We hear that rates of depression are sky-high and I thought I would throw some light on some common misconceptions that surround this common vulnerability. People can sink into a depressed mood when their essential physical or emotional needs are not being met in balance, maybe because of a setback or traumatic event, and they begin to worry about what has happened, or what might happen, and how they will cope.
All depressed people have something in common – they all worry. Feelings of frustration, anxiety, anger or guilt can become so overwhelming that they feel exhausted and powerless to take action to resolve and deal with the situation (which would lower the uncomfortable emotional feelings) and worry all the more. The more we expect things to be bad, the more stressed we feel and so the cycle continues.
Once we understand the ‘cycle of depression’, our relationship with it completely changes and people are able to face the world with a new hopeful outlook for the future.
The Human Givens Institute has carried out evidence-based research in to mental health for the past 20 years. Interestingly, what they have discovered dispels some common misconceptions about depression. I’m sharing some of them here and you may find some of them surprising...
Myth #1 – Depression is a biological ‘illness’
Depression is NOT a biological illness. Of course, there is a biological element to depression – every thought and emotion we have affects the levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.
If we are depressed, we have low levels of serotonin, whereas when we are positive and acting positively, levels of serotonin are high. It is the depressed mood that causes changes in brain chemistry, not the other way around.
Two facts that show that the chemical imbalance idea is incorrect: Firstly, the vast majority of depressions lift quickly when treated with effective psychological therapy.
Secondly, even without therapy, in 75 per cent of cases, depression gets better on its own within six months without chemical intervention.
Myth #2 – Difficult life situations cause depression
This myth, may prove to be controversial for some readers, but difficult life situations are not the cause of depression. What can cause depression is how we cope with certain situations. We each have individual coping capacities - one person can suffer from a tragic experience and not be depressed, while a relatively trivial problem can send someone else into a severe depression.
Myth #3 – Depression is an illness & you can get it again
Depression is not an illness. The way we cope with the difficulties that life throws at us determines whether depression comes back. If you react to difficult circumstances in the same way each time, by worrying instead of sorting out the issue, depression will return time and again.
Myth #4 – Depression is anger turned inwards
The myth that depression is ‘anger turned inwards’ has no biological foundation. Research has shown that the act of dreaming every night reduces unexpressed emotions from the day before, so anger cannot be ‘turned inwards’ in the long-term.
Myth #5 – Depression is passed down to children genetically
A ’depression gene’ does not exist. Extensive research has been carried out and none has ever been found. What may be picked up by children from their depressed parents, are the ways in which a parent may cope with difficult life situations. Children of depressed parents may learn the same worry cycle which, in turn, makes them more prone to depression themselves should they go on to experience difficulties in their life.
Myth #6 – When you have therapy for depression you will feel worse before you feel better
It is true, that some forms of therapy can make you feel worse. Some forms of counselling or psychotherapy that concentrate on the past and encourage digging deep into past emotions can, unintentionally, cause harm and delay improvement.
However, effective therapies, such as Brief, Solution Focused Psychotherapy, help a person experience positive changes in the very first session.
Myth #7 – Depression is always a separate additional problem
Depression is a signal that something is wrong in a person's current situation and/or the way that they are dealing with it. It manifests because of the way we cope with stressful situations and is very much part of that mechanism.
I hope that the above myth-busters have proved enlightening and the good news is, that despite being on the increase, depression is one of the easiest and quickest disorders to treat successfully and quickly.
Learn more about how I am able to help lift depression here...