The number one myth is that depression is not a “real” disease. Even though physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists recognize that depression is medical, many circulating depression myths make people think otherwise.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects as many as 18.8 million Americans a year. Depression is medicalâ€“it’s the most common mental health issue affecting the world’s populationâ€“and it can have serious, or even fatal consequences. Depression is a leading cause of suicide, and it can even worsen serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Therefore, you’ll want to be able to distinguish between depression myths and truths.
Depression Is Real Coalition
The Depression Is Real Coalition exists to educate people that depression is medical, rather than a “made-up disease.” This organization is comprised of many doctors, patients and patient advocates, as well as the following groups:
- American Psychiatric Association
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Medical Association.
Depression Is a Disease
Depression is very different from ordinary sadness. Sadness is a natural reaction to an emotionally painful experience. Depression is medical, and its symptoms involve much more than feeling sad:
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Impaired function at home, in school or at work
- Loss of interest or pleasure in one’s daily activities
- Preoccupation with the thought of being worthless and/or overwhelmed
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Symptoms that last longer than two months
- Thoughts of suicide
- Weight change.
If you have five or more of these symptoms at once and you experience them daily for at least two weeks, you may be diagnosed as depressed.
Depression Is Real
Depression has a biological cause, rooted in the brain’s chemistry. Chemicals produced inside the body, called neurotransmitters, act as “messengers” between nerve cells, conveying the nerve impulses that allow a person to live, think, breathe and move. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin.
Depression may result if any of the following happens:
- The body doesn’t have enough receptor sites to receive the serotonin
- The body produces insufficient serotonin
- The body reabsorbs serotonin too quickly.
The brain chemicals, norepinephrine and dopamine, also play a role in the biological cause of depression. Luckily, depression is a disease with many treatment options, all of which can help restore the normal balance of chemicals in the brain.
These biological causes of depression have been studied at length in the medical community. It’s very possible to recover from depression if sufferers get the treatment they need. Depression is medical, so if you feel that you’re experiencing depression symptoms, you should seek medical help.
Psychology Today Staff. (2008). Is depression a disease? Retrieved May 6, 2010, from the Psychology Today website: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evil-deeds/200809/is-depression-disease.
The Depression Is Real Campaign. (n.d.). What is the depression is real coalition? Retrieved May 6, 2010, from the DepressionIsReal.org website: www.depressionisreal.com/depression-about-coalition.html.