Myths and misconceptions about depression

Despite being one of the most common mental disorders, depression is often misunderstood. These myths and misconceptions may contribute to the stigma attached to depression, discouraging those affected to talk about their symptoms or seek help and treatment.

Here is a list of myths and commonly held misconceptions about depression, and the corresponding facts.

MYTH: Depression is rare and will not happen to me

FACT: Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of sex, race or age. It affects 121 million people worldwide and is one of the most common mental health problems. The World Health Organization estimates that 5 – 10 per cent of people may need help for depression at any time and as many as 8 – 20 per cent of people carry the risk of developing depression during their lifetime.

MYTH: Depression is about feeling sad

FACT: Depression is more than feeling sad. Persistent feelings of sadness is one of the symptoms of depression. However, depression also involves physical symptoms such as changes in appetite and quality of sleep, emotional symptoms such as feelings of worthlessness and changes in behaviour such as the loss of interest in our usual activities. For people experiencing depression, these symptoms continue for more than two weeks.

MYTH: Depression is a sign of weakness

FACT: Depression is unrelated to the strength of someone's character; it is a serious medical condition like asthma or diabetes. Depression is often triggered by major life events that may be challenging to cope with, e.g., the loss of a loved one, loss of job, etc.

MYTH: Depression is temporary and will go away by itself

FACT: Depression will not go away by itself. It is a medical condition that requires treatment and support. In fact, the symptoms of depression are likely to get worse if left untreated. Thus, it is important to seek help early to prevent depressive symptoms from getting worse.

MYTH: Depression cannot be treated

FACT: Depression is among the most treatable of all mental health conditions. The World Health Organization reported that 60 - 80 per cent of individuals positively respond to a combination of medication and psychotherapy treatments. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that treatment for depression takes time and that recovery may take many months.

MYTH: Depression can only be treated by medication

FACT: Medication is only one of the available options for treatment of depression. Depression may also be treated using psychological intervention or counselling, lifestyle changes etc.

The treatment needs of each individual may be different. Some people may find medication most effective, for others psychological intervention may be most helpful; a combination of treatments may work best for others. Thus, it is best to approach a mental health professional to find out more about different types of treatment and to develop an individualised support plan.

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