Friends of Robin Williams said they were stunned by his suicide. Many said they never saw him sad. After all, how could a man who made his living making people laugh be depressed?
According to experts, depression is a terribly complex, and often misunderstood illness. Many people associate it with showing or feeling sadness and therefore believe a person who seems happy could never suffer from depression.
An estimated one in nine Americans suffers from depression. It is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, and the #1 cause of suicide, claiming 34,000 lives annually.
Major depression is defined as a severely depressed mood that continues for two weeks or more, interfering with one’s daily functions. Other forms of depression range from dysthymia, a minor but chronic depression that can last for years; to postpartum depression, that affects women shortly after childbirth; to bipolar disorder, that involves severe mood swings.
Here is a look at some of the most common myths about depression:
- Depression is about feeling sad. Many of those who suffer from depression feel an overwhelming sadness. Yet, it can also present itself through feelings of emptiness, loss of energy, or lack of interest. There may be a constant state of anxiety or tension.
- Depression is a sign of weakness. Telling someone to “just get past it” would be the equivalent of saying to someone suffering from diabetes or cancer to get over it. It has absolutely nothing to do with any weakness of character.
- Depression is situational. While it can be triggered by an event, such as the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, it does not have to be due to a particular incident. It can come or go at any time, even when events in one’s life are generally positive.
- Depression is not something you should talk about. In fact, the best thing you can do is to discuss it openly. One of the worst things you can do is to be alone in a time of depression. Friends or loved ones should strongly encourage the one who suffers from depression to seek professional help.
- Depression can only be treated by medication. Some think that once diagnosed with depression they’ll be dependent on antidepressants for the rest of their life. Psychotherapy has been an effective treatment in many cases. A majority of those who get good results from medication can eventually be tapered off the medication.
- Depression will leave on its own. For some, it may. Yet, without treatment, depression can lead to ongoing issues throughout one’s life and, sometimes, to tragic consequences. Depression is not something you can ignore.
All of these misconceptions about depression can lead to the misunderstanding of the disease. If someone is feeling depressed, the worst thing to do is to ignore it. As previously stated, it took the life of someone that brought joy to millions of people’s lives, Robin Williams. But, if handled correctly, it is something that everyone can overcome and get back to enjoying life.
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