According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects over 16 million U.S. adults, along with countless teenagers and even some young children. Unfortunately, despite its prevalence, depression is widely misunderstood and stigmatized. If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from depression, here's what you should know.
Depression is a real illness. Many people mistakenly believe depression is simple sadness or a reflection of weak character. In reality, depression is a complex mental health disorder with psychological, social and biological origins. Studies suggest that specific genetic and chemical characteristics in the brain are responsible for many types of depression.
Antidepressants aren't a cure-all. While they can be helpful, antidepressant medications don't cure depression. In fact, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, some people experience little to no improvement from common antidepressants. Just because a friend or loved one is taking medication for their depression doesn't mean they won't have symptoms of their illness.
They can't simply ‘snap out of it.' Just as people do not choose to be depressed, they cannot choose to stop being depressed. Severe depression can't be cured by positive thinking or changes in attitude. Most people require cognitive therapy and/or medications for long-term relief.
Sad events prompt symptoms. While negative life events can trigger depression, they aren't required. Many people feel depressed for no apparent reason. Often, this manifests as unexplained periods of despair, hopelessness, lethargy and a loss of interest in hobbies or daily activities.
Depression causes physical symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, depression isn't only in the mind. In addition to severe sadness, many people also experience headaches, muscles aches, chest pain, fatigue, sexual problems and anxiety. Depression can also lead to digestive problems and insomnia, along with changes in appetite and weight.
Depression doesn't just affect women. Men experience depression; however, many feel uncomfortable discussing their feelings due to social pressures. Depression is a serious problem for countless men. In fact, studies suggest men are more likely to commit suicide than women in response to chronic depression.
Talking won’t make things worse. Many people are afraid to confront friends and loved ones about their depression, because they worry they may inadvertently reinforce destructive feelings. In reality, open discussions can be very helpful by making the person feel more cared for and less alone. Conversations can also prompt depressed people to seek help from qualified professionals who can help guide them toward recovery.
Depression can negatively impact a person's life in a number of ways. In addition to experiencing negative emotional and physical symptoms, depressed people are more likely to have relationship problems, isolate themselves from society and abuse alcohol and drugs. If you have a family member or loved one who suffers from regular bouts of depression, encourage them to seek help from a doctor or qualified therapist.
Although it can promote feelings of hopelessness, depression doesn't have to be a lifelong ailment. With treatment, most people experience marked improvement in well-being, especially when they have support of friends and loved ones.
If you or someone you know would benefit from depression counseling and therapy, please contact Foundations Counseling to arrange a free consultation.