November 8, 2021
Mental health awareness is growing. More news coverage is dedicated to mental health, and terms like “burnout” are now mainstream. People can talk more openly about feeling anxious or depressed — plus the words “mental health” are no longer outright stigmatized. While this progress is a positive sign, misconceptions and misunderstandings about mental health persist.
Popular misconceptions about mental disorders can make it difficult to separate the facts from the misinformation. Read about some of the most common stereotypes about mental illness and learn the facts.
Mental Health Conditions Are Rare
While more people may talk about mental health, many still believe mental health disorders are rare conditions that only affect a handful of individuals. In fact, mental health disorders affect millions of people. “Mental health disorder” is a very broad umbrella that includes conditions like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name a few.
About 17 million adults in the U.S. have major depressive disorder. Each year, approximately 40 million people in the United States struggle with depression. Over 2 million adults live with OCD, and about 15 million adults have PTSD in a given year.
Living with any of these mental health disorders or any other mental health issue can feel incredibly lonely. But the truth is, you are not alone. Your condition is not rare. Millions of people around the country are having similar experiences, and resources and treatments are available for mental health disorders.
Mental Health Concerns Are a Weakness
Equating a mental health disorder with weakness is a prominent false assumption about mental health. This assumption underscores how differently many people view mental health compared to physical health. If you broke a bone or had cancer, no one would consider you weak for recognizing you have a problem and seeking help. Likewise, it’s unlikely anyone would recommend you mend your broken bone yourself or treat your cancer with a more positive attitude.
Mental health should be treated no differently, but that misunderstanding remains stubbornly embedded in many people’s minds. It is not weak to feel depressed or anxious or struggle with the symptoms of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. It takes strength to recognize you need help and work through a treatment plan.
Considering a mental health disorder as something you can simply will yourself out of can be very damaging. You are not weak because you need to take medication, attend therapy sessions or do both.
Mental Health Issues Means You Are “Crazy”
Mental health disorders may have shed some of their stigmas, but misconceptions of mental illness in society remain. Some misinterpretations can be damaging and difficult to dispel. Among these is the idea that having a mental health disorder means you are crazy. The label “crazy” dismisses or isolates a person, as it is the opposite of “normal.” However, it has no place in a conversation about mental health.
People who live with mental health disorders may have difficult symptoms, including altered perception, negative thought patterns and unstable moods. These are side effects of an illness, and all human beings are vulnerable to illness, physical or mental. While some people are more at risk than others, mental health disorders can happen to anyone.
Factors like genetics, environment and lifestyle can all play a role in whether you experience mental illness. If you are one of the millions of people who do have a mental disorder, you are not crazy. You are simply human.
Mental Health Disorders Make People Violent
False information surrounding mental health can lead people to believe that mental health disorders make people violent. Violence and its link to mental illness are sensationalized, but it is much rarer than many people think. People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime than they are to be its perpetrators. Research has shown that people with a mental illness are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence when compared to other members of society.
While mental illness is not synonymous with violent behavior, someone with a mental health disorder may behave violently. However, it is never simple enough to say, “This person committed an act of violence because they are mentally ill.” Context is deeply important. Co-occurring conditions like substance abuse, environmental factors and child abuse can influence the chances of someone with a mental health condition behaving violently. Research on the connection between mental illness and violence is ongoing, and it remains a misconception that one cannot exist without the other.
Mental Health Disorders Don’t Respond to Treatment
The idea that you are stuck with a mental health disorder for your entire life is one common myth associated with mental health. Some people may experience sporadic seasons of mental health disorders during their lifetime. For example, you may experience a depressive episode after the death of a loved one or the end of a significant relationship. That episode may last for weeks or months, but it does not mean you’ll have depression for the rest of your life.
Some other mental health disorders do not resolve over time. For example, bipolar disorder has no cure.
Whether a mental health disorder is episodic or chronic, it can respond to treatment. Treatment can help you live long periods of your life without experiencing symptoms. Treatment for each type of mental health issue and each individual person will vary. It may take time and trial and error to find the right approach, but treatment is possible. While common mental illness misunderstandings endure, it is important to remember you do not have to continue living your life without symptom management.
Start Receiving Help From Advanced Psychiatry Associates
Even after wading through the common misconceptions about mental health, getting help can still seem overwhelming. Advanced Psychiatry Associates in the Sacramento area strives to make taking that first step — and the subsequent steps on your journey — as easy as possible.
We are a full-service psychiatric facility that offers many services. Our medical staff is here to walk you through treatment options for a wide variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and substance abuse, among others. We focus on providing quality healthcare with both clinical excellence and compassion.
You can schedule an appointment online to get started. Help is available, and we are here to give it.