Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the UK, and yet it is still one of the most misunderstood.
Globally, more than 300 million people suffer with depression, and yet many of us still do not have a real sense of what it is and its capacity to be treated.
Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with the fear of stigma, often prevent people from seeking the treatment they need to lead happy, healthy lives.
This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week which aims to open up the global conversation surrounding mental health and tackle the preconceptions that many people still believe.
Here, we break down some common misconceptions people have about depression:
1. “Depression isn’t a real illness”
While the treatment of depression can vary dramatically from person to person, it is still a serious medical condition. According to the NHS, ‘some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms.’The Mayo Clinic states that people with depression actually have neurotransmitter and hormonal imbalances in their brain that determine their condition – it is not simply a case of experiencing ‘bad moods’. Labelling people as such downplays their feelings, and deters them from seeking help.
2. “Antidepressants always cure depression”
Doctors commonly prescribe antidepressants for mental health issues to address deep-rooted biological issues that may be contributing to your condition. However, they aren’t the only treatment available. Many people suffering from depression find psychotherapy as an effective way to help address their symptoms. Most people also have to try a number of different methods before finding one that suits them best.
3. “Depression is a sign of weakness”
Many people suffer in silence because there is a societal stigma attached to the label of depression, one which suggests that it is a sign of a ‘weak’ or ‘crazy’ person. It is important to remember that depression is a complex mental disorder that can affect anyone at any time, without choice. In reality, a person who suffers from depression but makes an effort to tackle their mental health issues on a daily basis shows great strength and resilience.
4. “If your parents have depression, so will you”
If there is a history of depression in your family, you’re more likely to experience it yourself. However, experts aren’t sure how significant genetics are in your risk – it can often happen without significant reason or cause. Just because your parents suffer from depression, doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to experience it too.
5. “You’ll need to be on antidepressants for the rest of your life”
Depression treatment is entirely different from person to person. Many people use medication as a short-term aid, others may take them for years. Some people may also choose to not take antidepressants at all. While the exact amount of time will vary in each case, based upon the severity of the disorder, most people do not need to be on medication for the rest of their lives. Studies suggest that a large proportion of people can be treated for depression successfully in as little as 24 weeks with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.