Although depression is a debilitating and paralyzing mental illness, it often goes undiagnosed and therefore untreated. There are a number of reasons why we never reach out for help, many of them having to do with the stigma that still surrounds addiction in our society and in our communities.
Depression is a serious mental illness that affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts. It is estimated that 16 million Americans suffer from depression each year. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression is now one of the most burdensome diseases worldwide, affecting more people than chronic physical conditions like diabetes and asthma.
Depression can cause you to lose interest in activities once enjoyed, including: sex, eating, sleeping, and having fun. While both women and men are affected by depression equally, there are differences between how it affects each gender. Women are twice as likely to seek treatment for depression while men tend to turn to drugs and alcohol.
Reasons Why Depression Goes Undiagnosed
There is still a common misconception that addicts use their illness as an excuse for bad behavior. Addiction is equated with criminal behavior and immorality, poverty, and homelessness. Addicts are demonized and shunned, ostracized even from their own families. We are consumed with fear of being judged, criticized or blamed for our illness.
For these reasons, many of us keep our struggles to ourselves, using avoidance and secrecy to cope, and often denying even to ourselves that we actually have a problem. All too often, we never seek out therapy. Furthermore, we frequently don’t tell our doctors how much mental and emotional pain we’re in. We often will go years of our lives suffering alone, in silence.
Lack of Awareness
Another reason depression often goes untreated is because we ourselves don’t realize we’re depressed. We often do the following:
- Mistake our depression for normal feelings of sadness. Basically, we don’t understand that there is a huge difference between passing difficult emotions and the everyday suffering that comes with depression.
- Mistake the fatigue and exhaustion of our depression for normal tiredness. We confuse our intense anxiety for normal stress levels.
- Don’t have the vocabulary or the understanding around mental health to put into words how we’re feeling. There is a sense of feeling hopeless and alone. We know we feel like we’re dying, even when everything in our lives is seemingly fine. We know we can’t stop worrying, but we don’t know why.
When we ourselves don’t know that we’re experiencing depression, we’re much less likely to confide in our doctors or our loved ones. We’re not likely to know that therapy could offer us the support we need.
Very often, we don’t want to believe that we suffer from depression. Consequently, we sweep our feelings under the rug, hoping our avoidance will make them go away. We think that if we don’t address our depression, maybe it will clear up on its own.
An Unfamiliar Condition
Many of us don’t know other people who struggle with depression, or we don’t know that we do. Why? Because so few people are open about their personal struggles, for fear of being judged or looked down upon. We didn’t grow up in families that were accepting and understanding about mental illness or addiction. We feel alone in our pain. Consequently, we opt to keep it to ourselves and turn a blind eye to it as much as possible.
Examining why depression goes undiagnosed and untreated can help us to have a clearer understanding of mental health issues, both in ourselves and in the communities we work with.
Treatment For Depression Can Help
Bayview Recovery’s nurturing, understanding and supportive community can help you to heal from the co-occurring disorders that often accompany addiction. Call 855.478.3650 today for more information.