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16 Damaging Myths About Depression You Need To Stop Believing

"Can't you just snap out of it?"

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1. MYTH: Depression = sadness.

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"Ugh, I'm so depressed," said pretty much everyone at some point or another. And even though most people don't mean it literally, a lot of people still think of depression as an exaggerated form of sadness. And it's not. "The range of human experience includes feeling sad — but the experience of depression, feeling extreme sadness, hopelessness or helplessness is not a healthy range of human emotion," psychologist and author of Living with Depression Deborah Serani, Psy.D., tells BuzzFeed Life.

2. MYTH: You can “snap out of it.”

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Many people believe depression is a personality trait, characteristic, or mindset, says Serani. "They think it’s a behavior that can be changed with tough love like 'just snap out of it,' or with helpful remarks like 'take a walk and you’ll feel better.'" If only it were that easy. You can snap out of it no easier than you can snap out of the flu.

3. MYTH: Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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Sure, this is a step up from believing that your depression is mindset you can snap out of, but pinpointing low serotonin levels as the main cause is still incorrect. "Depression arises from an interplay of genetics, biology, environment, social experiences, and learned behaviors," says Serani. "Understanding how your own unique biology and the biography of your life influence each other will help you understand how depression touches your life — and how to treat it successfully."

4. MYTH: Depression feels the same for everyone.

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Depression exists on a spectrum of intensity and can vary from mild to profound, and everything in between. "Depression is not a one-size-fits-all," says Serani. Resist the urge to compare your experience to someone else's or judge when someone's depression manifests in a way you're not familiar with.

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5. MYTH: Depression comes in one form.

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When you talk and think about depression, chances are you’re thinking about major depression—but while major depression is most common, affecting nearly 7 percent of US adults a year, it’s not the only type of depressive disorder.

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)—aka dysthymia—is a low-grade chronic form of depression with many of the same symptoms, including low energy, apathy, and stress. Postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder fall under this umbrella. Depression is also a large part of bipolar disorder, where mood cycles from severe or mild highs to severe lows.

6. MYTH: Depression is all in your head.

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This phrase should be nixed from your vocabulary, tbh. It minimizes the illness, says Serani, and implies not only that a person is creating depression through their thoughts, but also that their symptoms are only emotional. "Depression is an illness that touches the mind and the body. It corrodes how you think and feel, as well as wrangling your body in seriously negative ways," she says.

In fact, research shows that depression has a biological effect on the body. It can slow down brain function, create muscle fatigue, lower the immune system, and decrease heart function.

7. MYTH: It’s a women’s disease.

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Yes, women are nearly twice as likely to have depression as men, but that doesn't mean men are safe from depression. In fact, men are often made to suffer in a unique brand of silence, masking their illness in other issues like substance abuse, risky behaviors, and overworking themselves at the office thanks to damaging expectations of masculinity that discourage showing "weakness" and emotion.

8. MYTH: You can always tell when someone is depressed.

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We know — depression is often depicted by black and white images of sad young white women clutching their heads or looking out windows…which, no. Just like depression feels differently to everyone who suffers from it, it never looks the same, either. Not to mention that many people choose to mask what they're going through because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. This campaign shows what depression really looks like.

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9. MYTH: Your depressed partner will eventually get better if you love them enough.

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It’s a nice thought—but one that belittles the serious mental condition that your partner is dealing with. Depression doesn’t go away because life is good, so if you date someone with depression, don’t expect that to change just because you give them a fairytale ending.

That said, there are things you can do to help your partner. "Helping your loved one keep appointments, stay in therapy, take medication, refill prescriptions, avoid toxic situations and people, helping to create a supportive warm environment, and making sure healthy eating and sleeping occur are very important ways your love can help heal," says Serani.

10. MYTH: Depression is cured by antidepressants.

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It’d be great if taking antidepressants worked the same way as popping some DayQuil for a cold, but that’s unfortunately not the case. The treatment of depression (note: not the cure) involves many moving parts, only one of which may be antidepressants. Some people—maybe even as many as one in four—were worse off on antidepressants than nothing at all.

11. MYTH: You have to be on antidepressants for the rest of your life.

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Nope—a depression diagnosis is not synonymous with a life-long script. Antidepressants can be used for short-term treatment, as part of a long-term regimen, or not at all. Just as depression has no one set list of symptoms, treatment isn't one-size-fit-all, either. Many prefer therapy or a combination of both.

12. MYTH: How you deal with depression is a sign of mental strength or weakness.

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Depression is what Serani calls an "invisible illness," making it easy people for people who haven't experienced it to think it can be overcome with hard work and mental strength. This misconception can be super damaging, because it can discourage someone from seeking treatment and perpetuate the idea that those who are suffering, take medication, or see a therapist are weak.

"Like cancer, heart disease or diabetes, depression is not an illness that can brushed aside, ignored or willed away. It is a life-threatening illness that is serious, but treatable," says Serani.

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13. MYTH: You need a reason to be depressed.

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Painful incidents can absolutely trigger situational depression, but tragic life events like the death of a loved one, divorce, or trauma are enough to make anyone feel sadness, emptiness, and many other symptoms associated with depression. Clinical depression, on the other hand, occurs without a specific trigger setting it into motion, says Serani.

15. MYTH: There is nothing you can do yourself to alleviate symptoms of depression.

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While there is nothing more annoying than the assumption that someone can get over depression through exercise, meditation, and other lifestyle changes, research does point favorably toward these being good methods of dealing with depression symptoms. Here are some self-care ideas to get you started.

16. MYTH: A depression diagnosis means your life is over.

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There's no getting around it. Depression is hard. So hard. And sometimes, it can take so much out of you that it feels impossible to look forward. But it won't always be that way. "Many people with depression can live rich and productive lives," says Serani. "With proper treatment, a person with depression can find meaning and success."