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  • Tanisha Herrin

Why Depression Is So Misunderstood

Depression is a medically diagnosed mental illness which can bother people without them even realizing it. Education is a critical factor in fighting the illness and empowering people to seek help. The historical misconceptions about depression still exist in many areas of modern society and breaking through these conceptions and biases is essential if the illness is to be treated on a global scale.

People who suffer from depression can quite often get used to the symptoms and end up living unfulfilled lives that never reach their true potential. Recognizing these misconceptions exists and being open and honest about them are the first stages in eradicating ignorance on the issue.

Too many people believe depression to be a state of mind, a weakness or something that highly emotional people suffer from; this is not the case. Depression is an illness like any other, and medical treatment is required to alleviate the symptoms. If left untreated, the disease can creep into a person’s daily life and disrupt day to day functioning. It is a medical fact that the brain of a person suffering from depression functions differently to that of a non-sufferer.

Brain scan imaging shows the area of the brain responsible for sleep, mood, appetite, and behavior function abnormally compared with the brains of the healthy. It is also known that there are many neurotransmitters that can malfunction and lead to a breakdown in communications between nerve cells. Depression is now known to have physical causes – the fact that few non-sufferers realize.

An element of depression that is misunderstood is that only emotionally disturbed people suffer from the illness. It is far from the truth with thousands of successful and seemingly ‘level-headed’ people suffering from the illness for no apparent reason. People who have had no significant emotional traumas in their lives are just as likely to suffer from depression as those who lead stressful lives or who have faced significant emotional stress.

While it can often be the case that specific stressful events such as bereavement or job loss can trigger depression, it is also possible for relatively positive events such as marriage and moving to a new home could have the same effect. The truth is some people will be naturally more susceptible to the disease than others; depression is not a choice.

There are also those who say that having relatives with depression will mean developing the illness is inevitable. Although research suggests that genetics play a role, there are some other factors that lead to depression such as biological, chemical, environmental and psychological. Many researchers and specialists also believe things like weight and age are contributing factors. The common thinking is that family history plays a part in depression but doesn’t make it a certainty.

Possibly the most commonly held misconception, however, is that the symptoms of depression are only mind-based. While symptoms like irritability, sadness, and anxiety are some of the most common symptoms, depression can lead to physical pain. Some depression sufferers complain of chronic pains, disorders of the digestive system, reduced appetite, increased appetite or joint and back pain. As with any illness, it is vital that the patient is educated about the symptoms of depression and seeks help before the effects worsen.

Another misunderstood element about depression is that its symptoms are only mental and emotional symptoms which include anxiety, persistent sadness, hopelessness, and irritability. What we don’t know is that it can also cause physical pain. Some of the persistent physical symptoms include chronic pain, digestive disorders, queasy or nauseated, reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain, exhaustion, sleeping too much or too little and may worsen joint pains, muscle aches, and back pain.

According to the experts, if you are experiencing 4 or 5 of these symptoms for two weeks or more, it would be best to see your doctor or a qualified medical health professional. Just like any other illness, early treatment can be effective and could prevent possible serious recurrences.

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