Here’s a fact you might not know: Depression is one of the leading causes of medical disability in North America.
And here’s another: Depression affects roughly 5 to 8 per cent of U.S. adults every year. Despite its prevalence, however, many depression myths remain. One reason for the persistence of these myths is that there’s a lot of stigma around depression and mental illness. Too often, people who have depression are ashamed to admit it, and those who have never experienced it may think being depressed is a sign of weakness. It’s time to tackle some of the most virulent depression myths.
Myth: Being Sad Leads To Depression
"Sadness can be a cause of depression, but anger is a much more common cause, especially unrecognized anger that is not dealt with," says Katherine Krefft, a psychologist in Buzzards Bay, Mass. "Since women are not supposed to be angry, they often substitute the word 'frustration' for ‘anger.’" Normal sadness caused by loss or disappointment rarely leads to depression. Being able to feel sad actually means you are healthy enough to be in touch with your feelings.
Myth: If You Aren't Sad, You Aren't Depressed
"A low mood caused by depression may not be recognized as sadness," says Robert Rowney, a psychiatrist and mood disorder expert who is director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Mood Disorders Treatment and Research at Lutheran Hospital. “But if you have other symptoms of depression that last for a few weeks and interfere with your ability to work or sleep, and certainly if you think about suicide, you need to ask for help.”
Myth: Depression Symptoms Are All Mental
Depression symptoms do include mental symptoms, like sadness, anger, anxiety, confusion, hopelessness, emptiness, loss of interest, and thoughts of suicide. But physical symptoms are also common and can include a lack of energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, slowed movement, headaches, stomach problems, and body aches. If you have several of these symptoms that last for two weeks or more and interfere with your ability to function normally, you could have depression.
Myth: Only Women Get Depressed
The myth that “real men don't get depressed,” or that they should just tough out symptoms of depression, is particularly damaging. "Although women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, even tough guys get real depression," says Dr. Rowney. In fact, depression may be more dangerous in men than in women. Men are more likely to avoid treatment, complicate depression with substance abuse, and be successful at suicide.
Myth: It's Just PMS, Not Depression
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects up to 75 per cent of women and is not the same as true depression. But a related condition, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), is a real type of depression that affects women during the second half of their menstrual cycle. PMDD affects about five per cent of women and can be quite severe. Treatment may include a combination of medication, talk therapy, and changes in nutrition.
Myth: Depression Is Untreatable
One persistent and dangerous depression myth is that treatment doesn't work and therefore you should just wait till you snap out of depression. The truth is that depression treatment usually works really well, and untreated depression can be really dangerous. About 80 to 90 per cent of people with major depression are successfully treated and are able to return to the normal activities of living. Untreated depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide.
Myth: The Only Way To Treat Depression Is By Taking Antidepressants
"Unless you have a severe form of depression, you probably do not need antidepressants,” says Krefft. “In fact, studies show that many people on antidepressants do not need them." Talk therapy, called psychotherapy, may be the best treatment for mild or moderate depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common psychotherapy for depression that teaches you to replace depression-related thoughts and behaviours with positive ones. Antidepressants may be added to CBT in some cases