5 Common Myths About Depression (And What Is Actually True)

Randy Withers

By Randy Withers, LCMHC


Image courtesy Randy Withers and Canva.

Depression is largely misunderstood by the general population. The term is often overapplied and misused. As a result, misconceptions about it are prevalent.

We live in an age where we all have access to search engines, blogs, and social media. None of these things are inherently bad, but they do facilitate the spread of misinformation.

So let's talk about depression - what it actually is, what it is not, and the symptoms associated with it.

What Is Depression?

The term "depression" is shorthand for several mental disorders recognized by the DSM5, which is the book that mental health professionals use to diagnose and treat mental illness.

Symptoms of depression are commonly seen with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder.

In this article, I'm going to refer to Major Depressive Disorder, which is a relatively common and potentially deadly mental illness that affects more than 17 mission Americans every year. This, according to the NIMH.

According to the DSM5, symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder include the following:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

For a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, 5 of these criteria must exist for at least two weeks. A depressed mood or a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, known as anhedonia, must be present.

5 Common Myths About Depression

1. Depression and Sadness are The Same

While depressed people often feel sad, people who are sad are often not depressed. Sadness is a reaction to a loss. People get sad when their dog dies, or when they lose a job, or when a friend moves out of town.

Depression often exists independent of any obvious trigger. Millionaires suffer from depression. Celebrities suffer from depression. It is often triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain that may have nothing to do with adverse experiences.

Depression and sadness are not the same. They look similar, but looks can be deceiving.

2. Depression Is Something That Only Affects Women

While it is true that more women suffer from depression than men, the fact is that millions of men in the United States suffer from clinical depression. According to the NIMH, depression affects about 8.7% of adult women and 5.3% of adult men.

Depression may also be more deadly for men, too. In 2018, 47,000 Americans dies by suicide. In the vast majority of instances, depression was a contributing factor. Men are almost 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women.

3. People Can Just "Snap Out" Of Depression

Major Depressive Disorder is a disease. For many who suffer from it, depression is a chronic condition that plagues them for months or even years at a time.

While it can be treated, recovering from depression is not just a matter of willpower or positive thinking. Depression can be all-consuming, debilitating, and overwhelming.

4. Talking About Depression Makes It Worse

Stigma drives many who suffer from depression into isolation and despair. People think it is a sign of weakness. They don't want others to pity them. Often, they figure that talking about depression only makes things worse.

But the reverse is actually true.

For many people, being alone with their thoughts is much more harmful than talking to someone about them. Talking about depression actually eases symptoms.

Nowhere is this more true than in psychotherapy, where a trained clinician can provide education, feedback, helpful interventions, and coping skills. Studies such as this one demonstrate that therapy, especially combined with appropriate antidepressant medications, yields positive results in the majority of cases.

5. Depression Isn't All That Serious

Major Depressive Disorder is commonly associated with suicide. It's also the number one cause of disability claims in the United States. Depression destroys lives, ruins marriages, promotes substance abuse, alienates family members, and tortures those who suffer from it.

It's not just adults who suffer, either. In children, depression accounts for behavioral problems, poor grades, and low self-esteem.


Depression is so common that there's a good chance that at least one of your friends or family members suffers from it. Perhaps you do. Maybe you realize it. Maybe you don't. Many people have no idea they suffer from clinical depression. Shame keeps many from seeking treatment.

There's no reason to be ashamed, though. you didn't ask to be depressed. You didn't do anything to cause it. There are millions who lead productive lives who also suffer from it.

Unfortunately, the rates of depression seem to be getting worse. While the data is still being collected, the rates of depression during the Coronavirus Pandemic are sure to be far higher than we've seen in recent years. This is particularly alarming, as rates of depression had already been steadily increasing over the past decade. You adults seem to be getting hit the hardest. A recent report indicated that as many as 30% of college depression were struggling with clinical depression. That's a shockingly high number.

If you suffer from depression, see your doctor as soon as possible. Only a qualified medical professional such as a doctor or therapist can accurately diagnose depression. Don't rely on input from family or friends. Depression is an illness, and illnesses need to be treated by professionals who are qualified to do so.

Do you suffer from depression? Leave a comment below. And make sure to share this article with anyone you feel might benefit from it.

Comments / 0

Published by

Board-Certified and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Addictions Specialist. I write about mental health, therapy, substance abuse, and recovery. All opinions are my own.

Charlotte, NC

More from Randy Withers

Comments / 0