Think of your six closest friends and family. Do you have their faces in your mind?
One of them is suffering with depression, or will at some point in their life — statistically, at least. Depression affects nearly 1 in 6 people in their lifetime, making it one of the most common mental illnesses. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Being common doesn’t make depression less serious. Like other mental illnesses, depression has long been stigmatized, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
To bring you up to speed, here are the top four myths and facts you should know about depression:
Myth #1: Depression is just sadness, or going through a rough time.
Fact: Everyone will experience life events that cause them to feel sadness or disappointment, but these do not always result in clinical depression. When someone is processing a difficult life experience well — i.e. a death, a divorce, or an upsetting health diagnosis — they can often be distracted or cheered up for periods of time. When sadness is nearly constant, and occurs day-in and day-out, it is considered clinical depression. But not everyone with depression will feel or look overtly sad. They may feel lethargic, hopeless, lonely, or emotionally numb and empty. Men may express depression as being irritable, angry, or restless. When thought and mood disturbances last longer than two weeks, they may be a form of depression. There are many forms of depression, with different symptoms, and the experience is different for everyone. If you’re unsure whether you may be depressed, it’s always best to share your concerns with a trusted friend and a health professional.
Myth #2: Someone is only depressed if they can’t get out of bed.
Fact: Depression can sneak up slowly, and is not always obvious to those other than the person living with it. Many people with mild to moderate depression will still go about their daily lives, including their relationships and work activities. They may feel internally worthless or that life is not worth living. Overworking can also be a sign of clinical depression, especially in men. The expressions of depression are completely individual. No matter what it seems like on the outside, depression that is left untreated is a risk factor for suicide. Thankfully, there are many effective treatments for depression.
Myth #3: The only treatment for depression is pills, and pills forever.
Fact: There are tons of ways to treat depression that are clinically proven, many of which do not involve medication. Asking for help does not equate to asking for pharmaceutical drugs, or being put on them against your will. Experienced doctors and therapists will address depression from many angles, finding the best approach to fit your symptoms and goals. Studies show that “talk” therapy will work better than medication for an estimated 40% of people living with depression. A blended treatment approach, that involves psychotherapy and sometimes medication, is highly effective at helping people recover from depression.
Bonus Fact: Did you know? Extensive studies show the power of exercise in helping a person heal from depression. Becoming physically active in a moderate-intensity activity a few times a week can have profoundly positive effects on brain chemistry. Exercise is good medicine, especially if there is a social component involved, like having a gym-buddy or taking a group dance class.
Myth #4: Talking about depression, or any other mental illness, makes it worse.
Fact: Quite the contrary. If you think a family member or friend is depressed, being willing to talk about it or inquire into their well-being shows that you care. It might be the link they need to remember that they are not alone, and to begin seeking help. Talking about depression, and mental health in general, is a crucial step in normalizing the fact that we all go through difficult times. It’s a crucial step in reminding each other that what we’re thinking and feeling is just as important as our physical health.
Take a look at this infographic for a peek into what depression feels like, and how powerful support can be in helping each person overcome it.
The final fact? Depression is treatable.
The vast majority of people who take action to resolve their depression will feel better, though it may take some time to find exactly the right treatment approach. Hopelessness and fatigue are part of depression as an illness, which means that taking the first step to seek treatment might be the hardest. If you think you or a loved one might be struggling with depression, take a moment to reach out. Remember: help is available.
Horizon Health Services offers help and hope for individuals and families suffering from mental health disorders. Give our team a call today at 716-831-1800 and we will link you to care in your area.