We’ve all heard some of the untrue, and often hurtful beliefs around depression. As a helping professional, I’ve had many a person tell me they often believe some of these myths. Because myths can be powerful and misconceptions can be disempowering, it’s important to challenge their perceived veracity. As we know, if something is said for long enough, it tends to take on the status of a truism, even when it’s not true.
Some common myths about depression
Myth #1: If you have depression you are a weak person with little will-power.
Fact: Depression is not about being weak-minded or having no will-power and it’s not useful to couch it in these terms. In fact, a person experiencing depression should be seen in the same light as a person who has diabetes. Both depression and diabetes can be treated and the person experiencing the depression or diabetes should be encouraged to actively participate in their treatment.
Myth #2: A person experiencing depression should just ‘pull themselves together’.
Fact: This is a misconception that people experiencing depression can just shake off their symptoms. A person with depression can keenly feel the added guilt that this misguided comment and myth imposes.
Myth #3: Because depression is not a visible problem, there isn’t a problem.
Fact: Sometimes people with depression find it hard to get the help that they need because it’s hard to articulate the problem. Their pain is real, but they may not be able to find a trigger for their experience, nor might they be able to find any obvious cause.
Myth #4: Someone else has ‘caused’ the depression.
Fact: It’s important to know that nobody is to blame for a person’s depression, neither the depressed person, nor their family and friends. Sometimes people around the person experiencing the depression get the blame and this is not fair – to them or the person who is depressed.
Myth #5: The depressed person is being punished by God for committing an unforgiveable sin.
Fact: Nobody is perfect and no person should sit in judgement on others. People don’t get depressed because they have done something called a ‘sin’. The fact is that the expression, ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’ is as true today as when it was first spoken.
Bust those mistaken beliefs and misconceptions
Some of these myths and misconceptions are common and can be dangerous if they are given any credence. Remember, it’s always better to challenge such myths than to uncritically believe in them. Generally speaking, such myths and misconceptions are ‘out there’ in our community and it’s empowering to challenge and dismiss them before they take hold of our imaginations – and minds.
To learn more skills and strategies for dealing with depression see Losing the 21st Century Blues
Zita Weber, Ph.D. is an author and honorary academic, and has worked as a counsellor and therapist with individuals, couples and families. She has researched and written about communication, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief. More information about her work and books can be found at: http://zitaweber.com.