Jon Rottenberg is a psychologist who has personal experience about living with depression. In this article, he talks about common misconceptions about the condition.
I have an Ivy League education. I consider myself well-informed. And yet, when I got depression and needed to figure out what to do about it, I didn’t have the answers. I felt misinformed, and it slowed my diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately my ability to heal.
Here are seven myths about depression that I wished I had known at the start of my journey.
When I got depression, it didn’t make sense at all. I was young and living in a great city. I had a job that I liked, friends, and was in a great relationship with my childhood sweetheart.
Since I had all of these things, I didn’t think I could also have depression. I stayed in denial for weeks and didn’t seek out help.
Eventually, I learned that depression isn’t always the result of bad luck or an unfortunate event. In fact, some people who face great stress will never experience depression, while those with depression don’t always have significant stress in their lives.
Before I got depression, I thought the condition felt like being enveloped in a blanket of sorrow. Instead of feeling sad, however, I felt tired, empty, weak, and slowed-down. It was like I was sick with a cold.
I didn’t know how complex clinical depression is and how it can present itself in many different ways. Yes, some people who have depression experience heightened sadness, but others, including me, do not.
Before I was diagnosed with depression, I assumed anyone living with the condition must be weak. Why would someone “allow themselves” to be depressed? Depression must reflect a failure of willpower. Eventually, I learned the opposite to be true. It takes great strength to endure depression.
This idea that depression is a sign of weakness adds to the stigma surrounding the condition and makes those living with the illness feel worse about themselves. As a result, they may start to blame themselves and feel ashamed to ask for help.
Naturally, if you see depression as a personal failing, you’ll believe it’s something to be embarrassed about. I felt that way, so I concealed my depression from most of my friends and family. It was my dirty secret. I believed that talking about depression would only make it worse.
As it turns out, the idea that you should stay quiet about your depression is inaccurate. Talking about depression may not cure you, but not talking about it increases feelings of isolation and closes off the potential benefits of being heard.
Another pitfall of depression is feeling completely alone. I didn’t think other people could understand what I was going through and I was better off not asking for help.
However, believing I needed to face my depression on my own kept me from getting the help I needed. I wish I knew that depression feeds off loneliness and building a social support system is key to healing.
One of the biggest myths about depression is that there is a single trick to make it go away. These days, there is a quick fix for almost anything. Of course, positive thinking, regular exercise, and eating well are helpful for people with depression, but it’s not a cure.
Depression can last weeks, or potentially months and sometimes even years, and the length of depression symptoms can often depend on a variety of things – from lifestyle factors to how well a person responds to a particular management plan. I learned that living well with depression takes patience, support, and the help of a mental health professional. Don’t give up if you’re not able to heal as quickly as you would like.
Living with depression is frustrating. You may feel as though you have no future. I remember lying in my hospital bed thinking my life was over. I thought I’d never find happiness or be able to contribute meaningfully to society.
Depression isn’t permanent. My depression was incredibly destructive, but it didn’t mean my life was over. After my depression, I started a family, found a new career, and made new friends. In my research, I’ve learned I am in good company. Many people often go on to live fulfilled and productive lives after depression.
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NPS-ALL-NP-00971 MAY 2023