Facts and myths about depression
Depression Myths: Overwork, Recklessness and More
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on January 11, 2022
Depression affects nearly one in six people at some point in their lives, so folk remedies and half-truths about this common illness abound. One such idea: throw yourself into work and you'll feel better. For a mild case of the blues, this may indeed help, but depression is a different animal. Overworking can actually be a sign of clinical depression, especially in men.
Depression is a serious medical condition -- and the top cause of disability in American adults. But it's still confused with ordinary sadness. Biological evidence of the illness comes from studies of genetics, hormones, nerve cell receptors, and brain functioning. Nerve circuits in brain areas that regulate mood appear to function abnormally in depression.
A depressed man, their loved ones, and even their doctor may not recognize depression. That's because men are less likely than women to talk about their feelings -- and some depressed men don't appear sad or down. Instead, men may be irritable, angry, or restless. They may even lash out at others. Some men try to cope with depression through reckless behavior, drinking, or drugs.
Our culture admires will power and mental toughness and is quick to label anyone who falls back as a whiner. But people who have clinical depression are not lazy or simply feeling sorry for themselves. Nor can they "will" depression to go away. Depression is a medical illness -- a health problem related to changes in the brain. Like other illnesses, it usually improves with appropriate treatment.
Poet or linebacker, shy or outgoing, anyone from any ethnic background can develop depression. The illness is twice as common in women as in men, but it may be that women are more likely to seek help. It's often first noticed in the late teens or 20s, but an episode can develop at any age. Tough personal experiences can sometimes trigger depression in people who are at risk for the illness. Or it may develop out of the blue.
Depression can creep up gradually, which makes it harder to identify than a sudden illness. A bad day turns into a rut and you start skipping work, school, or social occasions. One type, called dysthymia, can last for years as a chronic, low-level illness – a malaise that silently undermines your career and relationships. Or depression can become a severe, disabling condition. With treatment, many feel substantial relief in 4-6 weeks.
Despite the buzz about a "Prozac Nation," medication is only one of the tools used to lift depression. Asking for help doesn't necessarily mean your doctor will advise medications, although medicines can often be very helpful for significant forms of depression. Studies suggest, though, that "talk" therapy works as well as drugs for mild to moderate depression. Even if you do use antidepressants, it probably won’t be for life. Your doctor will help you determine the right time to stop your medication.
Not always. Some people don't cry or even act terribly sad when they're depressed. Instead they may appear emotionally "blank" and may feel worthless or useless. Even without dramatic symptoms, untreated depression prevents people from living life to its fullest -- and takes a toll on families.
If depression appears in your family tree, you're more likely to experience it, too. But chances are you won't. People with a family history can watch for early symptoms of depression and take positive action promptly -- whether that means reducing stress, getting more exercise, counseling, or other professional treatment.
Most people navigate the challenges of aging without becoming depressed. But when it does occur, it may be overlooked. Older people may hide their sadness or have different, vague symptoms: food just doesn't taste good anymore, aches and pains worsen, or sleep patterns change. Medical problems can trigger depression in seniors -- and depression can slow recovery from a heart attack or surgery.
In seniors, depression can be the root cause of memory problems, confusion, and in some cases, delusions. Caregivers and doctors may mistake these problems for signs of dementia, or an age-related decline in memory. Getting treatment lifts the cloud for the majority of older people with depression. Psychotherapy can also be a useful part of treatment for older adults with depression who may be coping with loss, medical illnesses, or other life changes.
People were once advised not to "dwell on" problems by talking about them. Today, there's evidence that guided discussions with a professional can make things much better. Different types of psychotherapy help treat depression by addressing negative thought patterns, unconscious feelings, or relationship troubles. The first step is to talk to a mental health professional.
The old advice to "accentuate the positive" has advanced into a practice that can ease depression. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). People learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Distorted negative self-talk and behavior is identified and replaced with more accurate and balanced ways of thinking about yourself and the world. Used alone or with medication, CBT works for many people.
Although many teens are moody, argumentative, and intrigued by "the dark side," prolongued sadness or irritability is not normal for teens. When unhappiness lasts more than two weeks, it may be a sign of depression -- which develops in about one in 11 teens. Other signs a teen may need help include: being constantly sad or irritable even with friends, taking no pleasure in favorite activities, or a sudden drop in grades.
Very good studies now show that regular, moderately intense exercise can improve symptoms of depression and work as well as some medicines for people with mild to moderate depression. Exercising with a group or a good friend adds social support, another mood booster.
The reality is most people who take action to lift their depression do get better. In a large study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 70% of people became symptom-free through medications -- though not always with the first medicine. Studies show that the best treatment is often a combination of medication and talk therapy.
Some life events cause sadness or disappointment, but do not become clinical depression. Grief is normal after a death, divorce, loss of a job, or diagnosis with a serious health problem. One clue of a need for treatment: the sadness is constant every day, most of the day. When people are weathering difficult times appropriately, they can usually be distracted or cheered up for short periods of time.
In the depths of depression, people may think there's no hope for a better life. This hopelessness is part of the illness, not a reality. With treatment, positive thinking gradually replaces negative thoughts. Sleep and appetite improve as the depressed mood lifts. And people who've seen a counselor for talk therapy are equipped with better coping skills to deal with the stresses in life that can get you down.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
1. Arthur Meyerson/Aurora
2. Ingram Publishing
3. Getty Images
4. Getty Images
7. Philip and Karen Smith/Stone
10. Jasper Cole/Blend Images
12. Hill Street Studios/Brand X Pictures
13. Chris Knorr/Design Pics Inc
14. Seth Goldfarb/Photonica
15. Erik Isakson/Blend Images
16. Bloom Productions/Digital Vision
17. Dana Neely/The Image Bank
18. Philipp Klinger/Flickr
Consumer Reports web site.
Dartmouth Guide to Understanding Depression vs. Sadness.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
Gallo, J.J. American Family Physician, 1999.
Harvard Health Publications.
Kessler, R.C. Archives of General Psychiatry, June 2005.
Mental Health America.
Merikanga, K.R. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. October 2010.
National Alliance on Mental Illness.
National Institute of Mental Health.
National Institutes of Health.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline | SAMHSA
Your browser is not supported
Switch to Chrome, Edge, Firefox or Safari
Main page content
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Also visit the online treatment locator.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.
The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.
In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.
The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.
The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.
No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.
What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.
It's Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.
After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative's suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.
Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.
For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.
Last Updated: 08/30/2022
Myths and facts about depression
Almost one in six people on the planet will experience depression at some point in their lives. At the same time, the level of awareness and psychological enlightenment of people in our country is very low. Perhaps that is why there are so many myths, half-truths and various “folk interpretations” of this common disease. We consider it important to examine some of them critically.
MYTH: Working hard is a great cure for depression
There is an opinion that immersing yourself in work can make a person with depression feel better. In the case of mild short-term despondency and apathy, this can really help, but depression is a different matter. On the contrary, overwork and overwork can be a symptom and a negative modifying factor in clinical depression, especially in men.
MYTH: It's not a real illness
Depression is a serious illness that can lead to complete disability and even death. This myth is fueled by a misconception that confuses depression with ordinary sadness. In addition to the clear diagnostic criteria that a specialist uses to diagnose clinical depression, there is also biological evidence that can be seen on a brain scan. Modern technologies allow detecting abnormal manifestations of brain activity in people with depression, as well as imbalances in key brain chemicals responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses. nine0003
FACT: Depression is more difficult to diagnose in men
A depressed man, his relatives and even his doctor may not always accurately and immediately identify depression. First of all, because men are less likely to talk about their feelings than women. Often, when depressed, men do not express sadness or depression (the emotions that are characteristic of depression). Instead, they may be irritable, angry, overly restless, or even aggressive. Quite often, men try to cope with depression by resorting to risky behavior, alcohol or drug use. nine0003
MYTH: Depression is just self-pity
There is a kind of “cult” of willpower and resilience in our culture, and if a person does not demonstrate these virtues, then he can quickly get the “label” of a whiner. But people who have clinical depression aren't just lazy or feeling sorry for themselves. They also can't "blow out" their depression. Depression is a health problem associated with changes in the brain. And like all such problems requires appropriate treatment.
FACT: Anyone can be depressed
Whether a poet or an engineer, shy or outgoing, anyone, regardless of ethnicity, can experience depression. According to statistics, this disease is twice as common in women than in men, but it is possible that women simply seek help more often. Most of the first episodes of depression occur during adolescence and young age, but in general the disease can develop at any age. Negative and traumatic personal experiences can be a factor in the tendency to later have depression. Also, aggravation of despondency and apathy can develop into depression. nine0003
FACT: Depression can sneak up on you
Depression can come on gradually, making it harder to diagnose than it is when it comes on suddenly. A few bad days go into a "black streak" - and a person falls into a rut from which it is difficult to get out. Begins to miss work, school, meetings, avoids activity and communication. One type of depression, called dysthymia, can last for years as a mild chronic illness—an ailment that slowly undermines your career and relationships. The other type, the major depressive episode, can become severe, severe, and quite quickly disconnecting from all areas of life. Seeking help from a psychotherapist, proper diagnosis and treatment of depression can provide significant relief within 4-6 weeks. nine0003
MYTH: Treatment involves lifelong medication
Antidepressants are as many myths and conjectures as depression itself. In fact, pharmacotherapy is only one of the tools used to treat depression. And seeking help does not mean that you will simply be prescribed long-term use of expensive drugs. Research shows that cognitive-behavioral therapy is highly effective for mild to moderate depression. But even if, based on the results of the examination, the doctor will recommend you antidepressants, this will be a limited and specially calculated course. The specialist will monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and help you determine the appropriate time to change or stop your medication. nine0003
MYTH: Depressed people cry a lot
Not always. Some people don't cry or even look that sad when they're depressed. Instead, they are emotionally "empty" and may feel useless and worthless. Even in the absence of “dramatic” symptoms, untreated depression prevents people from living life to the fullest and destroys families.
FACT: Family history is not a death sentence
If you have a family history of depression, you may be biologically prone to it. But this does not mean that you will definitely have depression during your life. People who are aware of their propensity factors can monitor early symptoms of depression and quickly take the necessary preventive actions: regulate stress levels, exercise, get advice from a psychotherapist, use other self-help techniques. nine0003
MYTH: Depression is part of aging
Most people are able to face age-related changes and problems without becoming depressed. However, there is a risk that this will start to happen, and then the moment will be lost. Older people may hide their sadness or attribute their depressive symptoms to aging: food is no longer as tasty, discomfort and pain intensify, sleep patterns change. Also, health problems can cause depression in older people, and depression, in turn, can slow recovery after a heart attack or surgery. nine0003
MYTH: Talking about a problem only worsens the situation
There is an opinion that when talking about your psychological problems, a person fixates on them and thus worsens the situation. To date, the results of many studies prove that discussing these issues with the participation of professionals can, on the contrary, improve the situation. Various types of psychotherapy help treat depression by working with thought patterns, emotions and feelings, behaviors and bodily sensations. Therefore, the first necessary step when symptoms of depression appear is to seek help from a mental health professional. nine0003
FACT: Changing your mindset can help
Through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a depressed person learns new patterns of thinking and behavior. With the help of the therapist, the patient learns to identify negative thoughts and interpretations of the events and phenomena of his life, to revise them and replace them with more adequate, realistic and positive ones. The effectiveness of CBT, both on its own and with medications, has been proven by many studies.
MYTH: Teenagers are inherently “unhappy”
Although many adolescents are indeed gloomy and tend to sympathize with the "dark side", it is not normal for them to be continually depressed, depressed or irritable for a long time. If the symptoms of apathy and low mood last for more than two weeks, it could be a symptom of depression, which develops in about one in 11 teenagers. Warning signals that may mean that a teenager needs help: constant sadness or irritability even with friends, indifference and lack of pleasure in favorite activities, a sudden drop in academic performance. nine0003
FACT: Exercise is good medicine
Modern research shows that regular, moderately intense exercise can reduce symptoms of depression. Their effect is comparable to that of some drugs in patients with mild to moderate depression. And if classes are held with a group or a good friend, then this also adds social support - also an important factor in mood regulation.
MYTH: Depression is difficult to cure
In fact, most people who take the necessary steps to overcome their depression are cured. An extensive study by the US National Institute of Mental Health found that 70% of people who received therapy were symptom free. Also, according to studies, the highest success rate is observed when using drug treatment and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. nine0003
FACT: Depressive symptoms are not always depression.
Some life events cause sadness or disappointment, which, however, do not become clinical depression. Grief and lack of joy is a normal emotional reaction to the death of loved ones, divorce, job loss, or the news of an unpleasant diagnosis. But even in a difficult life period, people who cope normally can be distracted for a short time or cheered up with something. The key feature of depression requiring treatment is a constant depressed mood, observed most of the day for a long time (2 weeks or more). It is also worth considering that a depressed mood can be a symptom of some somatic problems, such as thyroid disease. nine0003
FACT: There is always hope!
In deep depression, people may think that there is not the slightest hope of change and improvement in their lives. But the trick is that this hopelessness is part of the disease, its symptom, a negative interpretation of reality, and not the patient's reality itself. With the right treatment, positive thinking gradually replaces negative thinking. Sleep and appetite improve, mood improves. At the same time, people who seek the advice of a psychotherapist acquire the skills to better and quickly overcome life's difficulties and stresses. nine0003
Dr. J. Goldberg
Depression. Myths and facts. - Internet pharmacy Dialog
Depression is a serious mental disorder that requires treatment. But many still mistakenly assume that depression is just longing. And you can overcome it if you just tune in to a brighter future and pull yourself together. But in reality, things are much more complicated. Let's figure out where the truth is told about depression, and where they are wrong. nine0003
Depression mainly affects women . This statement is fundamentally wrong. This disorder affects both men and women equally. It's just that the fair sex is more likely to seek help. After all, men in our society are considered to be the “strong” sex, which means that sadness and longing, which are easily confused with depression, are alien to them. But this is just a stereotype that has no confirmation. When you are depressed, it is important to seek help. nine0003
Do not contact a specialist. Everything will pass by itself. This is possible only with melancholy and blues. Depression is not only a bad mood and laziness. This disorder affects the brain, due to which its activity is disturbed. You can't get rid of depression through walks, delicious food, and positive thoughts. Treatment often requires medical intervention. And if you are sure that you were able to beat depression on your own, then you probably have not dealt with it yet. nine0003
People with depression are always sad. This is not entirely true. The first stages are often hidden. A person can smile, get angry and experience a whole range of emotions. Sometimes even a professional specialist cannot quickly diagnose depression in a patient. Therefore, you should not assume that if a person laughs, then he does not have a disorder. This approach is fundamentally wrong.
Only people with a weak character are subject to disorder. This is one of the most common myths. But life would be much easier if that were the case. However, character cannot save a person from depression. nine0003
Exercise helps to cope with depression. Yes, it is. Thanks to them, the blood circulation in the body improves and reaches the brain to the greatest extent. Helps him to stabilize his activities and restore normal functioning. But they can have such an effect only with mild or moderate depression. In severe cases, it is better to seek help from a specialist.
Non-addictive drug treatment . They do not have such a strong influence as they are usually prescribed. Antidepressants help manage the disorder, but they won't turn you into a different person.
Depression can occur even during the light period of life. Of course, it can arise after negative events in life. But not always. It can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Talking about feelings helps to cope with depression. nine0076 Talking about your experiences and feelings is very important. That is why talking is the first step to recovery. If you do not have the opportunity or desire to talk about yourself with your friends and family, then contact a specialist. He will not only listen to you, but also give recommendations on how to deal with the disease.
People suffering from depression often cannot cope with it on their own. After all, this is not just a period of bad mood, but, as we said earlier, a violation of the normal functioning of the brain. It is often difficult for people with this disorder to tune in to positive thoughts. Therefore, do not neglect the trip to specialists. It may be awkward at first, but he can help you cope with this condition.