Humans are a curious lot. Sometimes curiosity leads to myth and misinformation; other times, it leads to fact and understanding. Considering that so much of our brains and bodies are still a mystery, it should be no surprise that we’re plagued with myths about what can affect them. Most of us have grown up believing that there are certain things you can’t do if you have a mental illness – whether that opinion is valid depends on the mental illness in question.
Common mental health myths and facts can reduce stigma and increase help-seeking. Learn more about the most common myths and facts related to mental health.
Myth: People with mental illness are dangerous
Fact: People with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Studies show that only 2% of people with schizophrenia will be violent against others.
Myth: If I don’t believe in psychiatry, then it’s not real
Fact: Psychiatric medications work by changing brain chemistry and improving brain function — just as they do for any other medical condition. And like other medical treatments, psychiatric drugs have side effects. But these side effects are often temporary, mild and not harmful. Many people find their symptoms improve after taking medication.
Myth: All psychiatric disorders are severe and will always require treatment
Fact: Not all people with mental health problems need treatment — some can manage their symptoms independently without help. But if you think you might be experiencing an issue, talk to your doctor about the options available to help you feel better quickly.
Myth: Mental Illness Is Just Feeling Unwell
Fact: Mental illness is not just feeling unwell’s; it also has symptoms such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks and other conditions that affect your ability to function daily.
Myth: Only People Who Are Overly Concerned About Their Looks or Weight Have Depression
Fact: Depression doesn’t only affect those who don’t work with their body image or weight; it affects anyone who feels sad or hopeless about themselves and their life. While there are many different types of depression, it can affect anyone at any age.
Myth: People with depression don’t get better
Fact: Depression is more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease combined! The good news is that many people recover from depression with proper care and treatment. The most important thing you can do if you suspect someone might be suffering from depression is to get them to help immediately so that their symptoms can be addressed and appropriately managed instead of being ignored or allowed to spiral out of control over time.
Myth: Mental illness is not as severe as physical illness.
Fact: Mental illness is a severe medical condition that affects 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 25 children. It can cause debilitating symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and more.
Myth: Mental health problems are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Fact: While some mental illnesses are associated with changes in brain chemistry, there is no evidence that any mental illness is caused by a “chemical imbalance” or any other single factor.
Myth: Mental illness is a choice.
Fact: Mental illnesses are biological brain disorders like cancer or diabetes. They cannot be “unlearned” or “will away”.
Myth: People with mental illness need to be medicated or hospitalized to get better.
Fact: Medication is only one part of treatment for mental illness, which also includes therapy and education about your diagnosis — and it’s not always necessary!
Myth: You should be able to talk about your mental health issues with anyone.
Fact: This is not always true. The social stigma surrounding mental health can make it difficult for people to talk about their feelings and experiences with those close to them. If you’re struggling, it’s best to speak with someone with experience dealing with mental illness.
Myth: Mental health problems only affect a small minority of people.
Fact: Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives, the same as physical health conditions like diabetes or asthma. And there is evidence that the rate of mental health problems is rising.
Myth: Mental health treatment isn’t effective.
Fact: Studies show that treatment works well for most common mental illnesses and can profoundly impact your life.
Your mental health is an essential component of your overall health and well-being. Don’t let any myths below deter you from seeking the treatment you need. Reach out to a professional and get the help you need. If you or someone else is experiencing emotional distress, please consult a healthcare professional like the Mental Health Management Group. Self-diagnosis can be very unreliable.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.