The Mighty Logo

7 Myths About Depression That It’s Time to Lay to Rest

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Despite the growing awareness of mental health, many myths stubbornly persist.

I’m struggling right now; coming off antidepressant medication after five years isn’t easy, and I know I need to take some time to make sure I am looking after myself and getting well again. When we’re struggling, we can become hyperaware of the myths that exist, and our brains can grab onto them and jump on us with their size 12 boots on in order to give us a good kicking. Even though we know these myths are — not to put too fine a point on it — total bollocks, they can invade our thoughts, highlighting just how pervasive they can be.

Well, it’s time they were laid to rest. So, let’s line them up and I’ll knock them right down, starting with…

Myth #1. Depression is just being sad.

You know those days when you just don’t want to get out of bed? We all have them, don’t we? But you just get up and get on with your day, don’t you? Not like those “depressed” people, lying in bed, wallowing in their sadness. If you can get up and get on with your day, then why can’t they?

Because they are not sad; they have depression. Comparing depression to feeling sad is like comparing an everyday headache — you know, we all get them, take some medication and get on with our day — to a brain tumor. It’s totally insensitive and missing the point entirely.

You cannot feel happy when severely depressed. That wonderful feeling that makes life worth living, that lies at the root of all our desires, is gone. Gone. And you can’t choose to feel happy when you are depressed any more than you can choose to stop the room from spinning when you are drunk as a skunk.

Myth #2. Depression means you are a pessimist.

I have so much to look forward to. I love my job; I love writing; I love speaking. I have lots of exciting new opportunities ahead of me, I have absolutely no doubt about that. And yet… I struggle with depression.

I’d like to think I’m pretty good at looking on the bright side — the shittiest, darkest times of my life have led to the very best. Hell, I’ve returned to Tinder time and time and time again — if that isn’t the dictionary definition of “optimist” yet, it should only be a matter of time.

Nobody is more aware than I am that there is always a silver lining to be found. Didn’t stop me from struggling with depression though.

Myth #3. Depression means you’re ungrateful.

Since I was a child, I have taken time to be thankful for the good things in my life. Every. Single. Night. And yet… drum roll, please… I have still experienced horrendous bouts of depression.

I know there are people far worse off than me. I know I have countless reasons to be grateful, and, guess what — I am! It didn’t stop me from being brought to my knees by debilitating bouts of depression that led me to some of the darkest places a mind can go.

Oh, and counting your blessings while you are severely depressed? Try nailing jelly to a wall, see how you get on.

Myth #4. Depression is your fault.

People get ill for all kinds of reasons — some preventable, some not. Being ill is never nice, and it can be truly, truly terrible. But in most cases, we don’t judge or blame people for their illnesses.

Even if we know that if a person looked after themselves better, then maybe they wouldn’t have had a heart attack, it doesn’t become the overarching narrative that obliterates our sympathy, care and compassion. We don’t tell people we’ve had a heart attack and expect to be met with judgment about our character.

We don’t define an entire person by their heart attack, and we certainly don’t do it after they have recovered, even if we know there is a risk it could happen again.

You get me?

Myth #5. Depression means you’re weak.

I work in boxing. Here’s a few names for you: Frank Bruno. Ricky Hatton. Tyson Fury. Nigel Benn.

Weak? Try telling them that and let me know how you get on.


Myth #6. Depression is not a real.

I’ve never had cancer. I hope I never will. But despite not having it, I don’t doubt it’s real. Why not?

Silly question, isn’t it? Because people live with and die from cancer every single day. Well, guess what…?

So take ignorance elsewhere, I choose to believe the lived experience of millions of people — myself included — over the arrogant disregard of those who can’t conceive of the idea that depression is real just because they haven’t experienced it themselves.

Myth #7. Depression can’t happen to you.

You have a heart — you can have a heart attack.

You have lungs — you can get pneumonia.

You have a brain…

Believe it or not, the brain is an organ just like any other. And sometimes, organs go wrong.

We are all made of the same stuff. Anybody can experience depression.

Even you.

A version of this article was published on the author’s blog.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Originally published: December 8, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home