Depression is a mental illness characterised as having a constant low mood for a prolonged period of time, and this low mood affects an individuals everyday life and activities. Everyone may feel a bit down every now and again for different reasons, but it is when this low mood does not go away or keeps occurring then it may have started to develop into a more serious problem.
While depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the UK, with 1 in 6 people experiencing it, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding it. People struggle to fully understand the disorder and what causes it, which in turn leads to stigma around depression forming. These myths need to be addressed and people given the correct information about depression in order to reduce this stigma, and for depression to be normalised. This would help people suffering feel safer to come forward and get help, and for people to notice signs of depression in loved ones easier.
Depression isn’t a real illness
Some people wrongly assume that depression isn't a real illness, saying that people are just sad, not depressed and they are able to stop being sad by choice. This is a very dangerous perception to have. One, it can make people behave in an insensitive manner towards someone who is suffering and two, it can stop someone who is suffering from speaking out and getting help for their depression as they worry about what people will think.
Depression is an illness recognised by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the handbook used by healthcare professionals to diagnose people. Therefore it is a real illness which people are diagnosed with and anyone can suffer at any time of their life.
Medication is the only way to cure Depression
If someone is trying to recover from depression then they may be prescribed medication known as antidepressants by a professional. The aim of these drugs is to alter your brain chemistry and address any biological factors that may be contributing to the disorder. However medication is not the only cure for depression, in fact many healthcare professionals suggest a more holistic approach to treatment, using a variety of methods such as psychotherapy or counselling.
Different treatments will work for different people, some people may see results with talking therapy, while someone else with antidepressants. This is why a combination of therapies is the preferred way to treat depression, so people can find out what works for them and increase their chances of recovery.
If your parents have depression, you will too
It is well known that mental health disorders may be caused by biology and genetics, and that having parents or relatives that have suffered may increase your chances that you will experience the same problems. However mental health disorders and what causes them is complex, they also have environmental and psychological factors and most commonly it is a combination of all these factors that will result in a mental health disorder. Therefore, if your family members suffer it is not certain that you will also.
If you do suffer from depression and have a family member that has also suffered, this may in fact help you. You will be able to speak to them about your feelings and they will understand much more as they have similar experiences and be able to support each other through the recovery process.
Depression only affects women
Anyone can suffer from depression, no matter their age, gender or background, therefore men can and do suffer with depression. The reason behind this misconception may be that men aren't as comfortable discussing their feelings or asking for help as women may be, therefore it may seem like more women suffer but in reality men suffer just as much as women.
Men may not want to admit they are experiencing depressive symptoms due to social pressures and gender stereotypes. This is dangerous as it has actually been found that men are more likely to have serious consequences to their depression, including self harm and suicide.
Men and women may also have different symptoms when both experiencing depression. Men may act out in anger and aggression rather than being sad, and this may mean that their behaviours are dismissed and not considered to be depression.
While it is getting better, societal attitudes need to change to make male depression and men talking about their emotions more normalised.
Depression is always triggered by trauma
While going through traumatic events or life changes such as losing a loved one, extreme grief or a serious accident can increase the chances of developing depression due to the emotions and hardships they have gone through, it is not always that case that an individual who has experienced trauma will develop depression. Everyone reacts to situations differently and so while some people may develop depression others will work through the event and be able to live life the same as before.
Furthermore depression can affect anyone at any time, even if everything in someone's life is seemingly going well, they could still develop depression. Depression is caused by a complex mix of biological, environmental and psychological factors, there is no certainty that someone will develop this disorder.
Everyone experiences depression in the same way
Everyone is different, they live different lifestyles, interests and hobbies, and just like this, everyone will experience depression in different ways. There are a wide range of psychological, emotional and physical symptoms that people may have during a depressive period, and people can experience a range of them at different times.
Some people may suffer from depression but not experience the most typical symptoms of a low mood and lack of interest in activities, while others may suffer from one particular symptom more severely. Another factor that affects depressive symptoms is age and gender, children and adolescents may have symptoms such as anxiety and irritability much more than reduced mood while men are more likely to show aggression than women.
As people have different symptoms and experiences of depression this may affect their treatment and their recovery. People may not realise what they are suffering from is depression due to their uncommon symptoms and so never seek the help they need. Therefore more information of the huge variety of symptoms needs to be more widely available.