Mind & Body
Mental Illness Myths
10/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Mental Health Myths

The first step in understanding mental illness is to know what isn’t true. It is important to break the cycle of stigmatizing those with mental health issues; but how do we do that? First of all, our society does have a greater understanding of certain more severe mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia and Manic-Depressive Disorders, says Daniel Aguillard, LCSW, MHA, and VP of Specialty Services at Archer Institute. "Because we can often see these types of illnesses manifest themselves in easily-observed ways, we realize the person needs help. What we don’t understand is that issues like depression, anxiety, and stress can become serious, and though very treatable, they too often go unaddressed. We tend to stigmatize because everyone experiences episodes of anxiety, depression, and stress which we overcome with our normal, everyday resources. However, when our mental health deteriorates and begins to interfere with our relationships and jobs, it’s time to seek treatment and NOT get caught up in the stigma.”

The following are mental health misconceptions that slow the process of destigmatizing mental illness.

You can ‘just get over it:’ Telling someone with anxiety or depression to "snap out of it” or "just get over it” is one of the worst things you can say. It diminishes the severity and seriousness of the condition, makes it sound like you don’t believe what they are going through, and knocks down their self-esteem. If recovering from anxiety and depression was as easy as snapping your fingers and moving on with your life, it wouldn’t be as big a problem as it is today.

Anxiety is just feeling nervous: Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric conditions and include OCD, panic disorder, PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety is in response to a specific set of circumstances that are quickly addressed and resolved. Other times, anxiety can become a real psychiatric condition that must be addressed for a lifetime.

Mental illness isn’t real: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five adults in the U.S. – 43.8 million, or 18.5% -- experiences mental illness in a given year. Mental illness is very real and is accompanied by many uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms. It requires professional help to get better. 

Depression is just feeling sad: Depression involves much more than just feeling sad. It’s a serious psychiatric condition that leaves the sufferer feeling tired, hopeless, at a higher risk of suicide, problems with appetite, feeling guilty, loss of self-worth, and aches and pain. It requires therapy and/or medication to recover. 

Mental illness only occurs in weak people: Mental illness can happen to anyone. It’s not about how smart or strong you are. It’s usually a result of an imbalance of certain brain chemicals, is hereditary, due to your environment, or in response to specific life events and circumstances. Many smart and successful people have been treated for a mental illness. 

Stress is not a big deal: Life is chaotic and all the craziness usually manifests itself as stress. Unfortunately, many people play this off as nothing to worry about. Stress is a very big deal and can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Learning to deal with stress is important for your mental and physical health. Try meditation, mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques to relieve your stress. 

The ADHD Label: We’ve seen a spike in the diagnoses of ADHD in recent times, many times an incorrect diagnosis at that. ADHD is a real neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs in children, young adults, and can go on into adulthood. The typical symptoms include trouble concentrating and hyperactivity, but should never be used to label a child who is simply misbehaving or struggling in school. 

I’m so OCD: OCD is often used to describe someone who is super organized, a neat freak, or checks things over and over again. The truth is, OCD is a real anxiety disorder that severely interrupts a person’s ability to function unless certain rituals or sequences are followed. 

Antidepressants and antianxiety meds are handed out like candy: The truth is, many general practitioners and family doctors write too many prescriptions for psychiatric medications instead of referring their patients to a psychiatrist. Nonetheless, these medications are a lifesaver for people who truly suffer from anxiety and depression. 

For more information on mental health issues, contact the Archer Institute at 337-480-7792.

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