Myths About Depression | What is Depression Really Like?


You probably won’t be surprised by any of the common myths about depression that we’ve picked out below, they are fairly widespread and most people have heard them before.  But behind each myth there is useful information that can help understand how depression REALLY affects people…


1) Depression Is All In Your Mind

depression myths - picture of the mind


This common myth leads us to believe that either depression is all about what happens in someone’s head, or even worse that it doesn’t exist and is something that the person is making up in some way.

Whilst it can sometimes be hard to identify depression, it certainly isn’t made up.

Depression affects far more that someone’s mind, in fact some of the key criteria that psychotherapists use to diagnose depression are physical. For example:

– Changes to appetite (either eating more, or less than usual)
– Changes to sleep (being more tired and sleeping for longer, or struggling to sleep or with frequent waking)
– Changes to libido

However, it is possible to see where the myth came from as some of the most noticeable changes in depression can be thinking changes. Increases in negativity and unhelpful thinking styles like negative attribution biases (such as assuming negative things happen as a result of them self, whereas positive things are a result of other factors) are all common aspects of depression.


2) Depression And Laziness Are The Same

Whilst a minority of people experiencing depression will notice changes that lead them to overdoing things, most people with an episode of depression can in some way become ‘deactivated’.  In reality this means they will do less of things that they previously considered important, enjoyable or necessary. On a basic level this can be neglecting to take care of basic needs such as food, cleaning and looking after their body. Other common things depressed people withdraw from can be social situations, work advancement or being actively involved in family life.depression myths - picture of a depressed dog

Whilst these changes are very real, they are much better explained in a different way to laziness.

Research into learning shows very clearly that when people do something, the consequences that follow have an effect on how likely it is they will do that action again in the future. It is known as Behavioural Conditioning, and essentially means that if something leads to a reward or something unpleasant being removed, then someone is likely to do that thing again.  This means that when someone is depressed they may struggle initially to gain pleasure in doing many activities.  This results in them gradually doing less over time – which feeds into a downward spiral.


3) If You Have Depression Once You’ll Get It For The Rest Of Your Life

depression myths - old people pictureOne thing that many people experiencing depression can find hard to believe is that they won’t feel depressed forever.  For most people, depression comes in episodes.  This means that there is a start, middle and end point in which their life returns back to normality.  For some, people persistent low mood and depression symptoms can be a problem, however even here there are moment by moment fluctuations that they can notice by looking in the right places and making small changes.

Whilst it isn’t true to say that people that have had one episode of depression will always have it, there is research which suggests that each time somebody experiences depression, the risk of having a future episode increases further.  This is why receiving a good quality treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy for depression is often recommended.  It means that as well as speeding up progress through an episode of depression, you also get the opportunity to explore areas that can make you vulnerable to future episodes.  A good therapist will help you to make changes to these areas in order to reduce the risks of further depression moving forward – this is often called ‘relapse prevention.’


4) Depressed People Are Weaker

This common myth is seldom said out loud, but still thought by many people.  It doesn’t help that many people that are experiencing depression can also believe in some way that they are weak, whilst they are in the midst of the episode.  The truth is depression myths - picture of a strong man with depressionthat depression is not really about personality, it is a health condition that involves the mind, brain and body.  This means that it certainly isn’t a guide to a person’s personality.  After all a rage of people through history that certainly couldn’t be described as weak have had depression.

One thing to keep in mind is that trying to overcome a problem that involves the mind, brain and body all at once can be a tough thing to do, in a way that overcoming a purely physical problem often isn’t.  For example, if you break your leg, then, whilst your morale might be temporarily dented – you are still usually able to think straight and feel reasonably normal emotions.  With depression it is possible that physical, emotional and thinking processes are all affected at once.  Dealing with this type of problem certainly shows how wrong the myth that depressed people are weaker really is.


5) Depressed People Are At High Risk Of Ending Their Lives

One snag from media portrayals of mental illness over the years is that people experiencing problems such as depression have often been shown in some way to be ‘risky’ or unpredictable.  This certainly isn’t true.  Whilst it is the case that people experiencing depression are at a higher risk of ending their lives through suicide compared to people not experiencing depression, for many people this is not a concern.  Thoughts of life not being worth living should always be taken seriously, but there is a large difference between having these thoughts and actively seeking to end your life.  You can read more about this in our article on understanding suicidal thoughts.


If you have been affected by depression, or other people’s misunderstandings of it, why not share your experiences with others in the comments section below?  The more people talk openly about mental health issues, the less myths about depression will survive…