Dispelling the Top 10 Depression Myths

Understanding is half the battle.

How many times have you heard that just "cheering someone up" can treat depression, or that a depressed person needs only to "snap out of it?" Before you try to combat this illness, know the facts. Below are some of the common myths that surround depression and those who battle it everyday.

Myth No. 1. Depression is not that common.
According to the Depression Sourcebook edited by Karen Bellenir, "In any given one-year period, 9.5 percent of the population -- or about 18.8 million American adults -- suffer from a depressive illness." Therefore, depression can hardly be considered a rarity.

"I see it all the time. It's probably the most undertreated illness in the U.S." says Miggie L. Greenberg, M.D., the Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at St. Louis University School of Medicine. She has been working with patients with depression for about 20 years.

Myth No. 2. People who are depressed are lazy.
"This is explained by low energy, lack of motivation, an 'I don't care' attitude," insists Mihaela Petersen, M.D., who has worked with people suffering from depression since 1993 and is board certified in general and geriatric psychiatry.

Julia (not her real name), a real estate agent in her early 50s, has suffered from depression for the past 30 years. She says she has learned some important things from her struggle with this illness and hopes to help others with what she has learned. Her own personal experience with depression has led her to find that people struggling with depression "spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to control their moods, which leaves them depleted and without energy to do the simplest tasks." This can make them appear to be lazy.

Myth No. 3. If you have depression, you are hopeless.Greenberg says that recognizing that you have depression is a very important step. She tells clients who come into her office, "I see a lot of people in your shoes and they do feel better [after treatment]. I don't see anything so different about you to see that you're a basket case or hopeless."There are many treatments for depression from natural to conventional. Greenberg says there are three she recommends and are most effective when blended together. The first is exercise, of which people are fairly neutral in their opinion. The second is professional therapy, which a lot of people reject as "not for me," although it's extremely helpful. The third is medication.Myth No. 4. Depression is a sign of weakness."Women come for treatment more often," notes Greenberg. "Stereotypes make it harder for men to get treatment." True depression is not something a person on his or her own can help, and is therefore not a sign of weakness.Myth No. 5. Depression will just go away on its own."It does go away," says Greenberg, "but it can take two years." According to the Depression Sourcebook, depression "is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years."
Myth No. 6. Depression is natural.According to Petersen, "Some people would say it is natural following certain traumatic/stressful events, such as the loss of a spouse or loved one (in fact, the loss of a spouse is the environmental Stressor most often associated with the onset of an episode of severe depression)." She treated three persons with severe depression a year after they had lost their spouses. "These persons thought it was 'natural' to feel depressed in this situation. It is natural to grieve the loss of a loved one, but severe depression is never normal."Myth No. 7. Talking about depression only makes it worse.Petersen has heard this myth and disputes it. "Not true," she says. "Talking about it can bring some relief and at the same time, somebody else can recognize the need for professional help." Help is widely available through clergy, medical facilities and psychiatrists.Myth No. 8. Depression doesn't affect older people.Petersen has heard this myth many times. "In reality," she notes, "healthy elderly [people] are not depressed and they are able to enjoy life fully." But in truth, depression can affect any age, from the very young to the very old and everyone in between.
Myth No. 9. Depressed people never really commit suicide."People who talk about suicide don't commit suicide" is a myth Petersen has also heard. "Most of the depressed people who complete suicide expressed suicidal thoughts prior to their death." She adds that if a person is suicidal, they need to see a doctor immediately.Myth No. 10. A chemical imbalance causes depression."This is partially true," notes Petersen. "At times depression is situational, triggered by certain external events." Some of these events can include death of a spouse or loved one, financial problems, marital or health problems.Sometimes, just our hectic lifestyles can contribute to a depressive disorder. Julia has found from her own experience, "There never seems to be a time that we are able to let ourselves go and just be at peace without a schedule and to-do list."According to Greenberg, there are specific symptoms used to identify someone fighting the illness. They are: Sleep disturbances: Can't get to sleep, or stay asleep, or want to sleep all the time Exhaustion Maintain a "who cares?" attitude and lose motivation Lack of concentration: Read something three times and still don't comprehend the meaning Indecisive or overwhelmed even by minor things Wrapped in a "cloud of hopelessness" Anxious: Never feel at peace Feel sad with feelings that "are turned off like a faucet" Act as though you live in a cocoon -- want to get in bed and hibernate Have a "short fuse" emotionally Experience extreme guilt; and/or are very critical of themselves: "I'm so fat, stupid, incompetent," etc.If you or someone you know experiences at least five of theabove symptoms for at least two weeks, professional help is neededimmediately.Depression is not a myth. It exists, and millions of people face itevery day. But rest assured that if you or a loved one is sufferingfrom depression, there's help available. The battle can be won.Penny Zetter is a freelance writer, secretary, mom and wife who lives in Sheridan, Wyo.Source: Vibrant Life. Powered by Yellowbrix. 
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Source: Health & Wellness

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