Debunking Misconceptions about Depression
Depression is one of the most common co-existing conditions seen in migraine patients, and migraine suffers are at least two times more likely than the general population to suffer from major depressive disorder. This is particularly true in the case of chronic migraine. Despite how prevalent depression is in the migraine community, however, many migraineurs still harbor a number of misconceptions about depression that keep them from getting help when they need it.
Misconception #1: You’ll know depression when you see it. Most of us have an image in our heads of a depressed person lying in bed, unable or unwilling to get up, with the curtains drawn at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The truth, through, is that depression looks different on everyone. While many people cry and experience profound sadness when they are depressed, other people feel emotionally “blank” or numb instead. Some people get irritable or experience intense angry outbursts. Others throw themselves headfirst into projects and/or work harder than ever. Just because you manage to get up in the morning doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong. Learn the warning signs of depression and pay attention when you notice changes in your sleeping or eating patterns or in the level of enjoyment you get from your favorite activities.
Misconception #2: You’ll feel depression all at once. Depression can hit hard, especially following a traumatic or difficult life event, but it also can sneak up on you. In fact, dysthymia – a form of clinical depression that tends to last for at least two years – often develops gradually. Since there is some evidence that untreated depression increases the likelihood of migraines transforming from episodic to chronic, it is important to monitor your mental health. Even little changes in your wellbeing may be important.
Misconception #3: It’s all in your head. Many of depression’s most notable symptoms are mental ones – feelings of sadness, anxiety, confusion, and hopelessness, for example – but there are numerous physical symptoms as well. If you’re depressed, you may experience slowed movement, slowed cognition, lack of energy, fatigue, stomach problems, body aches, and increased headaches or migraines. Make sure to be aware of these symptoms. Sometimes, a change in energy level or appetite may be your first clue that something isn’t right.
Misconception #4: You’re too young to worry about depression. While older adults do have an increased risk of depression in general, researchers at the University of Toronto found that younger migraine sufferers, especially women, were actually more likely to suffer from depression than their older peers. In fact, according to the study, women under the age of 30 were six times more likely to be depressed than people aged 65 and older.
Misconception #5: You’ll have to take medication to get better. Medicine can and does help many people recover from depression, but it isn’t the only way to get better. Psychotherapy and counseling, mindfulness and meditation, lifestyle changes, and exercise all have been shown to be effective in treating depression. If you think you’re depressed, see your physician or a mental health professional right away to determine which approach may be the best one for you.
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