Mental illnesses have a long history of being misunderstood. There are a lot of misconceptions about what mental illness is, how it affects those who suffer from it, and how they can be treated effectively. Because mental illness cannot be seen, it has often been denied as a real condition. In fact, many people still believe that mental illness is not real and that a simple change of mindset is all it takes to rid oneself of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health problems that many people struggle with.
Due to the popularity of those false beliefs, many people have begun to think of mental illness as a taboo topic. If they are suffering from a mental illness, they see it as a sign of weakness and refuse to speak with it to anybody. That can be a dangerous decision, as it can prevent one from getting the help they need. Although we now understand more about mental illness than ever before and many people are beginning to realize how widespread and real the problem is, we still have a long way to go. In an effort to help understand it better, this post will dispel a few of the most popular myths about mental illness.
Myth #1: “Mental Illness Isn’t Real!”
Perhaps the most prevalent and damaging misconception about mental illness is that it isn’t a real condition. Many people believe that those who claim to be suffering from a mental illness are only doing so for attention. This is, in fact, a false notion that was only brought about by a lack of understanding. Thousands of hours of study and research have supported the fact that mental illness is real and has a damaging effect on those who suffer from it. Not only that, but it is surprisingly common: approximately 1 in every 5 American adults will experience a mental illness in any given year.
Myth #2: “Just Stop Being Mentally Ill!”
Another one of the most damaging myths about mental illness is that one can simply think themselves out of it. Due to the nature of mental illness, those who have never experienced it do not understand how real the effects can be. In their minds, mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and others are a result of personal choices and that if the suffering person would but change their mind, they could rid themselves of the illness. Sometimes, people who are suffering from mental illness also believe that all it takes is a change of mindset. It is important for everybody that they learn to control their expectations about recovering from mental illness and deal with it in proper ways.
Again, this is an entirely incorrect notion that has already caused serious damage in the form of dissuading people who need mental health treatment from getting it. Mental illness is as real as any physical ailment. If someone was suffering from a substance abuse addiction, nobody would tell them to “just stop!” They would suggest that they seek professional help from a licensed detox facility. The same should be true of mental illness. Just as you would visit a doctor if you broke your leg, you should seek the help of a licensed mental health professional if you notice that you are suffering from mental illness.
Myth #3: “Mental Illness Only Affects Women!”
Many people (both men and women) believe that mental illness is something that women suffer from. This is largely due to the stereotype that has been forced upon men to be “macho” and not show any emotion. Of course, there are other factors that have played a role as well, but in any case, there is a surprisingly large number of people who believe that only women suffer from mental illness. What’s more, the men who do recognize that they have a mental illness are much less likely to get help for it due to the social stigma associated with men having emotion. The truth is that men and women both have an equal chance of suffering from mental illness and that, contrary to popular belief, it is okay for men to seek treatment for any mental health conditions that they are experiencing.
Myth #4: “Talking About It Makes It Worse!”
Another myth that dissuades people from seeking professional help for their mental illness is that talking about it makes it worse. They believe that therapy consists solely of dwelling upon the problem. In reality, therapy does not dwell on the problem, it proactively works to solve the problem. While brooding and dwelling on the problem would, in fact, make it worse, that is not at all what therapy does. In therapy, licensed professionals help their clients better understand their problems and work to solve them in an effective and healthy way.