15 Controversial Misconceptions About Depression that Ignite Mental Health Stigma

misconceptions about depression
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Depression is a serious and common mental illness, and unfortunately, not everyone is fully informed about it. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states, 322 million people worldwide live with depression. While everyone has their ups and downs in life due to loss of a loved one, a traumatic event, financial issues, or a troubled relationship, not everyone will experience a clinical form of depression. This leads to misinformation and misconceptions about depression that do a lot of harm. Keeping an eye out for these 15 misconceptions and understanding the rationale behind them will help you or anyone close to you better understand depression.



Misconception #1 –  “Depression isn’t a big deal.”

depression isn't a big deal

Depression is quite significant. The rates of depression have been steadily increasing in the United States for several years, according to Columbia University. Some experts attribute this to more people seeking diagnosis, and a more welcoming environment for those seeking treatment. This means that removing the stigma around mental illness will encourage more people to seek help instead of suffering in silence.

Others believe that things like social media, economic stagnation, or other external factors are causing an increase in depression.  This would mean that depression can continue to increase, so being informed will help those in your community with depression, or even yourself if you are struggling with it.  Either way, the idea that it isn’t a big deal is both wrong and harmful to those struggling with it.



Misconception #2 –  “It isn’t a real illness, it’s all in your head.”

depression isn't a real illness it's all in your head

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is real, requires treatment, and is not in your head. It’s a common belief that because we can’t see the cause of depression, it must not be legitimate. This is incorrect, and studies done by the Harvard School of Medicine have begun to show that depression is linked to the size of certain glands in the brain.  

Just because we can’t see the cause of a disease doesn’t mean it isn’t real.  This misconception about depression is harmful because it discourages patients from seeking treatment.  By removing the stigma from depression, more people will be encouraged to talk about it, seek diagnosis, and find a treatment plant that works for them.



Misconception #3 –  “You can just snap out of it.”

you can just snap out of depression

You can snap out of being cranky after a nap, or out of being distracted at work, but you can’t snap out of a mental illness like depression.  There are several forms of depression, and one of the things that they all have in common is that they are caused by something out of the patient’s control.  Partum or postpartum depression, the loss of a loved one, clinical depression, or any other form of depression are the results of an external event or problem with the brain.

Snapping out of it is reserved for mild issues or things under your control.  It can even be used to assign blame. This attitude towards mental illness in general results in patients feeling ashamed of their illness.  Instead, being patient and understanding with depression will result in more people seeking treatment and coping with their depression.



Misconception #4 –  “Talking about depression will make it worse.”

It may feel uncomfortable, or even embarrassing, to talk openly about mental illness.  But with depression, in particular, being open and honest about it is a key to treatment.  Not only does it help the person suffering from depression, but it also informs those around them, helping them to understand it and help anyone they know with depression.

When patients with depression are encouraged to stay silent or fear that talking about depression will harm them, they risk worsening it.  This is one of the worst misconceptions about depression, since it guides patients away from seeking help, or even telling those around them about it.  By treating depression like a taboo subject, mental illness as a whole becomes more stigmatized.



Misconception #5 –  “Stay away from antidepressants, they change your personality.”

Antidepressants do not change your personality.  In fact, they help patients of depression be themselves more often.  Depression is an incredibly debilitating illness, so it affects personality constantly.  By taking antidepressants, you are removing that impact, so it is a more authentic version of yourself.

People become hesitant towards antidepressants because it’s a medication that affects your mood.  While this is understandable, it is by no means the best way to view antidepressants. Just like antibiotics change your body’s immune system, antidepressants change the chemistry of certain parts of the brain.  They are just like any other medication, and should not be viewed with apprehension.



Misconception #6 –  “Depression is only an issue for women.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is also a common problem for men.  When men struggle with depression, they can become more irritable and aggressive, have bizarre eating patterns, and turn to drugs or alcohol.  

While women more frequently experience depression than men, it’s a severe and difficult illness to handle regardless of gender. This misconception makes it harder for men struggling with mental illness to properly treat their illness, making them feel like they need to be stronger, rather than reaching out and finding help.



Misconception #7 –  “It’s a sign of weakness.”

One of the more common misconceptions about depression is that it’s a sign of weakness.  Judging someone with a serious condition as being weak is neither informed nor helpful. Judgment is a common fear for those suffering from depression, making the illness even harder to cope with.

Assigning a weakness to a person who suffers from depression makes them less likely to be open about it, and less likely to seek professional help.  What’s worse is that many people suffering from depression believe this misconception. These individuals often feel ashamed of their illness, and often make their condition worse by denying it or hiding it.



Misconception #8 –  The best way to help someone with depression is to simply cheer them up.”

We often equate the term depressed with sad, so we think that the remedy to depression is to make someone happy.  This is a more well-intentioned misconception, but it’s not an effective strategy for treating depression. People suffering from depression can still experience the full spectrum of emotions, but they can have severe episodes of depression.  During these episodes, cheering them up won’t work, and cheering them up at other points won’t treat the chronic issue.

This misconception about depression creates a stigma that mental illness as a minor issue that can be easily or quickly solved.  It negates the huge range of treatment options and lifestyle choices involved in coping with depression or other mental illnesses.  Understanding the depth and complexity of the subject is one of the first steps to treating it.



Misconception #9 –  Antidepressants always cure depression, if they can’t help you nothing will.”

While some people respond well to antidepressants, they aren’t a cure-all.  There is a wide range of antidepressants, and they can have a variety of effects.  Sometimes, it’s tough for people struggling with depression to find the right combination and dosage of antidepressants.  Additionally, some people don’t respond positively to them at all.

The other thing wrong with this idea is that there are multiple ways to treat depression.  Various types of therapy can help train a patient to control their thoughts, while dietary changes and exercise can help certain types of depression.  Other more dramatic lifestyle changes can help certain forms of depression, while other forms can require support from family and loved ones. Most people will rely on a combination of these different forms of treatment to recover from depression.



Misconception #10 –  Depression runs in the family.”

According to healthline.com, it’s common for depression to be found in siblings and children of those already diagnosed with depression.  This is more likely the result of being in a closed environment with the depression rather than being genetic.

This misconception discourages people from treating depression as seriously since they believe their children or siblings are predisposed to it. Instead, we should be open and honest about it, informing those around us about how to safely handle feelings of depression. This way, a person with depression can have the support from their loved ones that they need, rather than believing there is nothing they can do.



Misconception #11 –  There is no treatment for it.”

This misconception about depression is flat-out false.  While it may be impossible to get rid of all low feelings for the rest of your life, the various forms of clinical depression all have specialized treatments.  People respond differently to different forms of treatment and have differing levels of depression. This makes it difficult to find a treatment plan that works for you, but it doesn’t mean there is no treatment.

Antidepressants are becoming more advanced, with higher rates of success.  By working with a professional, you can find the proper mix medications and dosage to cope with depression, or even to eliminate the symptoms.   Other people require a more holistic approach with natural remedies like talk-therapy, lifestyle changes, herbology, and more. Many people use a combination of natural and pharmaceutical remedies.



Misconception #12 –  It only results from experiencing a traumatic event.”

The exact cause of depression is unknown, but it can result from many things.  While traumatic events like the unexpected death of a loved one or the loss of a job will often lead to depression, they aren’t the only way a person can contract depression.  Biological depression often has no cause, often being a person’s natural predisposition. Long periods of stress can impact the size of the hypothalamus, which is directly linked to depression.  Partum and postpartum depression are also common and are the result of a woman’s pregnancy.



Misconception #13 –  Depression is a normal part of life, everyone experiences it.”

Everyone has their ups and downs, but the moods we experience regularly are a far cry from clinical depression.  It’s easy to think that a natural low mood is the same as depression, but by making it seem that common makes it seem like a less serious illness.  It’s possible to cheer yourself up, snap out of it, or take other actions to come out of a natural mood, but depression is tough to overcome.

By making it seem like a lot of people suffer from it, this misconception about depression makes it look like it’s easy to handle.  This makes it harder for patients of depression to reach out and seek help. They may fear that those around them will judge them and that they’ll be seen as weak for not being able to handle it.  It’s important to remember that not everyone experiences depression in order to provide the right support.



Misconception #14 –  It’s temporary and will eventually go away on its own.”

The many forms of depression last for various lengths of time.  Depending on the cause and diagnosis, it can last several weeks, and even be a lifelong struggle.  Even then, if it does go away, it’s often the result of therapy, medication, and support. This misconception makes it seem as if depression shouldn’t be treated since it might just stop.  Brainline.org mentions that, while grief or mild forms of depression will go away on their own, clinical depression usually requires treatment.



Misconception #15 –  It probably won’t happen to me.”

It’s easy to think of mental illness as distant and nothing to worry about.  This attitude can result in you not taking the proper steps to maintain your mental health, or as being apathetic towards others with depression.  By understanding how common mental illness and depression are, we can make it easier and safer for those with depression to seek help.


Understanding Depression

These misconceptions about depression are both incorrect and harmful.  They raise the stigma around mental illness and make it harder for those with depression to seek treatment. By informing ourselves about depression and mental illness, we can create a community that makes it easier and safer for those with mental illness to reach out, seek help, and creates a better life for themselves while coping with depression.

A Depression Journey

by HealthCentral

From Visually

Hello Love,

I am a mother who is actively working through anxiety and depression by navigating this complex life through love, gratitude, and compassion towards myself and the world around me. Join me on this spiritual growth journey.

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