Depression Myths and Facts | UPMC HealthBeat

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses both in the United States and across the world. Despite the prevalence of depression, there are still many misconceptions about it. Read on to find out some of the facts about depression.

About 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported about 21 million American adults had a major depressive episode in 2021. That marked about 8.3% of the total adult population.

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Myths and Facts About Depression

What is depression?

Myth: Depression is the same as feeling sadness or grief.

Fact: Depression is a serious mental condition that can cause disability.

Whether it’s the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, most people have been sad or experienced grief in their lives. Those feelings tend to fade.

Depression is different. People diagnosed with depression experience symptoms that can last for weeks, months, or even years.

Depression can affect your mood, making you feel sad, guilty, worthless, tired, irritable, or angry. It can make it more difficult to perform daily tasks like eating, sleeping, or working.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, you should seek treatment.

What are the effects of depression?

Myth: Depression affects everyone in the same way.

Fact: There are several types of depression, and people experience it differently.

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition. It can cause different symptoms in people depending on factors like age, gender, or life situation.

For many people, depression is a constant problem. For others, depression can develop during life circumstances, such as postpartum depression.

Different types of depression include:

What causes depression?

Myth: Depression only happens when something bad happens to you.

Fact: Depression can develop in many different ways.

Life events like unemployment, a loved one’s death, or psychological trauma can cause depression. But those aren’t the only causes.

Biological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors all can cause depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you have a family history of depression, you may develop depression yourself. You may experience depression if you have a serious illness like cancer or heart disease. Depression also can be a side effect of some medications or result from drug or alcohol abuse.

Anxiety and depression

Myth: Anxiety and depression are the same thing.

Fact: Anxiety and depression can be related, but they’re two different conditions.

Both anxiety disorders and depression can cause similar symptoms, such as irritability. Both can cause problems with sleep, eating, or other activities. But they’re two separate conditions with their own causes and related symptoms.

Many people with diagnosed depression also have a history of anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But it’s also very possible to experience one without the other.

Other mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder and substance abuse, also can be related to depression. Physical illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and chronic pain also can be risk factors.

Who does depression affect?

Myth: Depression is an adult disease.

Fact: People of any age can suffer from depression.

Although depression often comes during adulthood, millions of children and adolescents suffer from it, too. About 5 million U.S. adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 had a major depressive episode in 2021, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That total represented just over 20% of the population between the ages of 12 and 17.

How is depression treated?

Myth: Depression can go away on its own.

Fact: Treatment is important to help with depression and to avoid complications.

Ignoring your symptoms of depression won’t help with the disease. In fact, it can make your condition worse.

If left untreated, depression can lead to serious health complications, including sleeping and eating disorders and substance abuse. It also can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. More than 49,000 Americans died by suicide in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Treatment is crucial to avoid those complications. There are several different treatment options:

  • Medications — This is often done in conjunction with therapy. Medications that treat depression include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotic medicine.
  • Therapy — Talking to a professional can help you work through the causes of your depression. Options include one-on-one and group sessions. There are several different types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, interpersonal therapy, or problem-solving therapy.

If medication and therapy don’t work, another option is a brain stimulation exercise called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). These therapies deliver electric current to specific parts of your brain.

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, don’t wait. Contact UPMC Western Behavioral Health at 412-624-1000 or toll-free at 1-877-624-4100.

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Editor's Note: This video was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

National Institute of Mental Health. Major Depression. World Health Organization. Depressive Disorder (Depression). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats — Depression.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.