.
The first step in finding effective treatment is to get a physical examination by a doctor to rule out other causes for your symptoms, such as thyroid probles. Once you've been diagnosed with depression, you and your doctor will decide a course of treatment tailored to your personal needs - which may include medication, psychotherapy, counseling, or a combination of the three. We are all unique, so there is no "template" to follow.
Myth: People who think they have depression are just feeling sorry for themselves.
Fact: Depression affects about 19 million people annually in the U.S. alone. Some of the most prominent and well-known individuals who suffered from a depressive disorder include Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Patton, abolitionist John Brown, Robert E. Lee, Florence Nightingale, Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, J.P. Morgan, Barbara Bush, Ludwig von Beetohven and Michelangelo. Not exactly people who just sit around feeling sorry for themselves.
Myth: You can will depression away. If you can't, then you're weak.
Fact: Depression cannot be willed away any more than heart disease or diabetes can. It's caused by chemical changes in the body, which cannot be overcome simply by positive thinking and grim determination. Given how much stigma is still attached to mental illness, seeking help for depression is an act of courage and strength - not weakness - on your part.
Myth: Depression will go away by itself.
Fact: For extremely fortunate individuals, depression may go away by itself. But for the rest of us, depression can hang on for months, years, or indefinitely. Depression can go away on its own, only to return in the future; once an individual has one episode of depression, they are predisposed to have more. Clinical depression is a potentially fatal disease - and suicide could be the end result of waiting for it to go away without any help.
Myth: Depression is a normal part of getting older.
Fact: Depression is not a normal part of aging, but seniors do generally experience more of the events that can trigger depression: loss of family and friends, ill health, isolation and financial worries. Furthermore, people over the age of 60 grew up in an era in which mental illness was not discussed, and they may feel more shame about asking for help than someone from a subsequent generation.
The highest rate of suicide of any age group occurs in that of people 65 and older, with men being more vulnerable than women. It's imperative that seniors with depression seek help.
Myth: Depression only affects women.
Fact: Although women report being affected by depression twice as much as men, depression certainly affects men as well. Often, clinical depression is underreported in men, particularly in cultures that discourage them from asking for help or showing any weakness. Furthermore, men have a higher rate of successful suicide attempts than women, so it is crucial that men seek help for their symptoms.
Myth: Depression does not affect children or teenagers - their problems are just a part of growing up.
Fact: We'd like to believe that all children experience a happy, carefree childhood, but that's simply not the case. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, studies show that 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 adolescents are depressed in any given year. Children are not as practiced at articulating their feelings as adults, so adults must take the initiative to look for and notice symptoms of depression in children.
Myth: If someone in your family suffers from depression, you will inherit it.
Fact: In the same way that you can be genetically predisposed to high blood pressure or diabetes, you can be genetically predisposed to depression. This does not mean, however, that if a family member has a history of depression, you are fated to suffer from ti as well. Just be aware that your chances of having depression are higher than if you had no family history of the illness, and seek treatment if you start to develop symptoms.