By Lauren Presutti
Depression is a treatable condition, but unfortunately it is widely misunderstood. Myths and stereotypes about depression leave people wondering if their experiences are valid, which is damaging to your mental health because ALL depression is valid. Being educated and understanding the misconceptions can be helpful for taking control over your mental health and breaking down social stigmas. Let’s talk about some common myths and set things straight.
MYTH #1: Everybody has depression.
Not true. Over-generalizing depression as something that “everybody has” is harmful to the people actually living with depression. We have to be careful about loosely throwing around terms because it makes it harder for people to be taken seriously when they struggle with a debilitating mental health condition. Everybody feels sad or down from time to time, but having clinical depression is not the same thing. Clinical depression is a chronic pattern of symptoms that extend far beyond feeling sad.
MYTH #2: People with depression are weak.
Not true at all! People living with depression are some of the strongest people in the world because they are constantly fighting an internal battle that others often misunderstand. Imagine having to fight against something that you cannot escape no matter how hard you try. The emotional pain associated with depression is heavy, but many people with depression push themselves to get through each day one at a time. That takes enormous effort and strength. Pushing yourself to use coping skills, keeping up with therapy appointments, having to put on a brave face to get through school or work even though you feel horrible on the inside… it takes TREMENDOUS strength. We applaud those living with depression for their resiliency and tenacity to keep moving forward.
MYTH #3: Depression only occurs if you have trauma or negative circumstances.
This is completely false. Depression is a psychological, social, and biological condition. This means there are a multitude of factors that can cause someone to experience clinical depression. Experiencing trauma is not a prerequisite. Sometimes people have depression even with ideal circumstances, including positive family support, social popularity, school achievements, career success, or a lifestyle that includes vacations, concerts, parties, sporting events, awards, or instant gratification. And yet, they may have a biological predisposition to depression. Please don’t judge outward appearances. You never know what someone is going through on the inside.
MYTH #4: Medication is required for treating depression.
False! While medication may be a part of someone’s treatment plan, it is certainly not required for positive treatment outcomes. In fact, many people with depression are able to recover in healthy ways without medication. There are numerous factors that can help determine whether or not medication is suitable for someone, including symptom severity, their medical history, coping skills, current functioning, and progress being made toward therapy goals. These decisions are highly individualized and can only be made between an individual and their doctor.
MYTH #5: If your family has depression, you will also have depression.
This isn’t true for everyone. It’s important not to make assumptions about your mental health based on the experiences of other people in your family. Sometimes there are genetic components that can lead multiple family members to have depression, but this is not true for everyone and we cannot generalize the experiences of one individual to the rest of their family. In addition, remember that depression is caused by a number of social, psychological, and environmental factors (not simply biology alone).
MYTH #6: Once you have depression, it never goes away.
Not true! With treatment, most people experience relief from depression. Symptom reduction is commonly attributed to having a trusted therapist, making positive life changes, learning effective coping skills, maintaining a support system, finding balance in life, reframing negative thinking, and rediscovering personal fulfillment. It’s also important to remember that you will experience many changes in your life and depression may come and go depending on what stage of life you are in. It’s so important to foster feelings of hope through depression and remember that a return to happiness is possible.
MYTH #7: Depression is valid only if you’re suicidal.
NO! This myth is incredibly harmful to people experiencing non-suicidal depression, which is just as valid as depression that occurs with suicidal thoughts. At River Oaks Psychology, we want you to know that ALL depression is valid. There is no one-size-fits-all experience for depression. Everybody’s unique experiences are important and worthy of being explored in a safe space with a trusted therapist. Symptoms will vary from person to person, but your emotional pain is always worthy of attention, regardless of the severity of your symptoms. In addition, measuring “symptom severity” is highly subjective and debatable. The bottom line is that all depression is valid , no matter what it looks like for you.
MYTH #7: Talking about depression makes it feel worse.
Just the opposite. Talking about depression brings relief and comfort for most people. Bottling up painful emotions on the inside without having a safe space to talk about what you’re going through usually amplifies negative feelings. Emotions can grow more and more intense if they don’t have room to breathe. The absence of person-to-person empathy is also known to make depression feel more amplified, as it can bring feelings of loneliness and isolation. Therefore, connecting with another human can help prevent depression from getting worse. It’s so important that you have someone in your corner, who has your best interests in mind, and who can be a completely non-judgmental, active listener. For most people, this is achieved through therapy.
If you’re struggling with depression, please reach out to us. We understand how complicated this mental health condition can be. We know that you may be feeling guilty or not worthy of treatment because of persistent negative thinking patterns that are associated with depression. Please try to challenge these negative thoughts and remember that those thoughts are symptoms that can be treated. YOU are not your depression. You are a person who is worthy and deserving of unconditional positive regard, fulfilling life experiences, social support, peace, nourishment, and freedom. Let us help you rediscover those things. Our online therapists will be there for you every step of the way.