By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters
Like other mental health conditions, depression is widely misunderstood, leading many people to believe myths about the condition, the people who have it, and its treatment.
Here's a look at some of those myths and the facts to counter them.
Myth: Depression isn’t a real medical problem.
Fact: Depression is a serious medical condition that affects people’s mental and physical health, says the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It has a variety of causes, and genetic and biological factors can influence its development.
Myth: Anyone with enough willpower can get over depression.
Fact: It isn’t possible to will it away anymore than one can will away heart disease. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s an illness caused by changes in brain chemicals or function because of environmental and/or biological factors.
Myth: Only women get depressed.
Fact: According to the NIMH, more than 6 million American men become depressed each year, but the number is likely to be much greater because many men are undiagnosed.
Women who are depressed often feel sad, guilty, hopeless, and worthless. Men with the condition are likely to have different symptoms that may include drinking alcohol to excess or becoming frustrated, discouraged, irritable, and sometimes abusive or violent. Men also are more likely to commit suicide because they’re less likely to seek help.
Myth: Because depression is genetic, only people who have a family history of it can get it.
Fact: In the same way you can be genetically predisposed to high blood pressure or diabetes, you can be genetically predisposed to depression. This doesn’t mean, however, that if a family member has a history of depression, you’re fated to suffer from it, as well. Just be aware that your chance of having depression is higher than if you had no family history of the illness, and seek treatment if you start to develop symptoms.
Myth: Getting help for depression doesn’t make it go away any faster.
Fact: Depression is highly treatable, and 80 percent of people who obtain treatment from a mental health professional find relief. Effective treatment usually consists of talking with a therapist about your life and the circumstances that may have caused your depression. Many people also are prescribed an antidepressant medication that treats chemical imbalances in the brain.
People with depression who aren’t treated often have the condition for years -- and untreated depression is a major risk factor for suicide, especially among men.