Debunking Common Misconceptions About Major Depressive Disorder 💡

Understanding Depression Stigma Lessons from a Mental Health Advocate on the Changing Landscape and the Importance of Acceptance in Managing Major Depressive Disorder

Dealing with the stigma

By Sonja Wasden, as told to Kara Mayer Robinson

🌟 I’m a mental health advocate living with major depression. I speak with Fortune 500 companies, women’s prisons, firefighters, police officers, drug rehabilitation centers, nonprofit organizations, and media outlets about the importance of mental health. My hope is to break the stigma and let people know they’re not alone and can live a beautiful life despite having mental health challenges. 🌟

Misconception #1: Depression is a Choice 🤔

An important part of destigmatizing depression is breaking down common misunderstandings. While the perception of major depressive disorder is changing, many misconceptions linger.

For example, people often think depression is something you can brush off or flip like a light switch. They may say things like “cheer up” or “just be happy.” But depression isn’t a choice. It’s a feeling and it’s real. 🌧️

Contrary to popular belief, major depression is not a matter of willpower or simply being sad for a short period. It is a complex condition that affects the brain and can be influenced by genetic, biological, and environmental factors. So, next time you encounter someone struggling with depression, offer empathy and understanding rather than unsolicited advice. 👂

Misconception #2: Looks Can Be Deceiving 😊

Another misunderstanding is how depression appears on the surface. Just because someone looks happy doesn’t mean they’re not struggling. Often, people with depression put on a happy face to hide it from others. 🎭

Remember, depression doesn’t always show up as a constant state of sadness. It can manifest as fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in activities, and change in appetite or sleep patterns. So, let’s not judge a book by its cover. Instead, let’s create a supportive environment where people feel comfortable expressing their true emotions without fear of judgment. 🤗

Misconception #3: Attention-Seeking or Deserving of Help? 🙄

People sometimes think someone who’s struggling with depression is trying to get attention. But no amount of attention is worth the painful feelings of major depressive disorder.

The problem with the ongoing stigma is that it may prevent you from speaking up and getting the help you need. The stigma can even be triggered by your own feelings. In the past, I often felt I wasn’t worthy of help or I had no value because of my depressive disorder. 😔

But here’s the truth: People with major depressive disorder are some of the most resilient and hard-working people I know. It takes courage to face this condition day in and day out. And just like individuals with chronic illnesses like cancer or diabetes are often praised for their bravery, people with major depression should be told the same. 🌟

How the Perception of Major Depression is Changing 🌈

The perception of major depression is changing. People are talking more about mental health, and that helps. But there’s still work to be done to erase the remaining stigma.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought depression to the forefront. Studies report that the number of people experiencing depression has increased, with triple the rate among those facing lower income and more stressors since the beginning of the pandemic.

As depression becomes more prominent, we’re having more critical mental health conversations. There’s a better understanding that people from all walks of life are experiencing depression. These honest conversations not only make people feel they’re not so alone but also encourage people to speak up. 🗣️

It’s also helpful that therapy is more common now. More people are going to therapy to improve their lives, even if they’re not struggling with mental health issues. This has reduced the stigma surrounding therapy tremendously. 🛋️

However, there’s still a stigma associated with taking mental health medication. It’s stigmatized to the point that many people who need it refuse to take it, even though it would greatly improve their lives. So let’s continue challenging these stigmas and advocating for a more inclusive and understanding society. 💪

Accepting Your Diagnosis: The Path to Healing 🌺

It may be challenging to learn you have major depressive disorder. When I got my diagnosis, my whole soul rebelled against it. I felt like my doctor was handing me a life sentence. I felt hopeless and helpless. I couldn’t see how I could live a normal life with depression as my constant companion. 😔

But that changed. I’m grateful for my doctors, medication, DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and therapists who taught me I can have a life worth living despite my depression. Through medicine and learning new skills, I now have a very beautiful and full life. 🌟✨

When you learn you have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, the first step in the healing process is radical acceptance. When you fight depressive emotions, it only gives them more fuel to thrive.

When I stopped fighting my diagnosis and started embracing it, that’s when the quality of my life improved. Of course, I still have hard days that I have to accept and manage, but the magic of acceptance is that it stops unnecessary suffering caused by resisting it. 😌

Try to remember that there are millions of people who successfully live with difficult illnesses of every kind. You’re not alone. Chronic illnesses aren’t fun, and they take daily management, but there’s power in acceptance. It’s the only way to move forward.

You may live your life differently than someone else without a depressive disorder, and that’s okay. But it doesn’t mean you can’t have a full and meaningful life. Try to use self-help, self-love, and patience. Remember, you are not defined by your diagnosis. 💖

How You Can Help Break the Stigma ✊

It takes everyone to break a stigma: celebrities, public figures, families, friends, schools, government leaders, news outlets, advocacy groups, doctors, therapists, and individuals.

One of the best ways you can help break down the stigma is to allow and participate in mental health conversations. Educate yourself. Be aware of the language you use. Show equality between physical and mental illnesses. Be compassionate. 🌍

Talk about it at work, with friends, and with family. Post on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook about things related to mental health awareness. Be one of the drops in a bucket. Each person’s voice matters. Let’s work together to create a world where mental health is understood, supported, and celebrated. 🗣️🌈

Q&A: Addressing Additional Topics

Q: What are some common treatments for major depressive disorder?

A: Common treatments for major depressive disorder include psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Doctors may also prescribe antidepressant medications based on individual needs and symptoms.

Q: Are there alternative therapies or self-help practices that can complement traditional treatments?

A: Yes, there are various alternative therapies and self-help practices that can complement traditional treatments. These include exercise, mindfulness meditation, yoga, art therapy, and journaling. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most effective combination of treatments for your specific situation.

Q: Can major depressive disorder be cured?

A: Major depressive disorder is a chronic condition, but it is treatable. With appropriate treatment, support, and self-care, many individuals with depression experience significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and regular monitoring and management may still be necessary.

Q: How can I support a loved one with major depressive disorder?

A: Supporting a loved one with major depressive disorder involves being understanding, patient, and non-judgmental. Offer a listening ear, encourage them to seek professional help, and assist them in finding suitable treatment options. Educate yourself about depression to better understand their experiences, and be present as a source of emotional support.

Q: Are there any organizations or helplines available for those seeking support?

A: Yes, there are many organizations and helplines available for individuals seeking support for mental health. Examples include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. These organizations provide resources, helplines, support groups, and information to individuals and their families.

🌟 Remember, you are never alone. Reach out, seek support, and be proactive in your mental health journey. Together, we can break the stigma and create a world where mental well-being is prioritized. 🌟

💡 Explore Further:

  1. Stigma and Discrimination
  2. Understanding Depression
  3. Types of Therapies for Depression
  4. Mental Health Helplines

📷 Image Source: Jonah_M / Getty Images