Depression: Myths and Facts

There are many misconceptions about depression. A person is suffering from depression when he begins to have feelings of low self esteem, aimlessness and beliefs that nothing much is worth. He begins to isolate, withdraw and has poor concentration. Depression can be short term and long lasting, as well. However, there are many myths about depression and it is important to know them in order to help the depressed person.

Myths:

  1. The cause of depression is always psychological. Actually this is not true. Many depressed people have emotional distress which is caused by genetically inherited body chemistry. In addition, many illnesses like viral infections, physical illnesses like cancer, kidney problems, and heart problems could also cause a person to be depressed.
  2. People with weak ego strength are more vulnerable to depression. This is also a myth because it has been found that people with high ego strength have very high standards of success. They are highly competitive and have strong ego needs, which becomes a barrier in letting them have fun in life and they become depressed when they experience a setback. Whereas, people with weak ego strength are generally more content with their lives and do not lose their self esteem when they experience failure. Loss of self esteem is the root cause of depression and people with strong personalities sometimes get easily affected by losses, failures and are more likely to lose their self esteem and become depressed.
  3. Another myth about depression is that men and women are equally vulnerable to depression. The fact is that women are more likely to experience depression than their male counterparts. Men tend to have serious depression and a higher rate of suicide. It could be because men are less likely to seek professional help when they have depression. They are often in denial and want to handle their issues on their own due to ego problems. In society, women are taking more and more responsibilities and have dual role of taking care of the family and also managing a career. The stress builds up and they become more susceptible to getting depressed. Men are also under stress when they are the sole bread winner but sometimes, they take the problems internally and do not seek professional help.
  4. Another myth about depression is that depression causes psychological damage and does not affect physical health. The fact is that chronic and severe depression can cause insomnia, cardiac problems and many other illnesses. There seems to be a high correlation between emotional distress and diseases like Multiple sclerosis, cold, ulcers asthma and hypertension. It has been found that depression can weaken your immune system and you become more prone to catching viruses.
  5. Sometimes people say that when you fall in love, it will decrease your depression. However, the fact is that people who are depressed have a very hard time handling relationships. The reason is that when you are depressed, you adopt a very pessimistic outlook and begin to view others in distorted manner and this can result in breakup of relationships. The person begins to believe that he or she is not worthy of someone’s love due to being in low mood. Depression can also affect the person’s sexual drive. Therefore it is very important to treat depression so that one can handle the challenges of having healthy relationships.
  6. Some people believe that long term psychotherapy is the only solution to depression. However, this is not true. In fact, depression can be treated with anti depressants also. These medications can lift depression in several weeks. People who are suffering from mild and short term depression may benefit from seeing a therapist for a short period to learn how to manage their thoughts and feelings. However, it is important to note that people who have chronic and serious depression should seek professional help of a therapist to learn effective coping skills and supplement their treatment with anti depressants. Medications alone will not have the same effect as when it is combined with psychotherapy.
  7. Lots of people believe that the use of tranquilizers will help in decreasing feelings of depression. The fact is that the person, who takes alcohol and Valium to suppress depressive feelings, often is compounding problems. These are depressants and do not help the person in the long run. As soon as the effect is worn off, the person goes back into depression again. It is very important to equip yourself with adequate tools to be able to manage your thoughts which lead to depressive symptoms. Once you learn how to manage your thoughts, it will be easier to control the corresponding feelings and thus reduce depressive symptoms. Leaning on to the use of alcohol and drugs does not seem to be the solution. Seek professional help when the symptoms are mild rather than waiting until symptoms become more severe and acute and lead to suicidal thoughts, intent or plan.
  8. It is believed that the cause of depression is usually obvious. The reality is that one of the root causes of depression is repressed hostility. When the therapist has allowed the person to vent feelings of hostility, they no longer attack themselves in order to express hostility towards the other person. Therefore it is important to identify your real feelings towards others and vent them in a safe environment versus repressing your hostility and anger. Depression is often anger turned inward. Always get in touch with your feelings by journaling, communication, art and other creative ways of expression. Children and adults both will benefit from creative expression as it facilitates expression of feelings. We give wrong messages to our children and they learn to repress and suppress their feelings which, in turn, can be detrimental to the psychological well being of the person. When a person is depressed, people make all kinds of speculations  about the cause of deperssion but sometimes depression could be caused by repressed feelings of anger and hostility as explained earlier and others may not have the slightest clue of the dynamic.  
  9. Another myth about depression is that the person is generally aware when he is depressed. The fact is that sometimes depressed people are ignorant of their true feelings. They find alternatives and express their depression in other ways. For example, one can begin to eat a lot and become obese to numb feelings of unpleasantness and sorrow. depressed people also resort to alcohol and drug use becauese they lack the coping skills.

     10.   Sometimes people believe that depression can have long term damage to your mental health and you will be depressed for the rest    of your  life if you are hit by depression once. The fact is that it is possible to resume complete normalcy after feeling depressed for a period of time. Many people who lose job become depressed during their unemployment stage but once they find another job and are able to meet their needs, they resume normalcy. It is important to use the tools to cope with depression and then it will be easier to manage symptoms of depression.

                                                                                                               + Coping with Depression

If you have depression, my advice is to avoid isolation. Get connected with someone who can be supportive to you. If your depression does not lift in few weeks, get professional help. Also, recognize that when you are depressed, your judgment could mislead you and distort your perceptions about people, situations, and events. It is important to do cognitive restructuring of your dysfunctional thought patterns and become more reality oriented. When you are in low moods, you are more likely to make errors in your thinking like mind reading, jumping to conclusion, all or nothing thinking, magnification, minimization, fortune teller error, and self blame. It is important to recognize these errors and counter them with more logical thinking and rational counter statements. Writer has discussed this topic in other blogs on suicide prevention, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorders, and eating disorder. I would encourage the readers to read these blogs for more details.

It is also advisable to keep yourself busy and involved in activities that interest you. Finding a healthy outlet in a hobby, sports, art will keep you occupied and you will be less distracted by your negative thinking and erroneous perceptions about people, life and events. Sometimes it helps to use a planner and schedule activities for each hour of the day so that you do not have idle time to do obsessive worries and feel sad and anxious. Example of activities could include meditation, reading, sewing, knitting, painting, music, playing instrument, singing, writing poems, and gardening.

Meditation is especially helpful for alleviating symptoms of depression as it helps in improving concentration and calming yourself down when you are upset and agitated. Sometimes it is hard to concentrate when you start initially, but as you continue to practice, it becomes easier and you will get the benefits of alpha wave activity in your brain which is induced as a result of meditation. Chanting a mantra like “Peace”, “Om” as you inhale and exhale helps in slowing you down and improving your concentration. Another way to cope with depression is to become more optimistic and have hope. People who are optimistic have greater chance to make their dreams come true. Writer has discussed this in detail in the blog written on happiness.

It is also helpful to make a list of all the situations that will make you feel sad and depressed. Then make a list of the ways you can deal with that emotion and get and become happy again. Use the second list whenever you feel low and need to charge yourself with positivity. With rehearsal and repeated use of the list, it will become easier to resort to it when you feel sad and depressed.

Exercise is also a good antidote for depression. Research shows that exercise has a positive effect on your mood. You need to do aerobic exercise and that helps lift your mood because of the change in the level of oxygen in your brain. Jogging can be very effective in reducing depression. Also, brisk walk for an hour four to six times a week can also be instrumental in reducing depression. Research shows that people who exercise have a greater chance to lift their depression compared to people who just stay in bed, become passive, and withdraw

Research also shows that people get depressed when they are deprived of the natural sun light. Sunlight helps in the production of melatonin, a hormone that influences mood, sleep and fertility. Therefore it is important to spend some time outdoors where you get sunlight.

In this way we see that there are many things that one can do to reduce depression. People who just sit back and complain about their moods and do not take any action run the risk of making their depression chronic and it can lead to many health problems as discussed earlier. The key is to take action, learn to manage your thoughts so that you can change your mood. It is also important to take some responsibility versus pointing fingers. The longer you blame others for your problems, the harder it will be for you to take actions to change yourself. How you react to people has a lot to do with how people treat you. Learn to be assertive and express your feelings with healthy communication skills to be able to lift your depression. When untreated, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and low self esteem so it is important to take actions.
Hypnosis can also help reduce symptoms of depression. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.

 

 

Reference: Health and Wellness Confidential. Boardroom Reports, (1986)

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