5 Misconceptions About Depression

Depression is a complex illness that takes many forms affects everyone differently. Because it’s felt rather than seen, there’s a lot of misconceptions about what depression actually is, what it looks like, and how to treat it. Although we’re beginning to have honest conversations about mental health, there are still some myths that need to be busted — and I’ve got five on it.

5. “Depression and sadness are the same thing”

An easy way to distinguish depression from sadness is to think about it like a physical injury. Spraining an ankle is temporarily painful, but nothing that isn’t tolerable. Treatment usually requires icing the area, keeping it elevated, and time to heal. Now, let’s say you tear your ACL. That pain is usually excruciating and can become chronic. People have to get surgery and physical therapy, and the pain can still linger after a while. A sprained ankle is sadness and a torn ACL is depression. Sadness is a feeling that lasts for a short amount of time and usually doesn’t impact one’s personal or professional life. Sadness comes and goes, it doesn’t linger. Depression, however, is a feeling of immense sadness and hopelessness that can affect someone’s relationships, wellness, and professional life. Depression lingers and someone who has been through a depressive episode is highly susceptible to experiencing another one.

4. “People that look happy can’t be depressed”

Not all people with depression lock themselves in their rooms and cry all day. Many people suffer from depression with a smile on their face. Because mental illness is so heavily stigmatized, many people are afraid to admit that they’re depressed or need someone to talk to. Certain cultures don’t believe in depression, so there may not be a safe space to talk about their feelings. However, there are other ways to spot if someone is depressed rather than them “looking sad.” Common symptoms include abrupt weight loss or gain, excessive drug or alcohol use, lack of sleep or too much sleep, and mood swings.

Someone’s outward appearance isn’t always an indicator of what’s going on beneath the surface. Photo by Gift Habeshaw

Someone’s outward appearance isn’t always an indicator of what’s going on beneath the surface. Photo by Gift Habeshaw

3. “You just need to think more positively”

If it were this easy, everyone would do it. If you haven’t suffered from depression, it may be difficult to understand why someone can’t just “stop being sad.” Depression is too powerful of a force to control by simply thinking happier thoughts. Pessimism is also a symptom of depression, which makes it difficult to think more positively.

2. “There’s something wrong with you if you take anti-depressants”

There’s nothing wrong with someone who needs to take anti-depressants. For some people, therapy alone isn’t enough to improve their depression and this simply means that more assistance is needed. Antidepressants balance the chemicals in the brain to help improve mood, sleep, and increase appetite and concentration.

Check up on your strong friend. Photo by George Coletrain

Check up on your strong friend. Photo by George Coletrain

1. “Men can’t suffer from depression”

There’s a stigma about depression and men that promotes the idea that men can’t actually suffer from depression, or even worse, depressed men are “weak.” According to this article by the American Psychological Association, 30.6% of men have suffered from a period of depression in their lifetime. Symptoms of depression in men, often displaying irritability, anger, loss of focus, sexual dysfunction, and an increase in physical pain or chronic health issues.

If you are dealing with depression, know that you are not alone. In fact, according to this article, 23.3% of black people in the United States suffer from depression. The good news is that there’s help available. Therapy and medication are popular forms of treatment for depression, but there are plenty of free resources such as self-help books and mental health podcasts that you can utilize. You can also refer to this article about how to find a therapist (with or without insurance), and most importantly, the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Zoe is a graduate student from Houston currently obtaining her Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at The University of Texas at San Antonio. She is very passionate about mental health and wellness and is an advocate for self-care and therapy. Zoe believes that all people should invest in their mental health and that we become our best selves from the inside out. You can see more of her work at thelifetherapist.org