Everyone feels down sometimes. But when people are depressed, they feel more than sad – they feel hopeless. The sadness doesn’t go away even when the cause of it does. Depression saps energy and will. So the last thing people with depression can do is “just snap out of it.”
Depression is more common than we realize: 10 percent of men and 25 percent of women experience serious depression at some point in their lives.
The good news is it’s highly treatable. The bad news is too many people suffer unnecessarily with depression: More than 80 percent of depression responds well to treatment, but only roughly 1/3 of people who suffer seek help.
Myths about Depression
These are common myths people have about depression that can prevent them from seeking help:
- Depression won’t affect me. Depression affects people regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status—and it also affects the people around them.
- Depression isn’t a medical problem. Clinical depression is a disease, and just like diabetes or heart disease it can have physical and emotional consequences.
- Strong people can just snap out of it by thinking positively. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or laziness. It’s a health problem caused by changes in brain structure or function.
- Depression only happens in response to bad events. Depression can arise at any time, even when everything is going well.
- Depression will just go away on its own. Without treatment, depression can continue for weeks, months, or years. Or it can lead to suicide.
- Antidepressants will change your personality. Changing your brain chemistry with antidepressants can make people feel like themselves again. They don’t change personality. If you don’t like the effects of a particular drug, it can often be changed.
- Talking about depression just makes it worse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being alone with your thoughts can be harmful. Talking to supportive friends, family, spiritual leaders, and therapists can help.
What to Do If You or Someone You Know Is Depressed
Below is a list of things you can do if you or someone you know is depressed:
- Are you sad or depressed? Find out. Everyone gets sad. If your sadness doesn’t go away, if it affects your relationships or work, it might be depression.
- Get help. The sooner you take action, the better. Remember, depression is highly treatable. Your health care provider can help determine if you are depressed or if something else is going on and then plan a course of action. He or she may refer you to a mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
- Exercise. Physical activity helps anyone feel better and cope better, but it’s especially important in depression. There’s evidence that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in raising energy. It also reduces stress and anxiety, improves confidence, and sleep.
- Keep in touch with friends. Remember Myth #7? Sharing your story with nonjudgmental friends and professionals is another key to improving your state of mind. Don’t isolate yourself. (But stay away from those who feel toxic.)
- Eat and sleep well. Sleep and depression are intimately connected. Sometimes getting enough sleep (but not too much sleep) is a crucial factor in reducing or eliminating depression. Good nutrition – lean proteins like turkey and fish, whole grains, and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables – can also make you feel and think better.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. Alcohol is a depressant. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs to relieve feelings of depression, but they actually make things worse.
- Relax and reduce stress. Exercise is one way to reduce stress. Find out what restores and relaxes you: reading, music, art, sports, volunteering. Whatever it is that helps you, take time to do it.
BONUS READING: Read our blog post on What You Need to Know About Mental Health
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.