People are who are depressed – and even those who are not – often misunderstand the nature of depression and how to deal with it.
In this article, we’ll bust some of the more common myths and reveal the reality instead.
You may be surprised at some of the information you’re about to read. Good! The more you learn about depression, the better you can understand and overcome it.
1 – I Have To Have A Reason To Be Depressed
WRONG! You don’t have to have a reason to be depressed.
Stephen Fry is a famous television and film actor from the UK. At the Hay Festival in the UK last year, he said:
‘I have no reason to be depressed… I am overpaid, over-praised, over-pampered. I am fully cognitive of this but at times I have felt like cutting my throat’.
Depression isn’t just one condition. You may be surprised to learn that there’s more than one type of depression, each with different symptoms and causes. The labels used for these types (or sub-types) of depression – or whether they’re recognized at all – may vary.
Some of these types include:
- Major/Clinical/Unipolar Depression
- Refractory Depression
- Catatonic Depression
- Psychotic Depression
- Double Depression (two forms of depression affect a person)
- Melancholic Depression/Melancholia
- Endogenous Depression
- Mild Depression
- Chronic Depression
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – different to the ‘winter blues’.
- Agitated Depression
- Situational or Reactive Depression
- Postnatal Depression
- Manic Depression
- Atypical Depression
- Masked Depression
- Secondary Depression
- Elderly Depression
Now that you’ve seen this list, do you really think it’s as simple as “I need a reason to be depressed”?
Some are believed to be present from birth. Others are mild but ever-present. Others still only come about during cooler, darker seasons of the year.
The takeaway is this: it doesn’t matter whether there’s a reason or not. If you are depressed, you are depressed.
Work out where you are on the moodometer and take action accordingly.
2 – I’m Not Depressed, I’m Just ‘A Bit Down’ – No Big Deal!
WRONG! There’s a difference between ‘having a bad day’ and having several bad days, weeks or even months.
Unfortunately, there is still a social stigma attached to depression. This can lead to us either not recognising, or refusing to acknowledge, that we are depressed. Instead, we may prefer to simply write it off as an ordinary period of ‘feeling down’.
Depression wont’ necessarily ‘work it’s way through’ you nor is something that time can heal. Untreated depression is a serious condition that can have negative consequences on your life and the lives of others in different ways. At first, you’ll lose pleasure in activities, feel sad and spiral into a negative thought cycle. Then you’ll withdraw from activities, including family, socialising and work.
Untreated depression can suck the life out of you. Eventually you’ll be unable to do even the most basic daily tasks. At worst, you may even kill yourself.
Don’t underestimate yourself! If after a few days you still think you’re ‘just a bit down’, perhaps it’s time for a reality check.
Take the Black Dog Institute self-test for depression for FREE. It will take less than two minutes of your time and the results could mean the difference between identifying a bad day that passes or uncovering a very real and serious illness, potentially devastating and needing immediate action.
3 – Antidepressants Are My Safe, Guaranteed Cure For Depression
WRONG! If this was true, there’d be no research into alternative and more effective treatments.
Antidepressants are a complex and controversial topic. As this very long but comprehensive blog post from the Public Library of Sciences shows, the medical evidence relating to antidepressants – and journalistic coverage of that evidence – is far from ideal. Don’t believe everything you read – on either side!
Dr James Coyne, author of the blog article, states in a comment that “Antidepressants have about the same efficacy as psychotherapy and both have similar differences from pill placebo in the dozen or so trials that allow comparison. Certainly, patients differ in whether they respond better to one or the other, but it is difficult to predict which one ahead of time.”
And there’s the point: antidepressants can work, but one pill is not for everyone and is not guaranteed to cure depression. And they do have side effects.
Depression is a complex illness that is caused and manifested in different ways (see Myth 1 above). Since there’s more than one type of depression and people suffer differently, so there is more than one way to treat and recover from depression.
You must develop a treatment strategy in conjunction with help from suitable experts. Antidepressants may be a part of the strategy, but cannot simply be the strategy!
Remember that anti-depressants are prescribed by medical professionals: GPs or psychiatrists. So it is important to trust, understand and evaluate your medical expert as well.
My new product – Beating Depression – shows you how to find and evaluate a medical expert as well as develop a depression treatment plan that is right for your situation.
4 – Depression Means I’m Weak
WRONG! Actually, it means the opposite.
In ‘Depression: The Curse of The Strong’ by Dr. Tim Canter, the point is made that only the STRONG are affected by some types of depression.
We’re not talking bodybuilders here. ‘Strong’ means those who are morally strong, reliable and diligent. But those people may also be vulnerable and sensitive to criticism due to the very high standards they place on themselves – and are often their own worst critic.
Sound like you? Then take heart in the fact that it is your STRENGTH that has made you susceptible to depression, not weakness!
Whatever the type of depression you suffer, this is not a sign of being unable to cope with life and its events. If anything, certain types of depression may, in some cases, be a sign that you’ve set the bar a bit too high for yourself, and depression is the ensuing consequence. Do weak people set the bar too high then depress themselves in their attempt to achieve it? Unlikely.
So does that mean only weak people get depression? Not at all! History – and your everyday life – is full of strong people who have suffered from depression.
Think about it this way: If you were weak, why would you even be reading this blog – arming yourself with knowledge, tools and strategies?
Understanding and accepting the nature of depression is the first step to fighting it. Removing the stigma that it is caused by your weakness or is inherently negative is an important first step. For a different take on depression – and even its possible benefits – take a look at my blog post Why Depression May Actually Be Your Greatest Teacher.
5 – I Shouldn’t Tell Anyone That I’m Depressed
WRONG! This is one of the worst things you can do.
When you feel bad, you don’t know why, you hate yourself for feeling bad and feel that nobody would, could or should understand you, it’s tempting to feel like telling others how you feel will just make matters worse. You may think:
- “I can’t express how I feel properly.”
- “They won’t understand.”
- “There’s nothing they can do.”
- “They’ll think I’m being weak and can’t face up to my responsibilities.”
- “I don’t want to burden them with my problems.”
- “If I tell them, they’ll think less of me and won’t love me anymore.”
Any of these and similar thoughts are perfect illustrations of the negative thought cycle depression traps us in. When we’re in the depths of despair, there seems to be no way out and no point in trying to find one. Our minds convince us that revealing to our loved ones that we’re struggling will cause more harm than good.
But this is not the case at all. The very act of trying to articulate you feel – however clumsy it may be – verbalises your innermost thoughts. You’ll hear yourself expressing what is burdening you. You’re admitting you’re having trouble. This in itself can be an important step to acknowledging that you’re depressed and want to get better.
Once you’ve told people you have a problem, you may find a whole new world of support and resources opens up to you – particularly if you tell your manager at work.
In most cases, such assistance was always there – whether it’s a hug, a chat over a cup of coffee or assistance with identifying and developing a treatment plan and finding medical help – if you don’t tell people, they won’t know.
Some loved ones or friends may suspect something’s up and ask you “Are you ok?” If you’re not ok – tell them! I don’t mean announcing to the world or on social media that you’re depressed.
It’s as simple as answering “No” if someone asks: “Are you ok?”
Don’t believe that you’ll suffer stigma due to revealing your depression, or that people will have the reactions you’ve convinced yourself they’ll have. You may be pleasantly surprised at the reality.
Even if they don’t understand, that’s ok too – at least you’ve told them. Your loved ones, friends, managers or coworkers will want to help you however they can, even if they’re not immediately sure how to.
Finally, don’t assume people must read your mind to understand your condition and offer support, either. You must take responsibility for your fight against depression!
Being open and honest about your depression to important people around you is an important part of beating depression and developing resilience. Confidence in yourself and those around you can help accelerate your recovery and help prevent you from relapsing into depression in future.
See the first in a series of blog articles on resilience for more details.