Depression is one of the most common medical condition and equally one of the most misunderstood mental illness of our time. It has been attributed different meanings as well as false assumptions. Many don’t know very much about its symptoms or treatment. It is due to this lack of knowledge that lots of people do not seek treatment.

Just to clear the air, depression is not just sadness, it’s a real medically recognized illness, a physiological condition caused by decreased levels of the chemical serotonin in our brains.  In simple words, depression is a serious mental disorder characterized by persistent feeling  of sadness and a complete loss of interest in activities. Most times, the brain chemistry, function, and structure are negatively affected by environmental and biological factors.

As stated earlier, depression is shrouded by myths and misconceptions. These myths may be the number one factor contributing to the stigma attached to depression, discouraging those affected to talk about their symptoms or seek help and treatment. It is for this reason and more that I will be debunking some myths on the subject matter.

Depression is just a feeling and will fade away with time:   It  is common sight to see posts like “feeling depressed” on social media or find parents telling their children that the depression is just a phase in life, that will go with time especially when a tragic event has just taken place. First of all, you don’t feel depressed, you suffer from depression, because it’s not a feeling that lurks for few minutes or some days. Second, depression doesn’t just “go away”, it is treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy and medical procedures. Without obtaining treatment, depression can persist for months or even years, or can potentially lead to self-harming behaviours or suicide.  It is on record that the symptoms of depression are likely to get worse if left untreated. This is most likely the reason why in 2020, Adeleke Rachel Tioluwani, a Nigerian student, committed suicide after an unsuccessful fight with depression.

Depression is a sign of ingratitude:  This one is particularly common in this part of the world. People find it hard to believe that wealthy people, or people with nearly perfect lives can be depressed. “Count your blessings more often”, they say. “If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t be complaining”, or “try to be more grateful,” these are often the “wonderful” pieces of advice that people suffering from depression receive whenever they open up. I can only imagine being in their shoes.

Being cheerful and positive cures depression:  Contrary to false belief that once you start hanging out with friends, being positive and going out more, your depression will automatically go away. It’s not as easy as it may seem. As stated earlier, depression is a very serious condition and should be treated as such. The simple truth is that depression is cured with medical treatment like antidepressants and therapy.

Depression is just sadness:  A lot of people say “I failed my exam, I’m so depressed” or “I don’t have money, I’m so depressed.” Depression has been, times without number, used interchangeably with sadness but they are so distinct. In the above situations, you are just upset, down, angry or annoyed. Depression, on the other hand, goes way deeper than that.

Even though a prominent symptom of depression is sadness, that is not what it represents in its entirety. Depression is more than feeling sad. It may also involve physical symptoms like fatigue, change in appetite or reduction in the quality of sleep. Depression also involves detachment from life, tiredness, hopelessness, emptiness, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and generally being uninterested in things that once brought you joy.

Depression is cool: A lot of people, mostly celebrities, with Billie Eilish taking the lead, have made depression seem cool.  These celebrities are looked upon as “idols” in which many of our younger ones worship. A lot of young people now fake being depressed on social media either to look cool or just to join the bandwagon.

“Trendy” emotional distress on social media is part of many must-follow accounts across all platforms. Our youths and teenagers, have conceived depression to be a personality trait possessed by cool people.

Depression is just an excuse from work : It really boggles my mind that even in the 21st century, people still regard persons suffering from depression as only trying to be lazy or trying to escape work or school. They don’t regard it as enough valid reason to be out of work. Loss of interest in activities is a prominent symptom of depression and should not be misunderstood as a sign of laziness. It should be noted that depression affects many people in a way that they are so fatigued to the point of not being able to finish simple tasks.  This should be met with concern rather than contempt because it literally involves a life or death situation.

Mmachi Offurum is a Law Student of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and is resident in Enugu, Nigeria.

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