Mental illness is a complex topic that’s often misunderstood. Over time, misconceptions rooted in stigma and disinformation evolved into full-blown myths that continue to prevail in society. These harmful fallacies can cause people who are suffering to avoid seeking professional help.
As mental health providers, our team at Rural Psychiatry Associates wants to set the record straight. Let’s dive into four common mental illness myths and the facts that debunk them.
Myth #1: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.
Many people associate mental illness with weakness, especially in themselves. Stigma about mental health contributes to this common misconception. It’s important to understand that mental illnesses are medical conditions, just like any other physical ailment. However, when dealing with the human brain – the most complex organ in your body – diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is usually more convoluted than remedies for an infection or a broken bone.
Your thoughts, moods, and behaviors all affect the overall quality of your life. It’s not weak to need assistance to manage symptoms of a disorder and regain control. In fact, we believe seeking professional treatment for your mental health is a sign of personal strength.
Myth #2: People with mental illness are dangerous.
It’s natural for humans to fear what they do not understand. With all the complexity about mental health, it’s no surprise that some people assume those with mental illness are dangerous. This myth is also exacerbated when the media labels suspects of mass violence as “mentally disturbed.” In reality, only 3% of people with mental illness are at risk of committing violent crimes. The risk is even higher when an individual abuses drugs or alcohol.
On the contrary, people with mental illnesses are 11 times more likely to fall victim to violence than to perpetuate it. This is especially true for individuals who are vulnerable due to lack of housing, money, safety, access to quality care, and other socio-economic factors.
Myth #3: Medication is the only way to treat mental illness.
While medication is a common treatment for mental illnesses, a lot of other remedies exist. Many treatments fall under the large umbrella of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Five popular forms of psychotherapy include:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Exposure Therapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
The best form of treatment depends on the patient’s diagnosis, health history, and personal circumstances. It’s common for mental health providers to use a combination of treatments, if necessary. This approach tends to produce better results than relying on medication alone.
Myth #4: You can tell if someone has a mental illness.
Without treatment, mental illness can feel like an ongoing internal battle for individuals experiencing it. However, there is no “look” associated with any particular type of disorder or diagnosis. We often find the opposite is true: people put on a “brave face” to hide their mental health challenges out of fear of rejection or discrimination. While there are warning signs of mental illness, like sleep loss, mood changes, and apathy, you cannot tell someone has a disorder solely from their appearance.
This blog outlined only four of many mental illness myths we encounter in our work. But with continued awareness, education, and advocacy for mental health, these myths can begin to dissipate. Always remember that everyone’s experience with mental illness is unique, including yours. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you or a loved one, reach out to our team today!