Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. In any given year, it affects 6.7 percent of the population, and 1 person in 6 will experience depression at some point in their life, according to the American Psychiatric Association External Site. Based on a recent Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® Health of America Report® External Site, major depression is one of the top 10 conditions affecting the millennial generation, increasing in prevalence by 31 percent from 2014–2017.
But, even though depression is so common, there are many misconceptions about what it is and how it affects people. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, many people with depression are not diagnosed or do not seek proper treatment.
Let’s break down some of the biggest myths about depression.
Myth #1: Depression and sadness are the same.
Fact: Feeling sad after a difficult situation, like ending a relationship, losing your job, or saying goodbye to a beloved pet is perfectly normal, but isn’t the same as being depressed. Though depression can cause feelings of sadness, it also leads to a loss of interest in activities and can decrease your ability to function every day. In order for sadness to become depression, you have to experience it for a prolonged period — at least two weeks for an initial diagnosis, but depression can last months or even years if it goes untreated.
Myth #2: You can’t be depressed if you have a great life.
Fact: Depression can affect anyone at any time, even those who appear to have it all: a nice house, a stable job, a loving family. There are several different factors that can play a role in depression, including brain chemistry, genetics, personality and environmental factors. Depression can also run in families, and people who have low self-esteem or become easily stressed can be more at-risk for becoming depressed.
Myth #3: The only way to treat depression is with medication — for the rest of your life.
Fact: There are several ways to treat depression, including different types of therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Antidepressants typically address issues with brain chemistry, and talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help those with depression sort through problems and recognize distorted thinking. Once symptoms have improved, some people can taper off medication or space out therapy appointments until they’re no longer needed.
Taking care of your mental health
You typically see your doctor for an annual checkup and when you get sick. But, taking care of your mental health is just as important as addressing your physical health. Mental illness can affect anyone, and it's important to treat it just like you would a physical ailment.
If you can recognize a few of the key symptoms of depression — prolonged sadness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, or difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions — talk to your primary care provider. They will help you better understand what could be causing your symptoms and discuss potential treatment options.
The good news: Depression is treatable, and most people start feeling better in a few weeks with the right treatment plan. If you don’t have a primary care provider, log in or register for myWellmark® to find one Secure Site. Or, if you want to pursue therapy as a treatment option, you can also use myWellmark to check your benefits before making an appointment.