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Depression and anxiety myths

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No illness, not even AIDS, is subject to more myths and misconceptions than mental illnesses. Here are some common myths about depression and anxiety.

Myth: Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Fact: Certain neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, are thought to play a role in depression. However, depression is more than a chemical imbalance. It has psychological factors as well. Depression may have multiple causes, and biological factors may be more important in some people than in others.

Myth: Depression can be cured by taking an antidepressant.
Fact: Some depressed people respond very well to drug therapy. Some people may respond better to some medications than to others. In terms of numbers, psychotherapy (particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy) is just as effective as medication, and the most effective treatment is a combination of both. However, in some cases, depression is resistant to both types of treatment.

Myth: People who seek psychotherapy are weak, selfish, or stupid.
Fact: Depression and anxiety are real, persistent, chronic illnesses with physical as well as emotional and cognitive symptoms. They are recognized as diseases by professionals worldwide, and they have affected people from the beginning of time. They are found in all cultures, all age groups, and all levels of intelligence. People seeking psychotherapy for depression and/or anxiety are suffering from real illness.

Myth: People with severe depression and/or anxiety aren't really disabled.
Fact: Symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders include difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and extreme fatigue. Depressed people may suffer from a severe lack of motivation that is like being "frozen" or "paralyzed." People with anxiety disorders may experience headaches and/or a racing heart. People with panic disorder and social phobias may not even be able to leave their homes, and people with obsessive-compulsive disorder may lose hours every day to their compulsions. All of these symptoms are disabling, and in fact the Social Security Administration recognizes depression and anxiety disorders as valid causes of disability.

Myth: Post-traumatic stress disorder is a normal reaction to extreme situations such as life-threatening experiences or combat.
Fact: PTSD is a common reaction to these experiences, but not a normal reaction.

Myth: Suicidal talk and suicide attempts are just attention-seeking behavior.
Fact: It is never, ever normal for a person to talk about committing suicide, certainly not just to get attention. All talk about suicide should be taken seriously. Suicidal talk and suicide attmepts are a sign that a person's life is in grave danger. Professional help should always be sought when a person's talk or actions turn to suicide, even if they don't seem serious. Everything about suicide is serious.

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Darwin said...
May 7, 2008 at 1:16 PM  

Having several family members and in-laws with various forms of depression, OCD, etc, one of the things that struck me as a welcome bit of truth reading down your list here (and one I wish more people understood fully) is the, "No, medication does not necessarily make these problems 'go away', and no it's not 'just chemicals in the brain'."

A related thing which has struck me increasingly over the years is: It's not always easy to tell what is the "disfunction" and what is just the person. One of the things I've found to cause additional family stress is when someone who for years has refused to "get help" finally does, and improves dramatically in many ways, but still retains some tendencies and behaviors that drive everyone nuts. It's natural to want to demand, "Why don't you stop that? You're supposed to be cured now!" But mental illnesses are often not like the flu -- you don't just "get over" them and show no differences afterward.

RCB said...
May 7, 2008 at 3:28 PM  

Darwin, your point gets all the way down to the crux of the matter of what makes something a disorder. Lots of people have obsessive-compulsive, anxious, or other tendencies. Psychologists often use the "Four Ds" to help determine whether something should be called a disorder: Is it deviant (ugly word, but just means outside the norm)? Does it cause the person distress? Is it disabling? Does it pose a danger to the person or others around the person?

Much of this is ingrained in personality. Many people have little obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Medication and therapy won't change personality traits. They can help lessen the "four Ds" to bring it to a bearable level.

I'm tired of hearing that these are "chemical imbalances" too. It's too pat to reduce it to just that. We are just scratching the surface of what goes on in the brain with mental illness, and the fact that psychotherapy works at all should clue us in that there's no magic bean to make a person all better.

Greg said...
May 8, 2008 at 10:55 PM  

"Great post. Here's a website that can help you overcome
anxiety disorder without much hassle. You might want to give it a try at www.attackanxiety.org"

Seng said...
August 19, 2008 at 10:43 PM  

Hi everyone, I'm the author of http://PanicAttackResearch.blogspot.com Do visit my blog as there are free tips and techniques on overcoming or coping with Panic

All the best,

Anonymous said...
December 22, 2008 at 1:18 PM  

A useful post - I've added ti to the links in my post on depression.

Anonymous said...
January 8, 2009 at 2:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TaniaRocha said...
May 5, 2009 at 12:07 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gloria "UYA" said...
March 17, 2010 at 12:26 AM  

I had anxiety before, but I got a lot better now, thanks to www.medsheaven.com I HIGHLY recommend ordering from them, they have a section on their website for anxiety pills and the best part there is no prescription required!!! uc

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