1. 'Depression is not a real illness'
Unfortunately, the brain is not immune to illness and does get sick just as much as the remainder of the body, and one way this is manifested is through psychiatric conditions, among which is depression. People with depression have real identifiable functional and structural problems in the brain, such as a smaller frontal lobe and hippocampus, areas in our brain that together affect judgment, behavior, and emotions.
Feeling down for months or years is not normal even if you've been through some traumatic event and your mental wellbeing can be improved with treatment, so seek help if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from depression.
2. 'It's not depression, it's just self-pity'
It is certainly true that patients suffering from depression often feel like they cannot deal with their condition or even minimal daily tasks, which is a symptom of the condition and not them wallowing in self-pity. Unlike a fleeting feeling of sadness and self-pity, this sense of powerlessness along with other mental and physical symptoms can linger for months or even years.
This is exactly why depression is considered a debilitating condition. Don’t discredit a person’s complaints if they say that they are feeling like that or say that it will surely pass, as this may seem like you’re not taking their condition seriously.
3. 'Staying occupied with new tasks cures depression'
Filling up your schedule to the brim with new tasks, hobbies, and other activities in the hopes of turning your life around will not make a lasting change on your depressive symptoms, nor will it distract you from the condition. As a matter of fact, patients often find that depression can decrease their performance at work and at home, and can even hinder creativity, which will only lower your self-esteem further and stop you from feeling fulfilled.
And if that wasn’t enough, depression can really impair your sense of judgment, which is why psychologists recommend not to take the plunge on any big decision during a depressive episode. However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't engage in pleasurable or fun activities to improve you're well being, we're simply suggesting that this needs to be done together with medical treatment.
4. 'Depressed people look sad all the time'
In many cases, people suffering from depression hide their symptoms, but other than that, depression and sadness don’t have to go hand in hand. In fact, symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and some get more irritable and have spurts of anger when they are depressed, especially men, whereas others shy away from people and feel constant guilt.
To further illustrate the many ways depression can manifest itself, let’s also point out that both sleeplessness and oversleeping, and both sudden weight loss and weight gain can be symptoms of depression. The ways depression is expressed will vary depending on your sex, age, as well as individual differences, but a significant portion of the patients will experience loss of energy, difficulties concentrating, and diminished interest or pleasure in most or all activities according to the American Psychiatric Association.
5. 'If your parents suffered from depression, so will you'
There is a genetic aspect of depression, with researchers, who have long observed that people are more likely to develop depression if at least one of the parents had it as well. However, an increased risk doesn’t mean that you will certainly develop the condition, as there are many examples of patients with clinical depression raising children who never exhibited depression symptoms.
Truth be told, there is no way for researchers to calculate just how much genetic predisposition predicts the appearance of depression. Still, knowing that you have a family history of depression means you can decrease other risk factors by exercising and staying away from alcohol and drugs.
6. 'Once you start taking antidepressants, you will be on them for life'
Antidepressants are prescribed to treat clinical depression and there a different variety of them. On average, you will start feeling the effect of antidepressants after 3-4 weeks of regular use, and most patients have to take these for several months to get back to a stable state.
Once your doctor establishes that you are ready to get off the medication, they will always start slowly lowering your dose and will never discontinue the medication right away, as doing so can cause withdrawal symptoms or even another depressive episode. Antidepressants can be combined with or replaced by psychotherapy sessions, with different treatments suitable for different patients.
7. 'Men don’t suffer from depression'
Depression affects all sexes and ages. And while it is true that women are statistically twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men, this doesn't mean that men rarely or hardly ever suffer from the condition. As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that the statistics are so skewed towards women because men don't seek help as often as women do.
This may be because depression is more often expressed through less traditional symptoms, such as aggression, in men, than in women, but this is even more of a reason to seek medical help to prevent the worst. Sadly, statistics show that men suffering from depression are more likely to successfully take their lives than women, and we really hope this will change soon.
8. Antidepressants can alter your personality
Taking antidepressants can seem scary, as these drugs are designed specifically to change your brain chemistry. However, you shouldn't be concerned that antidepressants will change you as a person, as these medications act only on very specific receptors in your brain and cannot change your brain globally, so they will not affect your personality.
Much like a cup of coffee that perks you up in the morning by caffeine binding to the adenosine receptors in your brain, antidepressants will treat the issue of depression without otherwise affecting your brain. Of course, if a specific drug makes you feel worse or causes unpleasant side effects, you can talk to your doctor about changing up your medication, but on average, people actually feel more like themselves once they start taking antidepressants.