6 Common Myths About Depression and Mental Health

Mental health concerns don't look the same for everyone. (Image via Unsplash/Dorrell Tibbs)
Mental health concerns don't look the same for everyone. (Image via Unsplash/Dorrell Tibbs)

Emotional and psychological well-being is an essential part of overall wellness. However, mental health issues are surrounded by misconceptions, especially in relation to men and the elderly. What most of us don't realize is that these disorders are complex and layered, so adding a round of presumption prevents patients from seeking the help they need.

The most common picture of a session with a therapist goes like this: You show up in the office, you sit down on a fancy old couch, your therapist probably sports a goatee and tweed jacket, and then they start extracting information from you. This image is outdated and bears no resemblance to how counseling and therapy sessions work these days.

Depression or major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the leading causes of disability around the world. According to a report by the WHO, it is also a major contributor to the overall burden of disease. In the United States, close to 10% of the adult population struggles with depression. As it is a mental illness, it is a lot harder to understand than a physical ailment like, say, diabetes.

Depression Demystified

Despite being a common mental disorder, there are quite a few myths around depression.

1. Depression Is All in Your Head

Although awareness has increased in recent years, the underlying belief has not changed much about depression: it is still about your head. You are depressed because you are thinking bad thoughts. This strange idea also leads to a strange solution: think positive and your depression will go away.

According to the researchers, although the understanding of neurological underpinnings of depression is incomplete, certain nerve cells, connections, and circuits do have a major impact on the development and progression of the disorder. Moreover physical discomfort can cause and be a collateral symptom of depression. So it's clearly not made up as it has some biological roots.

2. If You Have Depression, You'll Have to Look Depressed

If you’re looking for free images on the internet related to depression, you are likely to get photos similar to these:

Unfortunately, depression is depicted in the media in dramatic ways. (Image via  Pexels)
Unfortunately, depression is depicted in the media in dramatic ways. (Image via Pexels)

Many wrongly someone experiencing depression to show dramatic and reactive behavior like crying in the corner or keeping a hand on their head. Though any depressed person could do this, not all demonstrate in this manner. Some might appear to be lethargic, disinterested, or low in confidence. Others might appear active or engaged yet suffer inside. People's appearances are not a clear manifestation of how they are feeling.

3. Depression Is Just Self-Pity

Our culture values willpower and determination, and it quickly dismisses anyone who falls as a whiner. However, those who suffer from clinical depression are not lazy or self-pitying. They also cannot "wish" away their symptoms. It needs appropriate therapy coupled with loving care and support, just as a physical ailment. People often feel better after overcoming depression and move on to live a productive life.

4. Mental Health Disorders Affect Only Women

Stereotypes from culture and society have perpetuated the idea that men shouldn't or don't experience depression. Statements like "Don't cry like a woman," "Face up like a man", and so on lead to ignoring or, worse, belittling male depression.

Depression can strike anyone at any time. However, men and women have different responses and coping mechanisms dictated by their biological and emotional makeup coupled with various risk factors. Loss of relationships or loss of self-identity drive women to depression whereas loss of control and physical disabilities are the main triggers for men.


5. Anxiety and Depression Are the Same Thing

They are different disorders although many of their symptoms could overlap. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, many people who have been diagnosed with depression also have a history of anxiety. However, it's also quite likely to have one without the other.

Depression has been linked to bipolar illness and substance abuse, among other mental health issues. Risk factors can also include physical conditions including cancer, heart disease, and persistent pain.

6. Drugs for Depression Will Alter Your Personality.

It can be frightening to consider taking medication that alters your brain's chemistry.

Antidepressants, however, are not intended to alter your personality; instead, they simply aim to alter specific molecules that underlie the symptoms of sadness. Antidepressants typically make people feel more like themselves again than like a different person, and this makes them happy. It is best to discuss the potential effects of antidepressants with your doctor.


Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Breaking down the myths and taboos related to this common yet serious disorder can help people around the world. Reaching out to a therapist or other mental health professional can further clarify any myths or stereotypes that you have heard of.

Edited by Ramaa Kishore
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