By Allie Hunt
Awareness about depression and anxiety is growing, but some misconceptions still get in the way of truly supporting those who suffer.
Help #breakthestigma by speaking up the next time you hear someone perpetuate one of these myths!
1. It’s all in your head.
Just like you can’t think yourself out of arthritis or asthma, you can’t think yourself out of having a mental illness. A variety of physical factors can contribute to depression, according to Mayo Clinic, including biological differences, hormones, and brain chemistry. Although Mayo Clinic lists many treatments that may improve depression, none of the options include choosing to have a better attitude.
2. Depression is only brought on by bad circumstances.
According to Medical News Today, situational depression, or adjustment disorder with depressed mood, is a short-term form of depression brought on by trauma or major life changes. However, clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is much more severe and not necessarily triggered by life changes.
3. You can tell when someone suffers from depression and anxiety just by looking at them.
Some might assume that everyone with depression acts like Winnie the Pooh’s gloomy friend Eeyore, but that isn’t the case. Depression symptoms go beyond just feeling sad — they can also include a loss of interest in daily activities, appetite or weight changes, sleep changes, and even anger and irritability, according to Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms that may go unnoticed can be a loss of energy and concentration problems.
4. Anxiety will go away if you just think more positively.
Anxiety is a real illness that calls for real treatment, and alleviating symptoms is rarely as easy as deciding to think more positively. Mayo Clinic reports the two main anxiety treatments are medication and psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Some people may need to experiment with different medications and therapy to find what works best for them.
5. Only women get depressed.
This is simply not true — women are more likely than men to experience depression, but the illness can still affect anyone, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The misconception that only women get depressed may be because men and women can experience different symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health states that in men, depression may manifest itself through anger or aggression instead of sadness. The institute also claims that men are less likely than women to recognize and address depression.
6. Depression is just feeling sad all the time.
Those who suffer from depression don’t just feel sad. According to Medical News Today, depression can also cause feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and emptiness and physical side effects like insomnia, headaches, fatigue, chronic pain, and inflammation.
7. Living a healthy lifestyle will prevent mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
If you were to sit around all day and eat nothing but junk food, you probably wouldn’t feel great mentally or physically. Unfortunately, a healthy diet and exercise regime aren’t a cure-all for mental illness. Although physical activity, a balanced diet, and a good night’s sleep all may improve symptoms, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, treating depression and anxiety is very individualized, and what works for some will not work for all. Not to mention that oftentimes, depression can make it impossible to even get out of bed!
What are some other myths we didn’t mention?
Together we can #breakthestigma!