When it comes to depression, the state of Utah ranks highest in the nation. Since so many Utahns battle with depression, you’d think we would be well informed about the illness but the true facts remain elusive. So many myths and misconceptions still float around about depression, just as with other mental health problems. We’d like to help dispel some of these myths today and help those suffering from depression and those that care about them understand the illness a little better.
Myth #1: Depression is not a real medical problem
Many people think that depression is just an emotional state, like being happy or angry. They think being depressed simply means that someone is sad. But depression is in fact recognized as an illness by the medical community and affects a person’s life just like heart disease or diabetes would with both physical and emotional symptoms. The specific causes of depression are not yet clear, but it is known to have genetic and biological factors. Bottom line, depression is something that should be taken seriously. If you think you may have depression, you should seek help. If someone you know is struggling with depression, you should support them and take their illness seriously.
Myth #2: You can break out of depression with positive thinking
It is an easy assumption to think a depressed individual can choose to stop being depressed by making a valiant effort to just think positively. However, clinical depression isn’t something you choose to have just like you don’t choose to get cancer. Similarly, it isn’t something you can fight off by being strong. If you find yourself unable to escape depression, know that this isn’t a sign of weakness and that you aren’t being lazy.
Myth #3: Depression will go away on its own
If you’ve had a bad day and are feeling down, it’s a common belief that you’ll feel better in the morning; that all you need is a good night’s rest and a fresh perspective. Depression, however, doesn’t necessarily work itself out or run it’s course. Often times it requires treatment, whether that means medication, counseling or both. It can be dangerous to leave depression unaddressed as it can worsen over time and lead to suicide.
Myth #4: A depressed individual will get help on their own
Clinical depression can be characterized by feelings of helplessness and sever lack of energy which can make it hard to seek help. In many cases, it takes the help of a concerned friend or family member to get a depressed individual into a doctor or counselor’s office. Like we said, untreated depression can lead to serious consequences so if you think someone you love might be struggling, don’t be afraid to take action.
Myth #5: Depression is only caused by really negative events in a person’s life
Things such as a really bad breakup or the death of a loved one can trigger depression, but big events like these aren’t the only things that can bring on depression. Depression can come on suddenly even when absolutely nothing is going significantly wrong. When someone begins to struggle with depression, they can start to have prolonged periods of hopelessness as well as a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy and they may not know why they are feeling these things.
Myth #6: Talking about it will make it worse
It can be hard to know how to be supportive of a loved one with depression or to know how to open up to loved ones if you yourself struggle with depression, but it’s important to open up communication lines. As someone struggling with depression, let go of feelings of shame or embarrassment and be honest about your struggles. If you find yourself unwilling to discuss with loved ones, try talking with a spiritual leader or other respected individual in your life. As a friend or family member, be a good listener and avoid passing judgement.
For resources on how to talk about depression, check out this helpful article from Students Against Depression.