About 280 million people suffer from depression throughout the world. There are many types of mood disorders that can lead to depressive episodes, including: major depression, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder.
Regardless of which condition you have, depressive episodes can cause persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness. Depression can also cause physical symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, sleep changes, and appetite changes.
Unfortunately, there’s a stigma that surrounds depression, often making people who suffer from the condition feel embarrassed or ashamed. The stigma exists in large part because of a misconception that people with depression are lazy or don’t “try hard enough,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
At Allied Psychiatry & Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, Dr. Hadi Estakhri understands the many ways depression can affect your life, and that includes the feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment that may accompany your diagnosis.
As a board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Estakhri (Dr. E) is on a mission to help you manage your depression while also addressing the side effects, such as feelings of embarrassment.
Below, our team shares four strategies for addressing your embarrassment.
Learn more about depression and your brain
First, it’s important to remember that you didn’t cause your depression. Your feelings of sadness aren’t caused by anything you did wrong, and you might start to feel less embarrassed as you learn more about how your brain functions.
Your brain is a complex organ that's made up of about 60% fat, and like your other organs, your brain is susceptible to medical conditions. If you had any other medical condition — for instance, hypertension or peripheral artery disease — would you feel embarrassed about seeking medical care? Not likely. When an organ requires medical attention, there’s never any shame in asking for help, and the same is true for any condition that affects your brain.
When it comes to depression, there are chemical explanations for the way you feel. Studies show that people with depression are more likely to experience shrinkage in certain areas of the brain, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortices.
When neurons in your hippocampus shrink, you may experience difficulty concentrating and increased memory loss. Shrinkage in this part of your brain can lead to feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and anxiety.
How does this information help lessen your embarrassment? Learning more about how your brain works and how depression can affect your brain helps you understand that depression is a real medical problem 一 not just “something in your head.”
Ignore the negative self-talk
Sometimes well-meaning friends or family members try to encourage people with depression with sayings such as:
- “Cheer up.”
- “You have nothing to be sad about.”
- “Snap out of it.”
- “Other people have it worse than you.”
Although these statements are often spoken from a place of good intention, these phrases imply that your depression can be managed with nothing more than positive thinking. And when that doesn’t happen, you might feel embarrassed or even guilty for not thinking positively enough.
Remember, depression affects the way your brain functions. Just like you wouldn’t tell someone with hypertension to “think good thoughts” to reduce blood pressure levels, you can’t treat depression by thinking happy thoughts either. Depression requires medical care to manage your symptoms, and there’s never any shame in that.
Find treatment options that work for you
Depression is a common mental health condition, and there are many evidence-based treatments available. After a thorough assessment and a review of your symptoms and medical history, Dr. E recommends the right treatment for you.
Potential treatments include:
- Medication to regulate your brain chemistry
- Ketamine infusions for treatment-resistant depression
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
In addition to these treatments, you may find lifestyle adjustments, such as eating a balanced diet, further support your mental wellness.
Be kind to yourself
It’s normal to experience a range of emotions after being diagnosed with depression. According to the experts at Mental Health America, emotions can range from relief to anger to denial to embarrassment. Regardless of how you feel, it’s important to be kind to yourself by:
- Speaking kindly to yourself
- Practicing self-care
- Attending therapy sessions and taking medication as directed
- Eating nutritious meals
- Practice mindfulness
To answer the titular question ー “I’m embarrassed about depression; what should I do?” ー ask for help. Asking for help is always a sign of strength, and our team is here to help you reach your mental health goals.
To learn more about depression treatments that support healthy brain function, book an appointment with Dr. Estakhri today by calling our office at 949-945-0927 or using our online scheduler.