Mental illness is not a single condition, rather it is a broad term used to describe a variety of mental health conditions that affect people’s mood, thinking, behavior, and emotions. A mental illness diagnosis is essentially an indication of poor mental health. Mental illnesses include, but are not limited to:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Depression and anxiety (as well as other mental illnesses) are serious medical conditions that affect millions of people every year. One of the challenges that survivors and their allies tend to face today is misrepresentation, as well as misinformation and myths associated with mental illness. Knowing the truth about mental illness will help you understand what it really is and how best to support friends or family members who are struggling with their mental health.
Myth 1: People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable.
Popular media portrayals of people suffering from mental illness have included ideas that these individuals are both violent and unpredictable. These mental health myths have led to fear and discrimination against people with various mental illnesses. The truth is, most people living with mental health conditions are not violent or dangerous at all. Although certain conditions can induce anger, those suffering from a mental illness are not any more likely to be violent than anybody else.
Myth 2: Mental illness is just laziness or weakness of character.
One of the most common misconceptions about mental illness is that people suffering from these conditions are just lazy or weak minded. Though, mental illnesses are not flaws in one’s character – they are illnesses and should be treated as such. Living with a mental illness does not mean that you cannot function, however, it may require some more effort and adaptiveness to live an independent and healthy lifestyle. It’s important to remember that no one chooses to become ill any more than they choose the color of their skin, so it is inappropriate to judge someone based on their mental health.
Myth 3: People with mental illness can totally control their emotions and choose to feel the way they do.
This is a dangerous myth about mental illness that leads many people to blame themselves or others for their symptoms. By placing blame on those living with a mental health condition, we end up stigmatizing the condition itself and alienating those who are living with it. This, in turn, causes many individuals to hesitate when it’s time to seek help. The fact is that mental illnesses like depression are often caused by an imbalance of chemicals in your brain, and these chemicals are out of your control. With that being said, people suffering from a mental illness have little to no control over their thoughts, feelings, or emotions.
Myth 4: Mental illness means serious dysfunction and disability.
While it’s true that some people with mental illnesses have difficulty functioning in day-to-day life, most individuals living with mental illnesses are capable of living very normal lives. In fact, if properly managed and treated, many people living with mental illnesses can become asymptomatic. While it’s true that some people who experience mental health problems have symptoms that are mild and manageable; others may deal with severe and disabling conditions.
Myth 5: If a person really wanted to, he or she could get better on their own.
One of the many myths associated with mental illness is that the condition will simply get better or go away over time. Though, mental health conditions are just as serious physical health conditions and should be treated properly by a professional. Mental health is a serious issue. It’s not something to be taken lightly and it’s not something that can be “fixed” simply by wishing it away. There are many different types of therapy available to those suffering from mental illness, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and even Ketamine Therapy. These therapies help patients understand their symptoms better and teach them how to cope with their condition more effectively to prevent relapse or worsening symptoms. Medication is another common tool used in treating mental illness; however, it may take some time to find the medication that works best for you and your mental health condition.
By dispelling some of the stigma and misconceptions about mental illness, those living with mental health conditions are more likely to reach out for the support they need and the resources they deserve to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. There’s no shame in seeking help for your mental health; it’s not something you can just “get over” by trying harder or ignoring it. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you’ll start feeling better—and that’s what matters most!