For many sufferers, depression brings on feelings of guilt and shame and because of these feelings, they will not seek help. But are these feelings valid? Lack of understanding – both in sufferers and non-sufferers – clouds the issue. So here’s how to end the stigma associated with depression, stress, and anxiety.
1. The majority of people in our society experience psychological problems during their lives: Problems from childhood with parents and siblings; stress at work; marital breakdown; losing loved ones and of course, making mistakes. Very few people go through life without experiencing mental trauma of some description. So there’s nothing odd or unique happening here, indeed, depressive illnesses are as common as colds. More than 20 million sufferers in the USA every year bear this out.
2. These are real illnesses. There’s no stigma associated with diabetes, asthma, or allergies for example, so why should there be with these? Just like the above illnesses, depression, anxiety and stress have specific causes that can be addressed. You wouldn’t think an asthma sufferer could just “snap out of it”, yet many people say this to depression and anxiety sufferers. Lack of understanding again causes such a reaction and it is the reaction that is wrong, not the sufferer.
3. Suffering a depressive episode is not your fault so why feel guilty? You didn’t wake up one morning and think “right, I know, I’ll become anxious from now on”. It doesn’t happen like that. No one CHOOSES depression, it can happen to people just like many illnesses do. And like other illnesses, depression can be treated very effectively. But not one sufferer is to blame. You wouldn’t blame someone who hadn’t been taught to read or write, you wouldn’t blame someone who suffered from hay fever so why blame yourself and feel guilty because you’re suffering a stressful illness?
4. If you own a car and it’s broken down you go to a mechanic. If you fall and break your arm, you go to casualty to get it repaired. If you have toothache you go to a dentist to get it sorted. Stressful illnesses can also be fixed, so don’t let guilt or shame stop you from getting help. Just as your body can become ill so can your mind. It isn’t permanent and just as your body can be fixed so can your mind.
5. Many sufferers believe that treating depression is a futile exercise because once you have depression, you have it for life. This simply isn’t true and the depression itself feeds this feeling of helplessness. And believing that depression is incurable further exacerbates the feelings of guilt and shame and fuels the depression. Depression has a specific cause and this root cause can be effectively treated so that depression can be beaten once and for all.
6. Change the way you look at these problems. I know from experience that at the time, stressful illnesses can be overwhelming and you can’t see a way out or how anything good can come of it. But now, I’m glad I had that 5-year period because I’ve come out of it stronger. I learned how to beat depression and deal with the very trying circumstances I was faced with. I now know how to cope with the various trials and tribulations life throws at all of us and those 5 years of depression and anxiety have given me a greater understanding about myself and others. Sure I hated it at the time. But by getting help and learning how depression had entered my life, I became stronger than my depression. One thing that really helped me was to change the way I thought about what was happening to me. Instead of thinking it was something that no good could ever come from, I looked at it as something that was going to help me to become stronger. What helped me to think this way was discovering how many other people used their illnesses and disabilities to do something positive with their lives. I realized that the same principle could be applied to stressful and depressive illnesses and that they too can be used in a positive way.
The above points clearly demonstrate that the stigmas associated with depressive and stressful illnesses are completely false and I hope you use them to help you win your fight with stress, depression or anxiety.
Until next time.