Mental Health Misconceptions

Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed every May in the United States. With nearly one in five adults in America dealing with some sort of mental illness each year, mental health awareness is an important topic I believe we should be talking about. While we've come a long way about common knowledge about mental health, I find that there are still many misconceptions people have surrounding mental health and mental illnesses. As such, I've compiled a list of some of the most common misconceptions people often have about mental health.

  1. 1. Misconception: If someone is moody, they have bipolar disorder.

    Bipolar disorder and mood swings are two very different things. Moodiness is usually short-lived and often a result of fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and other everyday causes. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is characterized by phases which can last weeks or even months. These phases are categorized as mania and depression, with mania being described as a "period of great excitement or euphoria, delusions, and overactivity." To sum it up, bipolar disorder is not just someone who gets upset easily.

  2. 2. Misconception: Antidepressants give you quick, fake happiness.

    SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), more commonly known as antidepressants, work to fix an imbalance of serotonin levels in the brain. This means that if a person with normal levels of serotonin were to take antidepressants, they would not feel any "happier" or different. 

    In fact, antidepressants are not a quick fix as it often takes a few weeks to start having an effect. It's also important to note that antidepressants or certain types of antidepressants may not work for everyone.

  3. 3. Misconception: Being depressed means being suicidal.

    While suicidal thoughts can be a symptom of depression, a person does not have to be suicidal to be diagnosed with depression. Depression can come in many forms. Some symptoms including loss of energy, inability to focus, and lack of interest in daily activities. 

  4. 4. Misconception: If a person is at a healthy weight, they don't have an eating disorder.

    A person can have an eating disorder regardless of their weight or size. Eating disorders are diagnosed by thoughts and behaviors rather than physical health. It's possible that a person can be overweight and anorexic or underweight with binge eating disorder. In many cases, people will struggle with more than one form of an eating disorder at a time so their weight can fluctuate over time or stay the same.

  5. 5. Misconception: People with schizophrenia are scary and violent.

    It's actually statistically rare for people with schizophrenia, or any psychiatric disorder in general, to be violent or dangerous to be around. The disorder is actually a lot more common than people know with 1.1 percent of the U.S. adult population estimated to have schizophrenia. There are also treatments available for those who may struggle with schizophrenia, and studies show that those who receive effective treatment are no more of a threat to others than individuals without the disorder.

  6. 6. Misconception: People with mental illnesses are unreliable employees.

    While some extreme cases of mental illness can affect a person's ability to work and do daily activities, many people with a mental illness can meet work requirements perfectly fine. In fact, employees who suffer from a mental illness are no more likely to miss work than employees with a moderate physical condition. Fortunately, many employers are becoming more aware of this issue and are now starting to allow their employees to use their sick days for mental health purposes.

  7. 7. Misconception: Electroconvulsive therapy is cruel and ineffective.

    Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT, is a medical treatment that involves sending small electric currents to the brain while the patient is under anesthesia. Despite what many believe, this method of treatment is painless and shown to be very effective. ECT can be a very useful option for those suffering from extreme cases of bipolar disorder and depression, especially for those who have shown resistance to medication and other common treatment methods.

  8. 8. Misconception: Talking to a therapist is no different than talking to a friend/relative.

    While talking to a friend or family member can be helpful and is definitely recommended, a professional can offer new and helpful insights that you might not get anywhere else. A therapist has been specially trained to help you with whatever you're dealing it in a more in-depth way than a non-professional can. In addition, a therapist is someone who is not immediately involved in your life so they'll be better able to provide you with objective advice.