Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, yet many people mask their symptoms or isolate themselves rather than share their mental health struggles publicly. But on Twitter, users are aiming to combat that isolation with the new hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike, which is being used to share stories about depression.
Thousands of users have used the trending hashtag to share powerful stories about how their lives are affected and shaped by depression. It's an issue that remains a problem with an estimated 15.7 million of U.S. adults grappling with it a depressive episode in 2014, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Some users write they are incapacitated by deep feelings of depression or anxiety. Others write about painful moments when they masked the depression in a smiling selfie or when they were out among friends.
#MyDepressionLooksLike exhaustion that makes me view my bed as a solace and a prison at the same time.— TheBloggess (@TheBloggess) May 22, 2016
#MyDepressionLooksLike hiding it because of the social stigma and worrying I'll embarrass those I care about.— Tina (@TinaDayton) May 22, 2016
Mary Alvord, a Maryland-based psychologist and director of the psychotherapy practice Alvord, Baker & Associates, told ABC News social media can be a powerful tool to help combat the stigma of mental illness and to inform people.
"For the most part the message, my message to teens [in treatment] is you’re not alone," Alvord told ABC News today. "I think social media platforms, while they can certainly be used in a negative way, they also have the potential to really help."
Alvord said that even though more attention is being paid to mental disorders like depression, many people don't understand what a depressive person looks like.
"I think people assume that [people with depression] go around and talk about how sad they are," said Alvord, who explained that isolation and irritability are major signs of depression that are often overlooked. "Irritability is often a sign with depression that people don’t think about. It’s often associated with agitation and anger."