Depression is a much more serious issue than people often make it appear. People suffering from depression often do so in silence. Even when they do voice their concerns, it often feels difficult for anyone to empathize.
There’s a lot of misinformation going around about the nature of depression. Sometimes people might not even know they’re facing some of the effects of depression in their lives.
The DSM-V is an official handbook distributed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It’s useful for describing mental illnesses and their signs shows and that depression isn’t a singular mental state. It’s something more complex.
Depression is defined in a number of ways. The extent and severity of depressive symptoms is also something that’s often overlooked. We’ll see how stereotypes contrast with these facts later.
Depression isn’t something you can just turn on and off in your brain like some stereotypes suggest. It’s a serious mental health issue that requires equally serious attention, but doesn’t always receive that recognition. Let’s consider some of the most common of these harmful stereotypes.
“Depression is just a sign of people having a bad day”
This couldn’t be further from the truth simply based on the fact there are depressive episodes that are a chronic rather than acute condition.
The government organization the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) notes that a depressive mood can last for months or even years. A condition called persistent depressive disorder lasts two years on average.
It lists a number of important and basic points about the condition as well.
- Depression is a serious illness.
- Depression affects people in different ways.
- Depression is treatable.
“There’s only one type of depression”
There shouldn’t be any argument over the fact that depression can happen for a variety of reasons. I mean, the government even says so but if that isn’t strong enough as evidence consider the following cases.
These represent some of the most common circumstances under which people develop depressive symptoms.
- Postpartum-related matters
- Bipolar disorder
You get the idea. There’s no one size fits all way to accurately capture the exact reasons or causes behind depression. We can do our best to tell by identifying a number of common symptoms.
“People don’t get depressed without a serious reason”
There’s something called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is shown to occur most often during the winter months as a result of a decrease in the amount of natural sunlight.So, next time someone says they might be feeling depressed remember than even the little things have the potential to make difference.Further, there are actually companies like SunBox aimed at those suffering from SAD by offering light-related solutions, as strange as it sounds.
“You can just stop being depressed”
I’m just going to keep my explanation for this one short, sweet, and simple: you can’t.
There’s no magic switch inside anyone’s head that allows them to regulate whatever neurotransmitters are present. And there’s no government conspiracy when about the fact that depression is a serious mental illness. It can be diagnosed and treated. You aren’t able to just stop being depressed just like you aren’t able to be happy all the time.
“People who are depressed just don’t have enough things to be happy about”
This is a pretty utilitarian way to approach emotions. What are we thinking along the lines of now, James Stuart Mill? Are we really saying that if there’s enough things to outweigh sad things you will never feel sad? The truth of the matter is that depression is an incredibly complex phenomenon with a lot of contributing factors. Remember that DSM-V handbook I mentioned as an official dictionary of sorts for mental illnesses? Check out how detailed some of these descriptions are:
Note how social occupational, and educational outcomes can be affected. The idea of a baseline change in mood is pretty important too here.
So the point here is depression can’t be something just as simple as weighing the good and the bad.
“Prescription medications are uncommon to use.”
This one’s really common. Think about how often you hear the expression that “someone’s off their meds” and you’ll get a sense this stereotype. There’s a sense that there’s something off with you if you need take certain medicines.
Something that relates to this issue is the stunning amount of prescription drug use by Americans reported to the CDC.
This data shows the the statistics for all prescription drug use. The numbers show a fourth to a fifth of people use prescription drugs. These numbers are concerning to say the least. The common stereotype of most people being happy and fulfilled may not be so true after all.
“Antidepressant use isn’t a long term thing. With the right treatment it should be a cinch for anyone”
In contrast, antidepressant and anxiolytic use in the United States appears to still be a relevant issue. But let’s take a look at usage statistics to make a point here.
Check out this list of stats by WebMD on this growing issue of increasing prescription medications.
- Antidepressants were the third most popularly prescribed drug from 2005 to 2008
- Most people take antidepressants to treat issues such as anxiety and depression.
- A whopping 60% of Americans have taken antidepressants for more than two years, and 14% have taken the drug for more than a decade.
The list goes on. The point here is about the public perceptions around how recovery from depression should not take a long time.
“Properly prescribed medication for depression always works”
It’s quite an ironic stereotype. Instead the opposite is often true. Medications can end up making depressive symptoms even worse. This is because of tolerance and psychological dependence on those drugs.
There has been research that shows that anxiety reducing drugs like Xanax work only for a few weeks or months. Then, if taken beyond a short period of time, these prescriptions can actually make the issue from before even worse.
“People Who Are Depressed Are Not At-Risk for Drug Abuse”
Unfortunately, adults who are diagnosed as depressed are described as being also likely to substance abuse in a number of studies around the comorbidity of these two.
The relationship appears to function from the standpoint of a negative feedback loop. Someone gets depressed. They take drugs to deal with it. They go through withdrawal and now they need a higher dosage to stave off that depression.
“Depressed People Can Function Normally Enough”
There are significant changes to mood when someone is depressed. Take a look back at that chart of information provided by the APA. You’ll see that it says that symptoms of depression include impaired social, occupational, and educational abilities.
You aren’t functioning normally at all if you’re depressed.Major depression is viewed in the same light as having a significant relationship with disabilities by the NIHM. In fact, companies have begun to see this decrease in functionality firsthand, and have begun implementing programs that are designed to help evaluate the mental health of their workers.
“Depression Doesn’t Significantly Lower Productivity”
That’s because if you’re too depressed to get your job done you’ll be a liability. And it does cost employers to the tune of a few billion dollars nationally.
At least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17 to $44 billion.”
“It’s All in Your Head”
How do you explain all the literature and research around depression if you believe this. Do you also not believe that the government terms depression as a serious illness. Anything that’s a serious illness can’t just be simply all in your head.
First, it’s not like only one person in the entire world experiences depression. The fact that depression produces losses in productivity mean that it can’t just all be in your head.
“Isn’t depression the same thing as anxiety?”
While the symptoms may appear similar, depression and anxiety are categorized as distinct mental disorders.
While the set of emotions around anxiety and depression are both negative, they are also distinct.
For example, hopelessness, despair, anger, and low energy are more typical of depression. Generalized anxiety describes feelings of fear or heightened anxiousness in non-threatening situations.
“Adolescents Experience Depression With Less Severity”
Adolescents seem like they might have less to worry about in terms of responsibilities in comparison to adults. But, it is still possible for them to experience severe episodes related to major depression due to events like the loss of a loved one.