MythBusters - Depression
In the current climate of the world, it can be a particularly trying time for some people. The general uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the constant bombardment of generally negative news, the huge changes implemented in our lives and daily routines, all pose a potential threat to our mental health and wellbeing. It is safe to assume that our readers either themselves have been impacted by the drastic measures undertaken by the government, or know someone who is. This can be anything from dealing with a shift in working environments with having to work from home, to losing a job, to not being able to see those people that are usually one's core support system. All of these changes and their micro-impacts on our lives and what we are used to can influence the way we are feeling. This is why it is crucial in these times to build an understanding and awareness of how mental ill-health, and depressive symptoms, can manifest, and be extra compassionate, kind and gentle with ourselves and others. This post hopes to spread awareness and educate individuals on how depression might look like, who it could impact, and what we can do about it.
Problems with mental health holds a fair share of misconceptions, with many people relying on stereotypes and media portrayals as true representations of mental health issues. One of the most popularly depicted mental health issues is depression, so what are some commonly held myths we share about it?
1. Depression just looks like sadness
Whilst the word ‘depression’ may relate to a feeling of sadness, anyone living with clinical depression knows that it is more than just feeling sad. Depression can impact one’s motivation, thinking, sense of self-worth, activities that one chooses to engage or disengage in, energy and appetite levels, to name a few ‘expressible’ symptoms of depression. Furthermore, depression can manifest itself very differently across individuals, and being ‘sad’ may not be the only way it shows. For some, it might be losing interest in activities they once enjoyed, whilst others may come across irritable and stressed out. Clinical depression also typically elicits a range of emotions that can differ from person to person, however, common experiences include feelings of guilt, fear, helplessness, and hopelessness. This highlights just how important it is to be aware of one’s emotions, not just whether someone appears happy or not, Depression can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and it might not always be the obvious signs that give it away.
2. Being depressed is a choice
Perhaps quite an ancient notion, however, this idea that experiencing mental illness is a voluntary choice an individual makes is still a prevalent and harmful idea that some people carry. Oftentimes people envisage health and wellbeing to pertain specifically to one’s physical health, but forget that mental health is just another facet that forms one’s overall wellbeing. People can be overly harsh and critical and believe that mental health ailments are something people voluntarily subscribe to, and that they should be able to handle it by themselves. The stigma surrounding mental health and disorders such as depression shows itself in the disparity between the way people expect others to ‘get better’ by themselves. We don’t expect someone with diabetes or asthma or any other kind of physical condition to be able to rid themselves of it quick-smart, so why would we think the same about mental health issues?
3. Children and adolescents can’t be depressed
The idea that emotional baggage is a concept reserved only for adults with ‘enough emotional maturity to experience profound sadness’, is another dangerous myth that still exists in society. Whilst children may express their emotions differently, and depression can look different in children and adolescents, this does not mean that they are immune to experiencing depression. Often, childhood depression can be mislabelled as just another tantrum. This is why understanding how depression can manifest in children and adolescents is so important. Symptoms of childhood depression are similar to depression in adults, which includes: low mood, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, low energy; but, children can express this through vocal outbursts of crying and heightened irritability.
4. Medication is the only way to treat depression
A lot of misinformation exists surrounding the treatment of depression, with some believing the only way to treat depressive disorders is to bare your soul and the content of all your dreams to a strange Freudian psychologist, whilst others believe medication is the only way to go. As with how mental health issues can look different from person to person, so, too, can treatment style and efficacy vary for people. However, the idea that depression is something that cannot be managed using therapy is flawed. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) is an effective way to manage depressive symptoms. Furthermore, strategies such as practising mindfulness and meditation, as well as behavioural techniques like exercise, can also help to lift some depressive symptoms. Perhaps the most important myth to be busted is this one – that treatment of depression comes in various styles, and there can be something that works better for you that doesn’t for others. If you or somebody you know might be suffering from depression, be sure to reach out and speak to a registered doctor or psychologist.