‘Myths and Legends’ is my favorite movie of all times.
Okay, let me be truthful, I have never seen the movie… was it a movie in the first place? I’ll just ask the legends. Ha!
Now lets get serious. As humans, when we don’t understand, we mystify, build up a logical explanation or attach a label. These are a few misconceptions around depression.
Myth 1: Depression is the same as being sad
Depression is not just sadness. While depression includes a persistent sad mood and sadness has the likelihood of turning into depression they are different. Sadness is a normal human emotion we all experience at one point or the other. There must be a combination of other symptoms such as loss of energy, loss of interest, feelings of hopelessness, and so may other symptoms.
Myth 2: People with depression can just snap out of it.
Depression is a clinical condition that is psychological, as well as physiological, so a person cannot just “snap out of it”. We can’t just snap out of Diabetes, can we? If we could, we would. It would save us all the money spent on medication and therapy. Don’t make depression look any different.
Myth 3: Depression is a sign of weakness
There is no discrimination in depression; it can happen to anyone, even the presumed strong and mighty. Nobody decides to become depressed. It’s no one’s fault. I am guessing the reason you believed that depression is a sign of weakness is because, I am also guessing that you believe that when depressed you willingly gave up control. No one does that. It creeps in gradually and takes over.
Myth 4: I shouldn’t marry a person with a family history of depression.
Yes, a family history of depression increases a person’s chances of being depressed but it’s not automatic. Just the way it is not automatic for a person to develop diabetes because a parent had it. Research actually suggests that the genetic component of depression is slight. Only 10 to 15 percent of people who have a relative who deals with depression, will also develop depression. There is no single genetic variation that has been identified to increase the risk of depression. If there is a genetic tendency and a person consciously works on other factors, there is a good likelihood that the person would not be depressed all through life.
Myth 5: I can never be depressed
No one is immune. You are not depressed today, doesn’t mean you cannot be in future. Prioritize your mental health.
Myth 6: Children have no business with depression
Depression in children is more common than we think. A depressed child may simply just appear naughty, avoidant or rebellious. If you can remember your childhood days, it wasn’t all rosy. There may be challenges that left you feeling vulnerable, weak and hopeless. Childhood experiences can influence our emotions in future. Speak to that child/ adolescent today.
Myth 7: Only women get depressed
It’s not that there isn’t any depression in men; it’s just that men don’t talk about it as often as women. Women are good at expressing emotions. Based on our culture, some men feel like talking about emotions is weak, and only make them no longer appear masculine or strong. Some signs of depression in men are different for women. Research actually suggests that men are more likely to commit suicide than women.
Myth 8: Depression is not treatable
Depression is 100% treatable using a single treatment or multiple treatment techniques. One reason why depression may not seem curable is because people want to see an immediate improvement. The treatment for depression is a slow and steady process, and various techniques needs to be applied to find the one that suits each individual, because no two people experiences depression the same way.
Myth 9: Antidepressants are bad
There are suggestions that antidepressant alters our personality and are not effective. Some simply believe that since it affects our emotions, it’s a big no, no. Diabetes also has the tendency to affect our emotions but we are cool with its medication (Ha! I have no beef with Diabetes; it just seems like a good example). When antidepressants are taken under careful medical supervision the person can enjoy life, with all its joys and sorrows without periods of severe depression. Research points to the enormous benefits attached to antidepressants. Careful medical supervision includes an increase, decrease, or change of medication to suit the person with the least or no side effects. Don’t stop medication without a doctor’s advice, even if you think you are better.
Myth 10: Depression is always triggered by something (e.g. a traumatic event)
No doubt a traumatic event or a stressful situation can trigger feelings of sadness, loneliness and emptiness in almost everyone. Since almost everyone have the tendency to feel this way, it points that a traumatic event alone does not cause depression. It serves as a risk factor, especially with people with other risk factors or biological tendencies, and someone with an underlying mental health challenge.
Myth 11: Depression isn’t a real illness
Depression is not like physical illnesses such as diabetes in that we cannot diagnose depression by a simple blood test and its treatment plan isn’t as straightforward as taking insulin. It is extremely complex, combining physiological, psychological, and social components, and involving an intricate web of biological systems that needs to be prioritized.
Myth 12: Depression is a Sin
In church or mosque, it’s not difficult to hear that depression has no place in a believer, and suicidal thoughts are from the devil. Yes, there is definitely a spiritual component to depression, and faith is very useful tool in helping a person cope with feelings of despair. However, clinical depression is distinct from the feelings of sadness and despair. Suicidal thoughts, self harm, or aggression are symptoms of an illness, not a lack of faith. Faith has it that, despite the illness, I believe God would heal absolutely, and there is need to seek treatment and its inspired by God. All treatments are given to man to profit withal.
Myth 13: Depression is Spiritual Attack
I believe that all illnesses including diabetes and depression stems from the devil. But I also believe that treatments are inspirations from God. So either it is an insulin injection or antidepressant/ therapy, it’s all working for our good. The need to separate depression as a spiritual attack and diabetes medical stems from the stigma the society, you inclusive, has decided to place on depression and other mental health challenges. If depression is simply a spiritual attack why does it respond to medications and therapy? Food for thought.
Myth 14: Depression is all in the head
The public only see the emotional and behavioral side of depression like acting out, not acting like yourself, or maybe seeking attention. If we can take some time to look at the neurobiological mechanism involved in depression then maybe we would not see depression as being ‘all in the head’. But come to think of it, we never say diabetes is all in the blood, do we? Because I know it is. So why try stigmatize and play down depression.
Myth 15: If I eat a good diet, I won’t be depressed
There are huge benefits associated with a good diet, but this isn’t enough to protect you entirely from depression. Depression is an intricate web of factors. It is important to prioritize your mental health.
Myth 16: Depression is a normal part of life
Have you ever heard someone say that “this is normal”? The feelings you think is depression is just a normal phase of life. Depression is not a normal phase of life, like the normal feeling we get when we are getting older, or after a trauma. A condition that affects your entire quality of life is not normal. Yes, life goes through many phases, depression is not something anyone should decide to live with as a ‘normal part of life’. I encourage everyone to go for treatment.
Myth 17: Talking about it increases symptoms
Repression is a defense mechanism that most people have mastered over the years. A repressed emotion can heighten symptoms. When we talk about our feelings we tend to sample our thoughts. It has also been proven to reduce stress and negative thoughts considerably.
Myth 18: A depressed person always thinks about suicide
Suicidal ideation is associated with depression, but it is not always the case. Some depressed persons have never had a suicidal thought. Stop the stigma. Suicide is usually considered an escape from the struggles associated with depression, especially when they no longer see the silver lining on the wall. However, suicide is preventable and you too can help.
The treatment for depression yields great benefits. Don’t forget that you can schedule an appointment to get the help you deserve.
Until I come your way next time, remember, better day tomorrow.
aan het Rot, M., Mathew, S. J., & Charney, D. S. (2009). Neurobiological mechanisms in major depressive disorder. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 180(3), 305-13.
Flint, J., & Kendler, K. S. (2014). The genetics of major depression. Neuron, 81(3), 484-503.
Freeman, A., Mergl, R., Kohls, E., Székely, A., Gusmao, R., Arensman, E., Koburger, N., Hegerl, U., … Rummel-Kluge, C. (2017). A cross-national study on gender differences in suicide intent. BMC psychiatry, 17(1), 234.
Harmer, C.J., Duman, R.S., & Cowen, P.J. (2017). How do antidepressants work? New perspectives for refining future treatment approaches. Lancet Psychiatry, 4, 409-418
Lohoff F. W. (2010). Overview of the genetics of major depressive disorder. Current psychiatry reports, 12(6), 539-46.