The discussion surrounding mental health has come a long way, but there’s still a lot of false information out there.
We now know that discussing the topic of mental health and illness is important for removing the stigma associated with it. And while that is happening, there are still some misunderstandings about specific mental illnesses that need to be addressed.
So in this post, I’m going to take seven of the most common myths that you likely still believe about mental illness and explain the truth behind them.
Mental illness is a disease
Mental illness is 100% a real issue, but this myth says that mental illness is a disease like the flu, heart disease, or even more specifically brain disorders.
Now since there are biological causes for many of them, a handful can be treated, however, there is still no sound understanding of where these issues come from due to how complicated they actually are.
According to the medical community, psychiatric disorders are not medical diseases. There are no lab tests, brain scans, x-rays, or chemical imbalance tests that can verify any mental disorder as a physical condition.
Additionally, a number of scientists, doctors, and other health industry professionals, feel mental illness stems from multiple sources, having genetic, personality, social, as well as environmental causes, which means simply labeling them as diseases require accepting a lie.
Essentially labeling mental illness as a disease is not only over-simplifying the problem but may actually restrict a person’s ability to get help with it.
Depression is a flaw, not a mental illness
This myth is actually kind of offensive when you think about it. The idea that a person can just snap out of depression due to it being a character flaw, not a real illness, which is absolutely outrageous.
According to the mental health foundation, depression is not only a legitimate mental disorder, but a common one, and leads to a loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low worth, low energy, and a number of other conditions that someone doesn’t simply snap out of.
Depression is a mental illness, not a fancy name for laziness or weakness. Millions of people suffer from it and have to deal with the crushing effects of it every day, without others claiming that it’s their job to break out of the sadness as if that would be easy to do.
Children are not affected by mental illness
Believe it or not, a lot of people actually believe that any mental illnesses that children have are just a part of growing up. As if maturity cures all of your mental health problems.
According to research, over 70% of mental illnesses that adults struggle with, began when they were younger than 18 years old. In fact, studies show that one in five children have mental health disorders that they’re forced to live with. And if you think adults can be insensitive, just think about what grade school is like.
Millions of children have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Every kid gets down once in a while, however, if it’s a repeated pattern, as an adult or even that kid’s friend, try to be empathetic and understand that they might actually have a mental illness.
People with mental illnesses should avoid people
This should go without saying, but mental illness is not contagious. You may be surprised that I even need to say it but apparently, there are a number of people out there who think that if you have such a disorder, you should avoid work and school and just people in general.
The majority of those people believe that either you’re not able to function, or you’ll bring down productivity and morale of everyone.
Well, guess what? People with such disorders actually function just fine in the workplace. Think about it. That’s why a lot of people who come out as depressed, surprise people because they’re really good at hiding it.
In fact, most people suffering from depression or similar illnesses prefer being employed and not feeling the isolation and stress that unemployment would bring them.
People that are depressed are just as productive, if not more productive than everyone else. So the only real issue here is one where employers sadly tend to be prejudiced against people with mental disorders.
Shock therapy is painful and torturous
Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT for short, gets a bad rap in movies, television, and in the media, so there’s no wonder that this myth exists.
Many see shock therapy as barbaric, with the doctors basically just trying to torture the mental illness out of the people suffering from them. The source of this way of thinking comes from early treatments where no anesthesia was administered, high doses of electricity were used, and patients suffered memory loss.
But today things are very different. It turns out ECT is an incredibly effective treatment for severe depression and a number of other mental illnesses. Today, doctors use general anesthesia and much smaller electric currents. Studies have shown that ECT can actually reverse many symptoms of mental illness with very few negative side effects.
Schizophrenics are violent and dangerous
Actually, this myth is the exact opposite of the actual facts. See society sees very little violence from schizophrenics or any other mentally ill people, despite what you see on the big or little screens.
In fact, most people with mental illness suffer from anxiety or depression, not some violent, outbursting, serial killer making disorder.
To top it off, individuals with major mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of violence, making them more in danger than the actual danger themselves.
There are no cures for mental illnesses
There are some people that believe that mental illness is all made up in people’s heads. And then there are others that think that sufferers can overcome it with mere willpower. But then there’s a third group of people who feel that once you have a mental illness, you have it for life, as there’s no real cure.
Well, if you’ve ever been depressed, I’m happy to tell you that they’re wrong. There absolutely are real treatment options that really work for a number of conditions. And more and more, we’re seeing new methods for helping sufferers combat them.
Studies have shown improvements, relief of symptoms, and yes, even complete recoveries in patients seeking treatments. Sometimes it takes a long time, but there’s always hope. And hope can be enough to change a person’s entire outlook. Whether it’s medication, meditation, or simply going to a therapist, I promise, there are options out there, and it does get better.