5 Things People with Depression Want You to Know

If you have a loved one with depression or you’ve experienced depressive episodes yourself, you probably know that a lot of misconceptions persist around this relatively common mental health condition. And as the number of Americans with depression continues to rise, more people than ever will be impacted by false information.

According to a 2023 Gallup poll that surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. adults, clinical depression has reached a new high, with 29% of respondents having been diagnosed and 17.8% having been treated for it. This reflects a 10% and 7% increase, respectively, since 2015.

While numerous factors are influencing such a surge, there’s one thing all people with major depressive disorder have in common. They—and their loved ones—will benefit when we fight the stigma, shame, and confusion surrounding this growing mental health concern.

Based on our clinical work at Amen Clinics with tens of thousands of depressed patients, these are the top 5 things people with depression want you to know.

Regularly checking in with someone who has depression can make a difference in their day—and their health. Click To Tweet

BUSTING DEPRESSION MYTHS

Learning more about depression and offering informed support to those affected will ensure you’re part of the solution. Here, we’ll examine some of the most important, and most often misunderstood, points to keep in mind—the top 5 things depressed people wish you knew.

  1. Depression is a legitimate mental health symptom.

Depression can be minimized among those who have never had it. They may say, “Cheer up,” “Think of all you have to be grateful for,” or even “Snap out of it.”

These statements wrongly assume that depressive episodes are a state of mind or a mood, rather than sources of legitimate symptoms. But depression can’t be wished away or snapped out of. When their experiences are invalidated, people with depression inevitably feel even more alone, disconnected, and frustrated.

Most people with depression would love to “snap out of it.” But depression describes feelings like sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness that don’t simply go away. Instead, they persist over time and interfere with daily life and functioning.

In addition, without treatment for major depressive disorder, it’s easy to make daily choices that worsen symptoms rather than improve them. That’s why it’s important for those with depression, as well as their loved ones, to recognize it as a legitimate concern that requires evaluation and a targeted treatment plan.

  1. Depression is NOT a single condition.

We now know that depression is a symptom, not a diagnosis. But depression can be accompanied by myriad additional symptoms, some of which can be embarrassing or difficult to discuss. Signs of depression include brain fog, difficulty concentrating, irritability, anger, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and many more.

Meanwhile, the more well-known effects of the mood disorder—fatigue, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed—also hinder well-being and performance. With such a range of symptoms, depression can look different in different people (or in the same person at different periods).

Amen Clinics has determined that there are 7 types of depression, each with its own unique symptoms and underlying brain activity patterns. Brain scans using advanced technology called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) help pinpoint those patterns to help design the most effective treatment for each individual.

  1. People with depression need your support.

Like any mental health symptom, depression can feel isolating. Many people are afraid of sharing their struggles. They might hesitate to reach out for help when they need it, not wanting to feel like a burden or a bother to the people they love.

If you know someone with major depressive disorder, be proactive. Regularly checking in with someone who has depression can make a difference in their day—and their health. One meta-analysis of 64 studies found a significant correlation between social support and better mental health.

When you check in with them and spend time together, ask gentle questions when appropriate and practice active listening. Show encouragement for their victories, big and small. After all, sometimes just getting out of bed and showering can be a major win for someone with depression.

They’re also likely to benefit from additional assistance, such as a mental health support group, either in person or online. And numerous organizations provide helpful information for those with depression and their loved ones. When sharing resources, remember to be tactful, not pushy or judgmental.

  1. Depression is not a weakness or character flaw.

Even though people with depression should never be viewed as a homogeneous mass, they do share one uniting factor: They’re strong, not weak.

Incorrectly equating depression with weakness can be particularly pervasive among men, who are often raised to be “tough” and to avoid discussing their feelings. This may be one devastating reason why, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are almost 4 times as likely to die by suicide than women. (If you or a loved one is in danger of self-harming, call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.)

However, mental health problems can generate significant shame and stigma among all genders. By opening the national and global conversation to different perspectives on depression, we can all help eradicate these negative views over time. Depressed brains simply work differently—no value judgments are needed.

Still, people with depression are often misunderstood or mislabeled by their loved ones. For example, their behavior may make them appear lazy or unreliable to those who don’t understand their symptoms. Remember that, in the throes of depression, even small tasks can require a huge effort.

By exercising understanding and patience, you’ll help ensure you’re not adding to feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness. For example, if they cancel plans, rather than getting angry, inquire about how they’re feeling. They simply may not be able to perform routine tasks right now, even if they want to.

  1. Depression isn’t always debilitating.

Some people assume that those with depression can’t live normal lives, have fun, or laugh. But just like with any mental health condition, symptoms (and their severity) can fluctuate. People can have bad days and good days.

Others have high-functioning depression, meaning they appear “normal” on the outside, with successful careers and family lives, but they’re inwardly struggling.

Some people develop symptoms as a result of a particular life challenge, such as postpartum depression or in the aftermath of COVID or a physical injury. Depression can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, but symptoms fall on a spectrum, from mild to severe, at a given time.

Don’t assume that if someone is experiencing a long stretch of good days that they have “gotten over it.” Many non-medication, all-natural lifestyle changes can help mitigate the symptoms that accompany depression. But depression symptoms are often chronic and will return.

SUPPORTING LOVED ONES WITH MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER

When someone is struggling with a mental health disorder, life can feel overwhelming—for them and for the people who love them. The good news is that we have more options than ever before to treat and manage depressive symptoms.

And, when they’re given understanding, acknowledgment, validation, patience, and support, people with depression have a much better chance of success. If you or a loved one have depression, make sure you’re offering all of the above to help pave a smoother road to recovery.

Depression and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

2 Comments »

  1. excellent advice!

    Comment by douglas morris — June 20, 2024 @ 1:55 AM

  2. Your website, Brain MD, suggested Happy Saffron. I have been taking it ever since, and I LOVE it. It does SO MUCH to prevent depression.

    Comment by Nancy Boyer — June 21, 2024 @ 9:11 AM

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