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October 17, 2013
by Dr. Anthony Centore, Ph.D.

6 Myths About Mental Health

October 17, 2013 04:55 by Dr. Anthony Centore, Ph.D.  [About the Author]

There are many myths and false assumptions about mental illness that are repeated every day. Most of them stem from an unfounded statement you may have heard from someone or a television show you watched in passing. These myths don't always come from sinister sources, but they can still be a huge detriment to people who need help with their mental health. Below are some examples of mental health myths to keep from accepting and sharing with others.

1. You will suffer from your mental illness for the rest of your life.

The root of this myth is that mental illness is a type of jail sentence, and you've been sentenced for life. But this is not necessarily true. Mental illnesses are effectively treated for people every single day, and many people who seek help will often overcome their illness in time. Yes, some will struggle with a mental illness for their entire life, but that doesn't mean they have to suffer from it. 

2.Seeking help is a sign of weakness.

On the contrary, asking for help is a sign of incredible strength and willpower. When people suffer from mental afflictions, they sometimes fall into the trap  of minimizing the problem and believing they have the singular strength to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and overcome it. But these are real and potentially dangerous diseases that may exceed your limitations. Though it's not impossible to deal with mental illness on your own (though sometimes it is, depending on the severity of the affliction), seeking help is simply choosing the safest and likely best solution to a problem you don't want to gamble on. 

3. Criminal behavior is a common symptom of mental illness.

In recent years, tragic situations that involve the criminal behavior of a person dealing with mental illness have been on the rise. This has unfortunately perpetuated the myth that everyone with a mental illness has criminal tendencies. That is generalizing a large portion of the population, since 1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

Yes, there are some people who will commit terrible atrocities due in part to a severe mental illness they are suffering from, and these individuals need significant help to treat their affliction. But it is incorrect to assume that everyone who is diagnosed with a mental health disorder will harm someone.

4. Kids don’t struggle with mental illness.

This myth is becoming less common due to the rise of Autism and Aspergers being diagnosed in young children. Still, mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and addiction are sometimes believed to be for adults only, but this is not the case.

The truth is that millions of children suffer from mental illnesses, and it is usually for the same reasons adults do. Many (but not all) mental illnesses stem from biological problems and imbalances that may manifest early on, especially if a child's unique environment triggers the illness. 

5. Schizophrenia is a "multiple-personality" disorder.

This one is especially important to note if you come across someone who has schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For whatever reason, many people tend to falsely believe that schizophrenia causes someone to have a split personality. In reality, someone with schizophrenia is having difficulty discerning reality from hallucinations. They are not changing or becoming another person. They are seeing images or people that are not really there, while maintaining their normal personality.

Bipolar disorder is also incorrectly conceptualized this way. People with bipolar disorder do not have multiple personalities. They are suffering from high fluctuations in their moods, going from happy to sad in an instant. It is also very important to note that both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are extremely treatable, since medication helps the brain correct these chemical irregularities.

6. Mental illness weakens intelligence.

In contrast, people with mental illness can be some of the most intelligent people in a room. In most cases, there is not a lot of causation between mental illness and intelligence, so these two factors don't tend to influence others. There can be a correlation if, for example, someone with depression becomes lethargic and abstains from a lifestyle of learning and growing, but this doesn't always happen.

Other mental illnesses, such as Aspergers and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, have symptoms that exhibit heightened intelligence due to an obsession with facts and details. This is, of course, a tradeoff for other symptoms that are not as desirable, but the main point here is that you shouldn't determine someone as mentally deficient based solely on a mental illness they may have.

In conclusion, here is a rule of thumb to follow for determining the truth behind a statement you hear related to mental health: if it is an absolute statement that is not backed up, then it is probably a myth. Always keep in mind that the effects and implications of mental illnesses vary from person to person, and absolute statements are typically derived from just one experience someone may have had. 

About the Author

Dr. Anthony Centore Dr. Anthony Centore

Anthony Centore PhD is Founder of Thriveworks; a company that provides healthcare practices across the United States with Medical Credentialing, Medical Billing, and Business Consulting services.

Office Location:
Massachusetts 02115 United States
Phone: 617-395-5806
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