Depression is a mood disorder that drains you of hope, motivation, and energy and keeps you in a consistent feeling of sadness. Clinically, there may be a wide range of causes for depression ranging from hormones, inheritance, brain chemistry, or biological differences. Depression is much more common than we think and most of us will have some form of depressive illness at least once in our lifetime.
Here are some myths about depression that are totally baseless:
Myth: Depression is not an illness, it is a state of mind
Fact: Depressive disorders are caused by a neurochemical disturbance in the brain which responds to antidepressant treatment. Like other bodily ailments, there is a physiological process involved in these disorders which disturb the normal state of well-being. Just because there is no lab test to identify these imbalances at present, doesn’t mean that depression is not an illness and that it should not be treated.
Myth: Depression is caused by evil spells (jaadu-tona)
Fact: Like hypertension and diabetes, Depressive disorders are caused by a chemical disturbance in a part of the body (in this case brain is the part of body affected). These disorders are not caused by black magic and do not need treatments by spiritual healers ( ojha- tantrik/ jhaad- phoonk).
Myth: Depression doesn’t happen if there is no stress or tension in the environment
Fact: Depression can occur in the absence of a significant environmental stressor. There are hereditary and genetic factors involved in the causation of these disorders and psychosocial issues are often the triggers for the onset of depression and not the cause of it.
Myth: Depression can be controlled by willpower
Fact: Depression occurs when the brain is unable to produce sufficient chemical substances to keep the person in a normal state of mind. During this phase, the person is not able to use his or her willpower alone to get out of the state of depression. Negative thinking, lack of interest and inability to feel good are part and parcel of depressive disorders. Medicines help correct the neurochemical imbalance faster.
Myth: There is no cure for depression
Fact: Depressive disorders are treated with medication and psychotherapy and response to treatment modalities is generally good. When treated early, the response rate is even better and the person is able to be off medicines in due course of time.
Myth: Children cannot get depressed
Fact: No age group is immune to depression. Children as young as 5 years of age have shown signs of depression and it need not always be a reaction to a major environmental stressor. Children often show more behavioural symptoms (crying, irritability, tantrums etc.) or physical symptoms ( nausea, lack of appetite, stomach ache, headache etc.) instead of telling that they are feeling sad or have negative thoughts.
Myth: Antidepressants are only meant to sedate and are addictive
Fact: All antidepressants are not sedatives. The goal of treatment is to help the individual lead a happy, healthy life and not to put him to sleep. Initial side effects of some antidepressants produce drowsiness and the effects vary from person to person. Treatment is thus individualised based on effects and side effects. Antidepressants are generally non-addictive if taken under supervision.
Dr.Jyoti Kapoor is a Senior Consultant-Psychiatry & Psychotherapy at Paras Hospital Gurgaon.