depressionEven though depression affects so many people, there is still a huge stigma surrounding mental health in the United States. This stigma has lead to the circulation of countless myths about depression. While it can be difficult for people who don’t have a depressive disorder to understand exactly what it’s like, by breaking down these misconceptions, we can reach a greater overall understanding and radically change the way we regard mental health. Below, we’ll examine five of the most common misconceptions about this condition and reveal the truth behind them.

MYTH: Depressed people just need to focus on the positive

Reality: There’s a saying that’s gained traction in recent years: “you are responsible for your own happiness.” While there’s definitely some truth to that, this sentiment manages to downplay the experiences of those living with depression. Being depressed is not the same as simply feeling sad. It’s not something someone can just snap out of. It’s a chronic, real condition that can make daily activities very painful.

MYTH: Depression is always genetic

Reality: While research has shown that this condition does have genetic links, having a depressed parent or sibling is not definitive proof that you’ll be diagnosed with a depressive disorder, as well. There are certainly other factors at play, and there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk. If you stay active, eat a healthy diet, develop positive coping skills, and have a strong support system, you can often offset a genetic predisposition. That being said, you can develop a depressive disorder without any genetic link and it can happen at almost any age. While the median onset age is 32.5, this condition can present itself in children, seniors, and everyone in between.

MYTH: Medication will cure depressive disorders

Reality: Depressive disorders aren’t like other kinds of health conditions. They present themselves differently in each individual, which means that finding the right kind of medication and dosage can be a lengthy process. And even when anti-depressants are successful, many experts feel that a combination of medication and therapy is often the best course. Others feel that therapy alone is the best option. Even if anti-depressants work for you, they are not a “cure” for these conditions; rather, they help people manage their disorder and its effects.

MYTH: If someone is happy, they can’t be depressed

Reality: Simply put, you can’t always tell if someone is depressed. Many people become extremely skilled at hiding their pain, so it may not always be obvious. In addition, it’s entirely possible to have a good time and laugh with friends when you have a depressive disorder. These conditions tend to ebb and flow, with both good days and bad. Keep in mind that you don’t always know someone’s inner life, even if you think you know them better than everyone else.

MYTH: Depressive disorder is something to be ashamed of

Reality: Some people are under the impression that being depressed makes you weak or lazy. Many people with mental health issues experience shame and embarrassment because of their condition, especially because Americans don’t generally like to talk about these issues out in the open. While it may feel uncomfortable to talk about at first, you should not feel humiliated for having this condition. Exploring cognitive behavioral therapy for adults can often help break down the stigma and create an open dialogue that addresses these issues and create a new way of thinking.