Among the country’s most prevalent mental disorders, major depression affects 7 percent of the US adult population. Major depression involves symptoms—such as difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, low energy, and feelings of self-worthlessness—that last for two weeks or more. Misinformed by societal stigmas regarding mental health disorders, more than a third of depressed adults ignore their symptoms or leave them untreated.
When left untreated, depression may lead to serious physical or emotional health problems. Here, then, are some common misconceptions about the disease that prevent sufferers from seeking help—and the realities behind them.
MYTH: You Should Just Get Over It
Depression is a medical condition, not just momentary despondency or grief. Many individuals experiencing symptoms believe they need to “pull themselves together” with positive thinking. Of course, it is not that easy. Depression is not a personal choice, but a disorder in which environmental and biological factors negatively affect the brain. While treatable, depression requires medical help, not merely positive thoughts.
MYTH: Depression Is Not a Real Illness
Depression is a widespread mental health condition that can be devastating for anyone experiencing it and their families. Fortunately, with early detection, diagnosis, and professional medical care, many people can and do get better.
While some sufferers will only endure a single depressive episode in their lifetimes, symptoms often recur—affecting many aspects of daily living. It’s important to recognize depression as a medical illness and seek professional help as early as possible.
MYTH: Talking About Depression Only Makes Matters Worse
Many people put off talking about depression for fear of being judged or concern about burdening others with their problems. However, talk therapy is often a vital component of a depression treatment plan.
Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, helps people cope with a variety of difficulties, including trauma, medical illness, or loss of a loved one—as well as depression. Physicians frequently prescribe psychotherapy to help cope with specific problems or issues, often in combination with medication.
MYTH: Antidepressants Cure Depression
Depression is treatable, and antidepressants might very well be part of your recommended treatment plan. However, antidepressants will not permanently cure depression the same way antibiotics cure infections, for example. Antidepressants work by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain and making up for chemical imbalances that cause depression’s symptoms. The effect is usually temporary, and symptoms could return if you discontinue taking your medication.
MYTH: Antidepressants Will Alter Your Personality
Some people have concerns that taking antidepressants will cause unwanted changes in their personalities, but those fears are unwarranted. When taken as prescribed, antidepressants relieve symptoms of depression by correcting brain chemistry while making you feel like yourself again. Many people notice an immediate improvement.
MYTH: Depression Will Get Better On Its Own
Depression rarely goes away without professional treatment. Its symptoms can linger for weeks, months, or years. If left untreated, depression may lead to other serious health problems—or even suicide. If you are experiencing signs of depression, talk to a licensed professional about scheduling an appointment. The good news is that most people get better with treatment. Positive thoughts are not enough.