Helping you get through tough times

Setting the record straight on depression

spinning_red_record courtesy of maxw on FlickrOn the whole, most people are pretty clued in about depression – they know that mental health problems are important, and in most cases, recognise that it is important to get support.

But there are still some misunderstandings and myths out there in the community, which make coping with depression a lot harder to deal with.

Read on to find out about some of the myths about depression, and the actual truths behind them.

1. The myth

All young people get depressed, it’s just a normal part of growing up.

The truth

Feeling sad or unhappy is a normal part of growing up. In fact, it’s a normal part of the ups and downs of life, no matter how old you are.

Depression, however, is more than just feeling sad because something’s happened or something’s gone wrong. It’s feeling miserable or upset to the level where it gets in the way of your day-to-day life for two weeks or longer. It is an illness like asthma or diabetes, which can affect people at any age, and which needs to be recognised and treated.

2. The myth

If you’re depressed, it just means you’re going through a tough time at the moment.

The truth

Depression isn’t just going through a tough time. Tough times – like a relationship break up or your parents getting a divorce – can lead to depression, but they’re not the only reasons influencing you becoming depressed.

Depression is usually caused by a mix of things, such as having a physical illness, not having people to talk to, being bullied or abused, unemployment…and sometimes depression can have no obvious cause at all, but chemical imbalances in the brain may make you more vulnerable or at risk.

We all deal with stuff differently, so whether it’s a tough time you’re going through or whether it’s depression, it’s important to talk to someone and to get the help you need.

3. The myth

It’s normal for young people to want to spend lots of time on their own.

The truth

It’s sometimes good to chill out and have some time to ourselves. However, if someone isn’t spending as much time with friends and family as they used to, if they’ve dropped out of the crowd or aren’t doing the things they used to enjoy, then it might be that they aren’t doing too well and are at risk of depression.

4. The myth

Telling an adult that a friend is depressed is betraying a trust. If someone wants help they’ll get it themselves.

The truth

Depression zaps energy and self-esteem. Therefore, it can get in the way of a person’s ability to get help for themselves when they really need it.

If you’re worried about someone, it’s far better to share your concerns with a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher, supervisor or counsellor. No matter what you promised to keep a secret, someone’s life is more important than a promise.

5. The myth

People who are smart or emotionally strong don’t get mental illness.

The truth

Mental illness, including depression, can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter how smart they are. It doesn’t matter if they’ve got real strength of character, if they’re old or young, if they’re male or female.

However, there are some things about a person’s personality which can help to prevent depression, such as being optimistic, having good problem-solving skills and high self-esteem, having close relationships and people they can turn to for support, as well as being involved in school, college or community activities. It’s important to note that these things don’t guarantee you won’t get depression, just that they reduce the risk.

6. The myth

You’re either an optimist or a pessimist, you can’t change how you think.

The truth

Constantly thinking negative thoughts, being hard on yourself, and being pessimistic is one thing that can lead to depression—usually as part of a whole mix of causes.

One of the most effective treatments for depression is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT involves targeting negative thoughts such as ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘I’m not going to get better’ and learning different and more positive ways to respond to what’s happening in your life. In severe cases, medication may be utilised alongside CBT to target chemical imbalances in the brain.

7. The myth

All depression needs to be treated with antidepressants.

The truth

For mild to moderate depression, the first choice of treatment should be talking (psychological) therapies. However, if your depression is severe, your doctor might prescribe medication to help you manage your life.

It’s important that you get along with and trust your doctor, so that you can work with him or her to find a treatment plan to keep you well.

8. The myth

Just talking and listening to your friends and family will be enough to treat depression.

The truth

Talking and listening to your friends and family is really important to help with the day-to-day ups and downs of life. However, if you are worried about a friend and think that they might be experiencing depression, it is important that you encourage and support them to seek help. You need to speak to a trusted adult or your school counsellor about the choices available.

9. The myth

Binge drinking is just a normal part of growing up.

The truth

Binge drinking can place you at greater risk of depression. If you are depressed, alcohol consumption and binge drinking can exacerbate the symptoms. For more information check out the fact sheet about binge drinking.

10. The myth

People who are depressed need to wake up and get a grip and stop feeling sorry for themselves.

The truth

People don’t choose to be depressed. Depression is an illness, and as such, it can be treated with the right help from health professionals. It’s not something that people can just ‘snap out of’.

Knowing how to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression in yourself and others, and getting help early, can help reduce the long term effects of the illness.

11. The myth

People who have depression can’t hold down a proper job.

The truth

If it’s left untreated, then depression can affect a person’s social life, their studies, work, interests and a whole range of things. However, with the right treatment and support, a person with depression can have a normal job and get on with their life.

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This article was last reviewed on 24 April 2017

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