Mental Illnesses Myths: Debunked
March 25, 2016
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Unfortunately, it is more challenging to diagnose, and tends to be stigmatized by society. This stigma usually includes the trivialization of many mental illnesses, such as jokes about how someone is “depressed” because they failed their test, or how someone has “OCD” because they like their room to be spotless clean.
Making these jokes can make a person who has this illness feel like the odd ones out in society. It also could lead to self-diagnosing, or not diagnosing themselves at all, both very dangerous to a person. This article is going to debunk the assumptions made about some of the most common mental illnesses: anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders.
Myth: Anxiety is not a big deal.
Fact: According to the Huffington Post, anxiety in children and teens is a definitely a big deal, as they tend to hide it from others because they see this as a normal feeling for a person, not knowing when to get help, making anxiety feel like it is not a big deal. Of course, some anxiety is normal, as for a test or any other big event, but sometimes it is more than that. There are many types of anxiety. Some of the most popular are General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), being in a state of constant worry to where it affects your daily life, social anxiety disorder, having a fear of social interaction or performance, panic disorder, having recurring unexpected panic attacks, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (National Institute of Mental Health). Suppressing this constant state of worry leads to bad coping mechanisms which may include substance abuse.
Myth: Depressed people are just really sad, going outside and talking to others can cheer them up instantly.
Fact: As stated in in the National Institute of Mental Health, there are many major factors that contribute to depression. This includes genetics, traumatic events, and a chemical imbalance in your brain. When you are depressed, the levels of serotonin, the chemical that causes make a person happy, are very low. Antidepressants can help treat the medical condition (Healthline). Sure, moral support can definitely help, but it doesn’t necessarily “cure” depression.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Myth: OCD is all about cleanliness.
Fact: Although some instances of OCD involve constant cleanliness, it is not always the case. According to Everyday Health, “Other common compulsions include hoarding items, checking and rechecking that you didn’t make a mistake, fearing something bad such as a fire or accident, and repeating routines such as going in and out of a door.”
Myth: Being bipolar means having a lot of mood swings.
Fact: Even though there are mood swings, they are more severe than a person without bipolar disorder. These moods also last longer, for weeks or even months. The two types of extreme moods that people with bipolar disorder have are mania, an elevated mood that causes excitement and the making of impulsive decisions, and depression, which entails excessive sleep and lethargy (International Bipolar Foundation).
Myth: Those with an eating disorder cannot be overweight.
Fact: Eating disorders can occur to anyone. People come in many different shapes and sizes, and carry their weight in various ways. As said in The Center for Eating Disorders, “Many individuals with severe disorders including bulimia, binge eating, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) can be underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese and often fluctuate in weight. Even athletes who appear to be incredibly fit might be struggling with an eating disorder.”
Making assumptions about topics as serious as mental illnesses trivialize the importance of your mental health. Putting a stigma on mental illness can cause people to not speak up or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, self harm, and suppression of feelings in fear of being judged by others.