reviewed 8/9/2018

Depression: Myth or fact?

Depressions is among the most treatable of mental disorders, yet many people don't seek help for it. Some people might think depression isn't a serious illness. Others might resist treatment because of the stigma that often accompanies mental illness. Take this quiz to learn about the myths and facts of depression.

Myth or fact: Depression is a reaction to something bad in your life, such as a divorce or job loss or the death of a loved one.

Myth. Depression is a medical condition—not to be confused with grief or occasional sadness. While a serious loss may bring on depression in some people, it's important to distinguish between normal feelings of sadness and the prolonged feelings of hopelessness or emptiness that come with depression.

Myth or fact: Symptoms must last for a minimum of two weeks before depression can be diagnosed.

Fact. To be diagnosed with depression, your symptoms must last at least two weeks. However, symptoms can range from mild to severe and can linger for months or years—see a doctor if you think you are depressed.

Myth or fact: There's more than one type of depression.

Fact. There are several forms of depressive disorders. Major depressive disorder (or major depression) includes severe symptoms that disrupt your ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy life. Persistent depressive disorder is depression that lasts for at least two years. There are other forms as well.

Myth or fact: Antidepressants are meant to change your personality.

Myth. Antidepressants are designed to change certain chemical imbalances in the brain that are at the root of depressive symptoms. The medications aren't created to turn you into a different person though. Instead, successful treatment with antidepressants returns you to your normal self.

Myth or fact: Psychotherapy for depression can work best in combination with medication.

Fact. Psychotherapy alone may be enough for some people, especially those with milder forms of depression. That's because therapy may be able to help you change certain behaviors or thought patterns that make you feel worse. But for other people, the best treatment is a mix of psychotherapy and medication.

Myth or fact: Following a healthy lifestyle may help reduce symptoms of depression.

Fact. While depression is an illness that should be treated and diagnosed by a healthcare professional, certain healthy activities can help reduce symptoms. Exercise, regular sleep and a healthy diet have all been known to help lessen the symptoms associated with depression.

As with many illnesses, depression is best treated early. But it's essential that you check in with a medical professional to get the correct diagnosis. He or she can rule out other health conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as a thyroid disorder. If needed, your doctor may prescribe medication or refer you to a mental health specialist for treatment.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association; Mental Health America; National Institute of Mental Health

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