7 Misconceptions About Mental Illness (And Why They Exist)
By Dr Becky Spelman
Mental illness has been the subject of many false claims over the years. Some of them are born of an understandable lack of awareness, with others being slightly more cynical in nature. Here’s a list of the most common myths about mental illness that have taken root in the public consciousness.
Mental Health Conditions are Rare
When you look at the breadth of mental health conditions, it becomes clear that throughout the course of your lifetime, you’ll have suffered some symptoms of mental illness. That doesn’t mean to say you’ll need treatment, but simply that mental health issues are more commonplace than you think. Just as many people get the flu every year and shake it off, many people also experience mental health issues that fly under the radar. Mental illness isn’t as rare as you think.
People with Mental Health Issues are Weak
Mental health issues don’t discriminate. They’re not a virus that preys on the weak and vulnerable of society. Anyone can suffer from a mental health issue regardless of the robustness of their physical health. Also, it doesn’t mean you’re unable to cope with the pressures of life. Each incidence of a mental illness is unique. They can’t be graded against one another with some being deemed more worthy of a proper diagnosis than others.
People with Mental Health Disorders are Violent and Unpredictable
This has been perpetrated mostly by the portrayal of mental health issues on film and TV. The tendency is to glamorise and sensationalise the effects of mental illness for the sake of drama. While some media does do an excellent job of highlighting the challenges people face, other sources are sadly lacking. They create the unhelpful stereotype that people with mental health issues aren’t to be trusted and helps create more distance between acceptance, the ability to integrate and making a successful recovery.
The Only Way to Treat Mental Health Conditions is Through Drugs
Medications can be helpful and necessary as part of a structured treatment program. Bu the idea that they’re the only answer is quite wide of the mark. For less severe forms of mental illness, the best way to go can often be through less ‘invasive’ treatments, taking a more active approach with techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other talk therapies.
When People are Mentally Ill, They Can’t Take Care of Themselves
This a very black and white view of the world that presumes unless you’re completely incapacitated by your mental illness then it doesn’t qualify as you as being in need of support. Mental illness exists on a sliding scale. You can suffer from mild forms of anxiety to severe social anxiety all the way to full-blown psychosis. But despite their challenges issues, many people can lead remarkably fulfilling lives.
People with a Mental Health Condition are Damaged for Life
Mental illness isn’t a life sentence. In some instance, such as with bipolar, there may always need to be some element of managing the condition. But in many cases, with the right form of intervention, you can not only alleviate symptoms but lead a life that is thriving and full of all the same pleasures we take for granted.
Mental Illness is the Same as Physical Illness
To a certain extent, many scientists are still, trying figure out what causes mental illness. There is still no wide consensus as to what does and does not cause people to have the experiences they do. The most commonly accepted model is the bio-psycho-social concept that suggests a mental illness is the result of multiple factors that interconnect with one another. Unfortunately, some people believe as with the case of physical illness if it can’t be seen then it doesn’t exist.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
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