Mental health issues are often harder for people to comprehend for different reasons. They are internal struggles that don’t generally manifest with physical symptoms, many conditions present with mild symptoms that go unnoticed for long periods of time, and they often get dismissed when people express concerns about symptoms. But they are very common (one in five American adults experience problems with some mental health issues), and one of the most common is depression.
Depression is a lot more than just feeling down or having a bad day; it is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sorrow and leads to lack of interest in activities you enjoy, among other problems. There is a lot that people don’t understand about the illness, so let’s dive into understanding it by examining the causes and symptoms of depression, how it affects your brain, and what people frequently misunderstand about it.
If you live in the Kingood or The Woodlands, Texas, area and you’re struggling with depression or other mental illnesses, Dr. Athi Venkatesh and the skilled medical team at Kingwood Psychiatry are here to help.
Depression can stem from a number of different circumstantial, biological factors, such as brain chemistry, hormone levels, family history, brain structure, medical conditions, substance abuse, chronic pain, or trauma. Other factors include socioeconomic status, vitamin D deficiency, and sex (females are twice as likely to deal with depression than males are).
There are times when everyone gets sad, but when you’re dealing with feeling empty, hopeless, worthless, pessimistic, angry, annoyed, crying frequently, suffering from decreased energy, and having difficulty sleeping for more than two weeks, you may be depressed. It can also cause appetite or weight changes, difficulty concentrating and thoughts of self harm.
In addition to all of the symptoms you experience during depression, the illness also affects your brain physically, affecting the hippocampus, thalamus, amygdala, and the prefrontal cortices which control a range of different functions. They control important things like memory, navigation, perception of space, emotion, attention, impulse control, and emotional reactions. These brain regions can shrink during depression, and the amount of shrinkage is linked to how long you deal with a depressive episode. When this happens, it inhibits your ability to perform those functions. There are also links between brain inflammation and depression, which can cause brain cells to die and reduced functioning of neurotransmitters. The longer you deal with depression, the more many of these issues can become entrenched
Despite being such a common condition, there are still millions of people woefully uninformed and misunderstanding what it is and how it affects you. These are some common things people get wrong about depression:
Because people get sad or go through a bad experience, it’s sadly too easy to simply assume that the problem will simply go away on its own, and just see depression as being sad for a little while until things pass. But if you’re depressed, you’re dealing with a complex mental illness that requires treatment and understanding from the people you care about to manage.
Because many are so dismissive of the condition, they assume incorrectly that somehow you choose to be depressed and can simply stop at any time. Or that you’re simply indulging in self-pity, and just need to have a positive attitude to get over it. But as we’ve covered, this illness affects your cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being and needs to be treated.
There is also the idea that somehow confronting the fact that you’re depressed will just worsen the situation and lead you to have a more negative outlook on life and reinforce the destructive aspects of what you’re going through. Simply speaking, you can’t repress depression and expect that things will improve: Ignoring it will only make things worse.
There are also misconceptions about the antidepressants you will be prescribed for dealing with depression. Some think that it will create a lifetime dependence on the medication, while others think it will somehow change your personality, but neither is the case. These medications may only be necessary temporarily depending on the severity of your condition, and the changes in brain chemistry they make will help you feel the way you did before you became depressed.
If you’re trying to cope with this illness, make an appointment with Dr. Venkatesh and Kingwood Psychiatry today to find out how we can help.