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Four depression myths

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Last year, I wrote a post to clear up an assortment of depression and anxiety myths. Here are more myths about depression and bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness), including children's depression and postpartum depression.

Myth: I'm not sad all the time, so it can't be depression.

Fact: To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must have either dysphoria (sad, bad, or depressed mood) or anhedonia (loss of interest in activities or inability to feel pleasure). If experience anhedonia without sadness for two weeks or more, and have other symptoms such as sleep disturbance, fatigue, appetite disturbance, or an obsession with death, you may have depression. See my post "Have you experienced depression?" for a full list of depression symptoms. Or take this free depression screening from the excellent website Psych Central.

Myth: Children don't get depressed.

Fact: Children can and do get depressed, as do adolescents. Childhood depression is a serious illness that should not be ignored. Symptoms are similar to the symptoms of depression in adults, but children are more likely to have physical symptoms (such as stomachaches and headaches). Depressed children may talk about running away from home or attempt to do so; may do poorly in school; and become socially isolated. The American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry has more information on depression in children.

Myth: Only new mothers get postpartum depression.

Fact: The hormone changes that occur in a woman's body after childbirth are widely assumed by the public to be the only cause of postpartum depression. But the stress of a newborn, lack of sleep, and changes in family life and roles can all contribute to postpartum depression. It should be no surprise that these factors can contribute to depression in new fathers and new adoptive parents as well as in women who have given birth.

Myth: Mania, in bipolar disorder, is a feeling of extreme happiness.

Fact: Mania is much more than that — and often much less. More, because it also includes symptoms like hypersexuality, decreased need for sleep, grandiosity, delusions, hallucinations, constant rapid speech, "flight of ideas," and more. Less, because the mood, while high-energy, is not always euphoric. It can be angry, anxious, aggressive, or a mix of all of these. It can be extreme, or it can be milder (hypomania). It can last weeks, or it can last hours for rapid cyclers. Or it can be mixed with depression — a truly terrifying experience for everyone. Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist and author who suffers from bipolar I disorder, describes mania as "madness."

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Image credit: "Self" by The Wandering Angel. (CC) Some rights reserved.

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