7 Common Myths About Depression
Depression is both widespread and one of the most common risk factors for addiction. One study found that among people with a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder, 32% had a substance use disorder, while in the general population, only about 8% of people had a substance use disorder. Substance use helps people cope with the symptoms of depression in the short term, but in the long run, drugs and alcohol only make depression worse. An effective addiction treatment plan must include treatment for any mental health issues, including depression. Depression has gotten a lot more media attention in recent years but unfortunately, there are still a lot of misconceptions about depression. These misconceptions can prevent people from recognizing, acknowledging, and seeking help for depression.
1.) Depression Mostly Affects Women
It’s true that depression appears to affect women at a higher rate than men but the difference is largely overstated. For example, in 2017, about 8.7% of women had a depressive episode compared to about 5.3% of men. By comparison, only about 0.54% of men get schizophrenia, 2.9% of men develop bipolar disorder--which is also considered a depressive disorder--and about 4% of men develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That is to say, that even if men are slightly less likely than women to experience depression, depression is still one of the most common mental health issues men are likely to face.
2.) Depression Is All-Or-Nothing
You may have an image in your mind of what depression looks like--perhaps someone who can’t get out of bed, can’t hold a job, doesn’t shower, has attempted suicide, and so on. This can be a fairly accurate picture of severe depression but depression can vary widely in both symptoms and severity. Most depression is mild or moderate. The problem with fixating on severe depression is that someone with moderate symptoms that are causing significant impairment might think, “Well, I’m not that bad, so maybe I should just stop complaining.” It’s important to keep in mind that just because someone has it worse, that doesn’t invalidate your own experience. If depression is affecting your life and your recovery from addiction, it needs to be addressed.
3. If Someone Has Depression, It’s Obvious
As noted above, depression comes in all shapes and sizes. Certainly, there are cases of people who can’t function but the truth is that most people with depression still manage to get by. Often, you wouldn’t even know they’re depressed by looking at them. Many people with depression are good at keeping up a front, either because they fear being stigmatized or they feel like there’s no point in letting others know how miserable they are. High profile cases of suicide, like Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain, are clear examples of how well some people can hide their pain.
4.) Depression Is a Kind of Prolonged Sadness
Another myth that keeps people from recognizing the symptoms of depression is the belief that depression is mainly just intense or prolonged sadness. Depressed mood is a symptom but it is not the only symptom and it may not be the most prominent symptom. You have to have at least five symptoms, including depressed mood and inability to feel pleasure, for a clinical diagnosis of depression. However, you may more often feel irritable or hopeless, wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep, feel unable to concentrate, or feel unusually fatigued. If you have these kinds of symptoms but wouldn’t exactly say you feel sad, you may be depressed and not realize it.
5.) Depression Is All in Your Head
Similar to the misconception above, many people think depression is all in your head, that if you could just think a little more positively, you would feel better. While it’s true that fixing cognitive distortions is often a useful part of treatment for depression, recent research suggests that depression may be more of a physical problem than previously believed. In particular, inflammation has been implicated in about half of depression cases. In other words, people with depression often have some of the same markers of inflammation you would find in someone with an infection or autoimmune disorder, suggesting that the immune system may have a significant effect on the mind.
6.) You Need a Good Reason to Be Depressed
As discussed above, you can’t always tell who is struggling with depression, and part of the reason is that some people just don’t seem to have a good reason to be depressed, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, or getting divorced. However, you don’t need an immediate or obvious reason to be depressed, and sometimes you don’t need a reason at all. Childhood abuse or neglect can increase your risk of depression, years later, for example, and people who have had two or more episodes of depression may have recurring episodes for no reason.
7.) Everyone Gets Depressed Sometimes
Everyone gets sad sometimes but not everyone gets depressed. About one in five people will experience an episode of depression at some point in their lives, which makes depression one of the most common mental health issues worldwide, but it also means 80% of people won’t experience it. It’s fairly common--even among people with depression--to assume that people with depression are just not handling normal emotions very well. This assumption can be frustrating for people with depression and their families who don’t quite understand the condition.
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the world and it is a major risk factor for developing a substance use disorder. Getting addiction under control requires integrated treatment for depression. Unfortunately, common misconceptions about depression, especially about who can get it and what the symptoms are like can prevent people from recognizing they’re depressed and prevent them from seeking help. Depression can be treated effectively in most people and even when it can’t be eliminated completely, the symptoms can be reduced.
At Foundry, we know that mental health is the key to a strong recovery and a happier life. We use a variety of methods including cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, family therapy, Alpha-Stim, as well as healthy lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, yoga, and meditation as part of a comprehensive approach to mental health and wellness. For more information, call us today at (844) 955-1066.