Nine misperceptions about depression

Misperceptions about depression prevent people who need help from seeking help. Photo: Meredith Farmer

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2012—Misperceptions and myths about depression prevent people who need help from seeking help. Depression is highly treatable. No one needs to be at the mercy of depressive symptoms. Medications are sometimes recommended during therapy, but are not required. You, the counseling client, are in charge of your treatment.

The Nine Misperceptions:

  • Talking about depression makes it worse.

Telling others how bad you feel, repeatedly, does not alleviate depression. If the people you talk to have never experienced depression, it is difficult for them to understand why you are out of energy after getting dressed. But depressed people do need empathy. They also need helpful feedback, fresh perspectives, and education. 

Therapists are objective, have an understanding of the symptoms, and are successful when you feel better. Your feelings are validated in counseling, your problems put on the table without criticism, and there is no need to act as though everything is fine. You will also be expected to own your feelings, face your problems, and work on ways to manage or alleviate the symptoms.

  • Depression is not an illness. 

People who cannot do their job or find the energy to shower, are ill (or disabled if you prefer). Something is wrong. A depressive disorder has a profound effect not only on the mind but on the entire body. For example, the immune system is compromised and sleep is often disturbed or impossible.

Depression is not an affliction of the weak and is not a synonym for unhappiness. No one is always happy. This mood disorder is a bio-psychosocial phenomenon. Genetics, social environment, our habits of thought and feeling all play a part. 

As with a bad cold, many people with depression determinedly carry on, eagerly awaiting the moment they can collapse into bed. They might appear to be only tired or in a bad mood, which happens to all of us, but they are forcing themselves to put one foot in front of the other all day. 

  • If my Mom, Dad, or grandparents have it, so will I.

Genetics plays a part in depression, but scientists are discovering that our genetic code is not written in stone as was previously thought. If your parents or grandparents are depressed, it increases your chances of symptoms only 10% to 15%, but does not earmark you for the diagnosis.

  • Depression is cured with antidepressants.

Antidepressants relieve symptoms but do not cure depression. Most people feel better after taking medication, but some are helped more than others. It is typically easier for clients to work through problems and adjust their thinking while on antidepressants, if their disorder is moderate or severe.

People do sometimes use antidepressants as their only means of treatment. They are faced with either staying on the medication indefinitely, or going off it without having looked at root of the illness. 

  • Taking an antidepressant will alter my personality.

There is no Jekyll and Hyde effect with antidepressants. It may appear that the medication makes a person more outgoing, more productive, or even nicer. The reason is that symptoms of depression are a wet wool blanket. When symptoms are lessened, people are freer to express themselves with less effort. Most people on medication report feeling “more like myself.”

  • I should be able to snap out of it.

Depressed people are not hypnotized, but even those suffering the symptoms think they should be able to snap out of it. They wonder how a person can have no energy or motivation to heat a cup of soup.

Diabetes sufferers do not “snap out” of diabetes nor are they expected to. If people could flip a switch and end the flu, they would. The same is true for those with depression.

  • I am depressed because of what happened.

Moving, getting laid off, or bad investments are all stressful events but in themselves do not cause depression. An event may be the feather that tips the scale if you are already out of balance. Underneath the ”feather event” lies the reason(s) for the symptoms (i.e., beliefs, attitudes, negative thought patterns, communication deficits, trauma, etc.).

  • Depression is something only women get.

Depression is more common in women, but the symptoms affect men as well. Many males have grown up with the idea that “real men” do not get depressed, but they do; and this is true cross-culturally. 

  • If I start on an antidepressant I will be on it for the rest of my life.

Therapists help people resolve issues that trigger depressive symptoms and teach them new ways of managing thoughts, emotions, and relationships. This allows people to face each day with more resilience, a healthier perspective, and to communicate effectively, eliminating the need for medication. People with persistent or more severe symptoms may choose to stay on antidepressants for extra support.

There are many types of therapy for people with depression. Learn more about symptoms and explore treatment options at Help For Depression.


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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  

 

Contact Jacqueline Marshall

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