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7 Dangerous Misconceptions About Depression!

From Pap smears to blood pressure tests, you know your body needs routine screenings to stay in tip-topshape. Turns out, the same thing is true for your mind. October 8 is the 25th annual National Depression Screening Day, part of an initiative launched by the Screening for Mental Health Organization. The campaign’s hope is to raise awareness about how prevalentdepression can be—one in eight American women will struggle with clinical depression in her lifetime, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Beyond spreading the word, the point of National Depression Screening Day is to smash the stigma surrounding the disease, which is often misunderstood. Read on to learn the truth about depression (and visitnami.org to find support if you think you may have depression).

Myth: There’s Only One Type of Depression
Truth: When people mention depression, chances are they’re talking about what’s known as major depressive disorder, which is also sometimes called clinical depression. “Just like with anxiety, there are different types of depression from a diagnostic level,” says Matthew Goldfine, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York and New Jersey. Another kind of depression is persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia. About 1.5 percent of American adultsexperience it a year, compared to the 6.7 percent who go through major depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Dysthymia is similar to depression but with less intense symptoms," says Goldfine. It usually occurs for a longer period of time than clinical depression, like two or three years. Clinical depression can hang around for as little as two weeks, although it often lasts for longer than that. There are other varieties beyond clinical depression and dysthymia, like bipolar disorderpostpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
Myth: Depression Means You’re Sad
Truth: People may think depression is just a case of the blues, but its symptoms are wide-ranging and can manifest themselves physically. Common ones are feeling sad, empty, or hopeless, feeling like you can’t get out of bed, completely losing your appetite, and sleeping too much or too little. “Another one is psychomotor agitation, which is feeling like you can’t sit still or psychomotor reduction, which is when it seems like you’re living in slow motion,” says Goldfine. Excessive fatigue and anhedonia, a.k.a when you no longer enjoy things you used to find pleasurable, also make the list.

Dysthymia’s symptoms are more like, for two years, you’re just down in the dumps. Your appetite and sleeping schedule may change but probably not in an excessive way. “It’s having a chronic depressed mood for most of the day, more days than not,” says Goldfine.
Myth: Doctors Know What Causes Depression
Truth: Experts haven’t fully sussed out why some people’s brains fall prey to depression. The most popular medications for the illness provide some clues, says Goldfine. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase the amount of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in your system. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) reduce the enzyme monoamine oxidase because it limits your levels of serotonin and other happy-making brain chemicals. “We’ve realized that if you increase or decrease certain chemicals, people tend to be in a better mood,” says Goldfine. “As for how it works or why it works, we’re still figuring that out.”
Myth: Antidepressants Are the Easy Answer
Truth: If only. “Some lucky people can take their first medication and feel better, but for others, it’s not that simple,” says Goldfine. There can be a lot of trial and error involved in finding the right medicine, so if you or someone you love is getting help for depression, it may take some doctor-approved experimentation before things get markedly better.
Myth: People Are Always Depressed for a Reason
Truth: Going through something like a death in the family or losing your job can land you in a depressed state, but depression doesn’t always need a definitive source. “It can be caused for no clear reason, especially if you have a genetic predisposition,” says Goldfine. At the same time, things like getting a divorce or going through a natural disaster can cause depressive symptoms without you actually being depressed.
“It’s partly about your ability to bounce back,” says Goldfine, who notes there aren’t hard and fast rules about how long you have to experience symptoms before being clinically depressed. “If your friends and family are saying you’ve been feeling this way for a long time, that can be a good gauge that it’s out of proportion,” says Goldfine. So can the severity of the symptoms. You may be down for a while after you lose your job, but if you feel okay sometimes and not other times rather than relentlessly feeling empty, that’s a sign you’re coping well.
Myth: It’s Obvious When People Are Depressed
Truth: Some people have absolutely no poker face, and you’d be able to tell in an instant that something’s not right, especially if you’re close to them. Others are such pros at hiding it, it’s almost like they’re putting on a mask. “If you’re that person, you’re able to compartmentalize depression and your work or family life,” says Goldfine. So much of depression is an interior struggle rather than one that bubbles up to the surface, so it’s easy for some people to cover up how they’re truly feeling.
Myth: Depressed People Can Snap Out of It
Truth: “I saw a comic about how we react to someone differently when they’re depressed and when they have something like the flu,” says Goldfine. “With the flu, people say, ‘Stay home, take medicine,’ but with depression, some people say to just snap out of it.” There’s this pervasive idea that someone can be happy or feel better if they try hard enough, but it’s way more complicated than that. While things like exercise can potentially change a depressed person’s mood for a bit, there’s no one-size-fits-all easy fix that every depressed person can try for instant results, says Goldfine.

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