Many people think they understand depression because they believe it is the same as the blues. But depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), is quite different.
If you’ve never been diagnosed with MDD, you can’t fully understand the disorder’s devastating impact on every aspect of your life.
Hany Ashamalla, MD, and our mental health professionals at Notre Dame Behavioral Health, located in Surprise and Peoria, Arizona, specialize in helping people overcome depression. Over the years, we’ve learned about several misconceptions that people have about depression.
Here are the four top things people don’t know about depression.
Many people think depression occurs in response to a difficult life event — and sometimes it does. You may get sick, experience an injury, lose a job, or separate from your partner, to name a few significant challenges that can cause depression.
But here’s the surprising part: Depression doesn’t always need a triggering event. You can get depressed at any time, no matter what’s happening in your life because it’s a brain-based disorder.
Your mood is regulated by nerve activity in certain brain areas and the levels of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) produced and released by those nerves. When brain chemicals are imbalanced, you become depressed, even if your life seems fine.
Many people believe that if you’re depressed, you should pick yourself up and snap out of it. Even worse, they blame the depressed person for being lazy or not wanting to get better. But it doesn’t work that way.
Depression is not the blues. With the blues, you feel down for a short time, but before long, your mood lifts, and you feel better. That won’t happen if you have MDD.
People who are depressed can’t suddenly take action to improve their depression. Their ongoing brain chemical imbalance maintains depression. And by definition, depression depletes your energy, destroys motivation, and makes it impossible to think, concentrate, or make decisions.
If you don’t get treatment, depression can last for months or years. As long as you’re depressed, your mood only gets worse because your brain chemicals won’t improve without treatment. All too often, untreated depression leads to substance abuse and suicide.
Depression increases your risk of developing health problems. In fact, two-thirds of people with depression experience painful physical symptoms.
Depression weakens your immune system and leads to problems like muscle aches, headaches, joint pain, or indigestion. The longer you’re depressed, the more likely you are to develop chronic pain and memory problems.
Ongoing depression also causes chronically high levels of stress hormones. Your body is made to manage stress hormones for a short time. But they take a physical toll when they stay high for an extended time. As a result, you have an elevated risk of developing heart disease, obesity, and other chronic health conditions.
Depression treatment includes antidepressants, therapy, or a combination of both. Antidepressants work by boosting the brain chemicals needed to improve your mood.
Therapy helps you gain insight, change behaviors, learn coping skills, and explore aspects of your life that affect your mood. Participating in therapy also improves nerve communication and builds nerve connections. Both steps help to rebalance your brain.
If you need help overcoming depression, call Notre Dame Behavioral Health or book an appointment online today.