There is a high prevalence of depression in the United States and around the world. About 300 million individuals around the world experience depression and estimates suggest that about 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. There are many myths about depression that exist today, despite the fact that depression facts and statistics are readily available.

It is important to distinguish between myths and facts about depression, as common myths about depression tend to increase stigma and prejudice surrounding the mental health disorder. This stigma may prevent some individuals from seeking treatment for their symptoms of depression. The only way to address this problem is to combat depression myths with facts and increase general understanding of the condition.

1) Myth: Depression isn’t a real illness

Fact: Depression is an actual illness with very real symptoms and impact.

Depression is not just a temporary bout of sadness, but an actual mental illness. Myths stating that depression is not a real illness contend that depression is just a simple case of the blues. However, depression is a multifaceted condition that is caused by a combination of biological, environmental and social factors. Depression is a mood disorder that impacts a person’s thoughts, emotions and actions.

Depression causes a significant amount of distress and impairment in an individual’s day-to-day functioning, leading to a considerable amount of emotional, social, academic and occupational difficulties. Depression may require long-term treatment and is not always easy to overcome.  

2) Myth: Depression only affects women

Fact: Depression impacts both sexes.

The misconception that depression only affects women suggests that depression in men is non-existent, which is untrue. Men may not be as likely to admit or report it due to social pressures. Social and cultural norms make it difficult for men to show vulnerability, discuss their feelings or reach out for help. Some men fear that admitting depression will make them appear weak or less masculine. Thus, men are not as likely to identify their symptoms, discuss their struggles or access treatment.

Depression in men also presents differently, as men tend to display angry, irritable and aggressive symptoms. Men are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors and can potentially go on to develop substance use disorders. These factors can make it challenging to diagnose depression in men. More than 6 million men in America experience depression each year. Depression can have significant consequences for men, as they are more likely to commit suicide than women. The suicide rate among men is nearly four times higher than the rate for females.   

3) Myth: Depression and sadness are the same

Fact: There are important distinctions between depression and sadness.

When comparing depression vs. sadness, it is important to take into account duration and resolution of symptoms. Feelings of sadness do not last as long as a depressive episode, which can potentially persist for weeks, months or even years. Feelings of sadness tend to resolve on their own, especially with the passage of time and support of family and friends, while depression does not go away on its own. Individuals who are sad only experience feelings of sadness, while those with depression tend to experience several other emotions, including anxiety, emptiness and hopelessness.    

4) Myth: If your parents have depression, you will too

Fact: Not everyone with a family history of depression develops the condition.

While it is true that depression has a genetic component, it does not necessarily mean that children are destined to develop and experience depression like their parents. Yes, depression is genetic, but heredity appears to impact a person’s risk and susceptibility more than the actual development of the condition.

While it is practical to be aware of family history, it is not sensible to dwell on it. Focusing on factors that lower the risk of depression, such as avoiding substance use and practicing self-care, is a better use of time and energy.     

5) Myth: Antidepressants will change your personality

Fact: Antidepressants target brain chemicals that have no impact on personality.

While antidepressants do impact the chemicals in a person’s brain, they have no impact on personality. Antidepressants target specific chemicals linked to depression and do not alter the brain chemistry that is linked to personality. In fact, many people who take antidepressants report the medication helps them feel more like themselves.

6) Myth: You’ll need medication the rest of your life

Fact: Although antidepressants can be used long-term, they do not need to be taken for the rest of your life.

While antidepressants are often used in long-term depression treatment, these medications do not always need to be taken for the rest of a person’s life. There are many depression treatment options that vary depending on the severity of a person’s depression. The length of time a person is prescribed antidepressants is dependent on their individualized treatment plan and the acuteness of their depression.

In conjunction with medication, psychotherapy may be prescribed as another course of treatment for depression. Therapy can educate and help equip a person with coping mechanisms to manage depressive symptoms. Acquiring new coping skills may potentially lessen the need for medication. However, in other instances, taking antidepressants in conjunction with therapy may be clinically recommended. Either way, there is no evidence to support the claim that you will need medication for the rest of your life.  

7) Myth: Talking about depression makes it worse

Fact: Talking about depression can help lessen symptoms.

Talking about depression is encouraged to help a person to overcome symptoms. People who suffer from depression can feel like a burden to others, and silence often perpetuates the negative stigma of mental health conditions. Talking about depression with friends, family members, or mental health practitioners can help people struggling with depression feel they are not alone.

8) Myth: Depression is only brought on by a traumatic event

Fact: While depression can be brought on by a traumatic event, it usually results from other causes.

The exact cause of depression is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors. While traumatic events can trigger depression, they are not the only risk factors. Depression can also occur without cause, even when things seem to be going well in a person’s life. If a traumatic event occurs to someone already dealing with depression, it will likely intensify their symptoms.

9) Myth: Depression will go away on its own

Fact: Symptoms of depression rarely improve without professional treatment.

Treatment is necessary in order to address symptoms of depression. It is very rare that depression will go away on its own without intervention. Without obtaining treatment, depression can persist for months or even years, or can potentially lead to self-harming behaviors or suicide.

Depression treatments are effective and allow a person to return to their normal daily functioning. It can also teach people valuable coping skills to help them manage symptoms and other stressors.

10) Myth: Depression is a sign of weakness

Fact: Depression has nothing to do with a person’s character.

Depression is a mental health condition that stems from a chemical imbalance and not from a defect in character. A person does not choose to become depressed. Depression is only viewed as a weakness due to the stigma that society has placed on it, and has nothing to do with a person’s mental, emotional or physical strength.

11) Myth: It’s all in your head

Fact: Depression is a legitimate mental health condition.

Depression is a real mental health disorder stemming from biological, emotional and environmental factors. There are many physical symptoms of depression, including disrupted sleeping patterns, fatigue, aches and pains. Someone who is depressed isn’t simply imagining their symptoms and cannot quickly resolve them.

12) Myth: You can just snap out of it

Fact:  Depression needs to be addressed with professional care.

Getting help for depression is critical to avoid negative consequences. Treatment can allow a person to restore happiness, recapture their lives and return to normal levels of functioning. Depression is beyond a person’s control and directed by larger biological, psychological and social factors. Developing depression is not a choice, and, often, mental health treatment is the only way to pull oneself out of it.     

With quality care, depression is treatable. It all starts with a call. If you or a loved one is living with co-occurring depression and substance use disorder, reach out to The Recovery Village today to discuss treatment options.  

  • Sources

    Nimh.nih.gov. “Men and Depression.” February 1, 2019. Accessed May 5, 2019.

    Nimh.nih.gov. “Suicide.” April 16, 2019. Accessed May 5, 2019.