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10 Common Myths & Misconceptions About Depression | UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

by -

middle aged woman depression anxiety

What do Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Hawking, George Patton, Michelangelo and Winston Churchill all have in common? Not only were they some of the most successful people in history, but they also dealt with depression. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. In 2012, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that over 16 million adults in the U.S. had an episode of depression that year.

Signs of Depression

  • Loss of interest in things you enjoy, such as work or hobbies

  • Low levels of motivation and energy

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Oversleeping

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Feeling anxious

  • Feeling angry or irritable

  • Loss of appetite or overeating

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness

  • Thoughts of suicide

There are countless stigmas and misconceptions about depression. Find out what is true and what is false, and begin helping yourself, or a loved one today.

Myth 1: Depression is all in your head.

Depression is a psychological, social, and biological disorder. It’s chronic and takes treatment to manage. Someone who is depressed can’t just shut it off or “suck it up.” The general public only sees the emotional side of depression like acting out or not acting like yourself. If we took time to realize that depression is a condition that causes physical issues as well, maybe we would see that depression is a real disease that takes time and treatment to manage.

Myth 2: Depression is only brought on by a traumatic event.

A life event, like the loss of a loved one, triggers feelings of sadness, loneliness and emptiness in everyone. However, those who deal with depression are more likely to experience those feelings for long periods of time and more frequently. A traumatic event does not cause depression; it only heightens an already existing issue in someone who deals with depression.

Myth 3: Medication is the only way to manage depression.

Medication is only one type of depression treatment. Therapy is another option, and research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially effective in helping people with depression.


Therapy includes talking one-on-one with a licensed therapist that listens and guides you to find your own answers. Therapy can also occur in groups or couples.

Therapists work to identify the things in your life that affect your depression and help you to understand how to improve those issues.

A medical professional will discuss the various depression treatment options available. This treatment could be a combination of medication and therapy. Generally, the combination of antidepressant medication and CBT are most effective in treating depression. Many people have to try different combinations of treatment before they find one that works.

Myth 4: Dealing with depression is a normal part of life.

Those who deal with depression don’t have to fight it alone. You can get help, and we encourage it. It’s possible to manage your depression. Depression is also not a normal part of getting older. Even though your life goes through many changes, being depressed is not something with which you have to live.

Myth 5: If you have a family member with depression, you will have it, too.

While there is a genetic component in depression, research shows it’s slight. Of people who have a relative who deals with depression, only 10 to 15 percent will also develop depression. Those who have family members with depression may have a better understanding of the signs and might be more sensitive to changes in their own behavior and emotions.

Myth 6: Everyone experiences depression in the same way.

People who experience depression may have physical differences in their brains than the average person. These differences don’t always act the same way in everyone’s brain. The changes in the brain, plus hormone changes, can influence the severity of moods, thoughts, and physical issues.

Myth 7: Only women get depressed.

It’s not that there isn’t any depression in men, it’s just that men don’t talk about it as often as women. In the U.S., four times as many men die by suicide than women. Some men believe that talking about their emotions is silly or pathetic. Some men avoid treatments for depression in fear that they will no longer appear masculine or strong. Some signs of depression in men are different than in women. Along with the signs above, here are other symptoms of depression:

Signs of Depression in Men

  • Feeling angry

  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, like sex

  • Feeling fatigued

  • Not able to remember details

  • Overeating or not wanting to eat at all

  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

  • Aches, pains, headaches, cramps

  • Inability to meet daily responsibilities

Signs of Depression in Women

  • Feeling guilty

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Feeling fatigued

  • Not able to remember details

  • Overeating or not wanting to eat at all

  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

  • Aches, pains, headaches, cramps

Myth 8: Depression is the same as being sad.

Feeling down and being depressed are two different things. Depression can be brought on by feelings of sadness, but feeling down doesn’t last as long as an episode of depression. Depression can last from a few weeks to an entire year. Unlike sadness, depression usually doesn’t go away on its own. People with depression have many other emotions other than feeling sad. They can feel anxious, tense, empty and experience other negative emotions. Depression also does not go away with time or encouragement from friends and loved ones like sadness does.

Myth 9: Depression isn’t a big deal.

Clinical depression is a serious condition that causes those who suffer from it to withdraw from loved ones, take dangerous risks or even start conflicts with others. It requires treatment to manage and overcome. The fact that depression can lead directly to thoughts or actions of a suicidal nature make depression a very big deal.

Myth 10: Depression is a weakness.

Depression does not discriminate. You do not decide to become depressed. The only reason depression is viewed as a weakness is that society has stigmatized the condition. Depression is a biological and psychological condition that has nothing to do with how strong you are.

You don’t have to manage your depression alone. The Behavioral and Mental Health Services at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines are here to help. Their holistic approach to mental health healing will work with you to build support and strength in you or your loved ones.


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