Depression is not a dirty word

Debunking some myths about depression.

Have you ever had the blues? Been sad and lonely? Ups and downs are a normal part of life. Most of the time, people are able to tap into some inner strength or resilience and bounce back so they can move on with their lives.

But what if you don’t bounce back or feel like you can’t? What is the difference between the blues and clinical depression? One key word there is “‘clinical.” If you don’t know whether you are just down or clinically depressed, a good place to start understanding the difference is by having a conversation with your medical care provider. They are in the best place to ask you questions that can help them determine if you are in fact “clinically depressed.”

Michigan State University Extension works to provide reliable and timely information to the general public. One area of interest is around mental health and wellbeing. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are common symptoms of depression that can vary from person to person. However the one thing they have in common is that these symptoms last longer than two weeks and severely interfere with the ability to function in every day normal activities. Here are just a few of these symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts or attempts

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, depression is a combination of genetics, biology, environment and psychological factors. Because of the advancement in brain imaging, we now understand that brains of depressed people look different than brains of people who do not have depression. This helps to dispel one common myth of depression; that “it is all in your head” or “it’s not real.” The fact is that depression is a disease of the brain, much like diabetes is a disease of your body and asthma is a disease of your lungs. 

Another common myth is that if you can’t get over it, you are weak. The fact is that it is a disease dealing with your brain chemistry, not your character. You wouldn’t expect someone with asthma to “just get over it” without the use of an inhaler.

Unfortunately, many people do not seek treatment because they believe the myth that depression will just get better on its own, if they wait it out. The fact is that most people do need treatment. With a personalized treatment plan and support, most people are able to return to work, and function quite well in their daily lives. Depression that is not treated can last months or even years.  

Many people feel like they are alone in dealing with depression. It is more common than you might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 10 people have depression. Although we know more about the causes and successful treatments, many still feel stigmatized by having a diagnosis of depression. The best thing we can all do is start talking about it in the open. Know the facts and speak up when you hear the myths. If you or someone you care about is showing signs of depression, seek help. There are many who live happy, healthy lives while managing their clinical depression. It might even be the person you are sitting next to.

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