Myths About Mind and Mood Revealed

For some people, the idea of a mind or mood disorder conjures up visions of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" -- odd characters talking to themselves or spontaneously shouting out nonsense.

The reality is, mind and mood disorders are no different from any physical health problem. They are real, they are treatable and ordinary people can suffer from them.

Hundreds of expert answers to common questions on mind and mood can be found at the ABC News OnCall+ Mind and Mood section, here.

"While we don't always feel comfortable talking about the subject, mind and mood disorders are very common in the U.S.," said ABC News medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson.

Currently in the United States, about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mind or mood disorder each year. In fact, 14.8 million American adults suffer from depression and 5.7 million suffer from bipolar disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Despite the fact that mind and mood disorders are a timeless and widespread problem, stigma and misunderstanding still surround the conditions.

Johnson discussed some common misconceptions and myths on mind and mood disorders on ABC's "Good Morning America" today.

To help contribute to the growing understanding and awareness of mental illness, make sure you know what's true and what's not when it comes to your mind and mood.

Fact or Myth? "I'm in my twenties -- I don't have to worry about getting depression until later in life."

Answer: Myth

Actually, those who are in early adulthood do need to watch out for depression.

"The age of first onset of depression is far younger than we used to believe," said Myrna Weissman, a psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a participant in the OnCall+ Depression resource section of ABCNEWS.com.

"Major depression has the highest risk of developing between the ages of 15 and 34," Weissman said.

This finding goes against the common school of thought -- that middle-age adults and women going through menopause are most at risk of developing the disease.

However, several large-scale studies found that the most common period of life for depression to develop was the beginning of adulthood, not the middle of it.

Weissman noted that depression can still set in at any age, however.

"There are some people who first get depressed when they're elderly, and they have no history of depression," she said. "And oftentimes there is some other underlying biological cause of that."

In general. people of every age should look out for the tell-tale signs of depression -- ongoing sadness and anxiety, changes in sleep and eating habits -- and seek out professional help.

Fact or Myth? Bullying increases a child's risk of depression.

Answer: Fact

"Bullying is a form of early life trauma," said Charles Nemeroff, a psychiatrist at Emory University and expert for the ABC News OnCall+ Depression section.

While bullying has long been viewed as an inevitable trial of childhood, it can pose significant harm to children who are on the receiving end.

"Bullying not only increases risk for psychiatric disorders including depression in adulthood," said Nemeroff, "but also clearly increases risk for suicide."

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