Depression is a condition that is widely misunderstood. A general lack of emotional intelligence and the influence of powerful drug companies have led our society to some pretty incorrect views about depression. Luckily, researchers are discovering more and more about depression every year. Below are some very popular beliefs about depression that are plainly untrue.
The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance should be considered more of a marketing slogan than a scientific finding. In the 1950’s, scientists discovered that people with depression got significantly better when given drugs that increased the availability of certain chemicals in their brains. They thought it could mean the people were depressed because those chemicals had been imbalanced, and their drug just fixed that. Scientists were hoping they had found a cause for depression that would be as easy to cure as taking a pill. Sadly, there has been a huge amount of research on this hypothesis over the past 60 years that has clearly shown no real relationship between people’s mood and the levels of any particular chemical in their blood. Some depressed people have more serotonin than normal, and some have less. If someone artificially drops the amount of serotonin in a happy person’s blood it doesn’t affect their mood. This theory is just bunk.
While it is true that some people improve when given an antidepressant (about 60%), plenty of people get better without them. This site (www.depressiontreatmentworks.org) details research that shows many other treatments that help people who are depressed as well as or better than drugs. Counseling has been extremely well researched and has helped millions of people. It is important to make sure your counselor is a good fit for you and that you feel accepted and understood. There are nutritional treatments for depression that have been shown to be effective such as fish oil, vitamin supplements and abstaining from alcohol. Exercising is another treatment that has been shown to be highly effective for depression. Most of the studies have been done on jogging, but there is no reason to assume it wouldn’t work for other types of exercise as well. Light therapy is using bright full-spectrum lights to mimic sunlight. It has been used for seasonal depression for a long time and was recently shown to help all forms of depression better than drugs. Volunteering is another depression treatment that is effective. The important thing to know here is that drugs are not the only effective treatment.
This is a dangerous one. Antidepressant medication has not only been shown to cause weight gain and serious sexual side effects, but it has also been shown to increase the likelihood someone will kill themselves or someone else. In fact, dating back to Columbine, nearly all of the school shootings in the US were done by people on antidepressants. That might sound kind of crazy, but drug companies have been forced to pay billions of dollars in wrongful death suits due to trying to hide this side effect of their drugs.
Negative thinking can definitely ruin your mood, but it is not the only thing that causes depression. Some people’s depression is caused by medical issues such as thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies. However, most people who are depressed have had difficult life experiences that have shaped the way they view themselves and created low self-esteem. So while a depressed person might view their present situation in a pessimistic way that is unlikely to be the root cause of their depression. More likely, it is childhood experiences that have made them feel bad about themselves.
Depending on the research, serious depression has a full recovery rate between 80-90% with any sort of treatment. Some people might be depressed for many years, but almost everyone who seeks out some kind of help with find themselves recovering.
About the Author:
Mr. Tim Desmond is a therapist in private practice in Oakland, CA, and directs a mental health day treatment program for children. He offers phone counseling for adults and couples through his website www.coherencecounseling.com