Myths about mental illness: You stand corrected

Myths about mental illness: You stand corrected

#1. Self-harmers are just attention seekers
If self-harm was for attention, why do the majority of people hide it from friends and family. Nobody in my life has any idea that I am dealing with self-harm and I certainly have no intention of telling anyone. The fact of the matter is that self-harm has absolutely nothing to do with attention. It is a coping mechanism. This includes all forms of self-harm such as cutting, hitting, burning, eating disorders, etc. These things cannot and should not be chalked up to people just looking for attention. These issues are a sign of a serious mental illness and should not be belittled. If you know someone who is suffering from self-harm, take them seriously.
#2. Mental illnesses will just go away on their own
Many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain. This means that if an illness is left untreated, an individual’s condition may actually continue to depreciate with the passage of time. While it is true that some mental illnesses can go away on their own or with minimal treatment (ie. self-help), this is not the case for many illnesses.
#3. Eating disorders are not real illnesses
An eating disorder is classified in the DSM5 as a diagnosable illness. If you disagree with this then it is likely that you are not a professional in the psychological field of medicine. If you were, you would know that eating disorders are most definitely real illnesses. If you still believe this myth, I suggest you check out the website for NEDA and do some more research.
#4. Mentally ill people are more violent
Thanks to the media, there is a common misconception that mentally ill people are violent. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I a good episode of Criminal Minds just as much as the next person, but they do a terrible job of portraying mental illness. Shows such as Criminal Minds tend to portray people with mental illness as delusional, murderous individuals who belong in an insane asylum. While there are many cases in which mental illness can be linked to crime, this does not mean that mental illness is a precondition for violence. In fact, mentally stable individuals are responsible for the majority of violence and crime. Therefore, the idea that mental illness is associated with violence directly is based on ignorance, not fact.
#5. Cutters are suicidal
Most people who cut themselves are not actually suicidal. A cut is not a failed attempt at suicide. These people are simply looking for a way to cope with the emotional hardships, struggles, and trauma in their lives. While this is certainly not a positive outlet for the emotional pain which they are feeling, it is also not a sign of suicidal behavior in MOST cases.
#6. Mentally ill people lack intelligence
Mentally ill people do not have lesser intelligences to mentally stable people. This is so wrong. Mental illness has about the same bearing on the IQ of an individual as the common cold. I am an example of this as I struggled with mental illness all through high-school but I graduated with an average of 87%. I was even nicknamed “smart one” by one of my peers. So clearly the fact that I have multiple mental illnesses does not have any bearing on my level of intelligence.
#7. Mental illness is a life-long issue
While many mental illnesses are a result of chemical imbalances in the brain which require life-long treatment, this does not mean that all mental illnesses are life-long battles. Recovery is definitely possible. There are plenty of people who have recovered from eating disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and so on. There are plenty of treatment options for people with mental illness and it is definitely possible to recover.
#8. Everyone has anxiety, you just have to learn to deal
Yes, everyone has anxiety. It is a natural instinctual reaction to danger. But not everybody feels anxiety all the time, or to the extremes that an individual with an anxiety disorder experiences it. In some cases, people have a chemical imbalance which results in more anxiety. I have experienced this first hand and I was told that I would just have to learn to “calm down” and “deal with it”. I suffered in silence for years until it reached a breaking point. I talked to my doctor and it turns out that the solution is simple. The moral of the story is that sometimes it is not as easy as just learning to deal with it better. Sometimes extra support is needed.
#9. Panic attacks are not a “real” mental illness
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you will know that it is not normal. While having one panic attack under stressful circumstances may not be a sign of mental illness, there are individuals who suffer from panic attacks on a regular basis in seemingly normal situations. For these individuals, it is entirely possible that they have a panic disorder and these illnesses are definitely real.
#10. I would KNOW If I had a mental illness
Most of us like to think that we would know if we had a problem, but in many cases we are completely unaware. In some cases it is a matter of simply not wanting to admit it to ourselves, others are unaware of the symptoms and warning signs, while other recognize the behaviors but see no problem with them (this is especially true for cases of eating disorders). For this reason, it is often difficult for individuals to accept that there is something wrong when others try to reach out to them.
#11. I would know if someone I care about has a mental illness
People with mental illnesses are often extremely good at hiding their symptoms. As I have mentioned previously and in other posts, I suffer from an eating disorder, anxiety, and self-harm. For the most part I have kept my issues to myself. The only thing that people really know about is my anxiety which I have told five people about. I, like many people, choose to hide my illness because I intend to deal with it on my own. This does not mean that the people in my life are blind or ignorant, it simply means I am really good at putting on a show. So for those of you who feel like you should have known that someone you care about is ill, please don’t feel guilty. There is nothing you could have done.
#12. Mental illness is uncommon
Mental illness is actually extremely common. Many people don’t even realize that they have a mental illness so there are thousands of people in the world who are suffering from an undiagnosed illness. You would probably be surprised to know how common mental illness actually is.
#13. Mental illness is a sign of weakness
Mental illness is NOT a sign that you are weak. It is not something that you can control. It just happens. Just as you cannot control whether you catch a cold. Certainly there are precautions which you can take in order to prevent mental illness and promote mental health, but there is no fool-proof way to stop mental illness from occurring and just because you are mentally ill does not mean you are weak. On the contrary, if you are mentally ill and you take the step to seek out professional help you are actually quite strong. It is a sign of strength to ask for help. So congratulations to you if you have taken that step!
Thank you for reading! If you are interested in reading more about mental health please follow me!

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One thought on “Myths about mental illness: You stand corrected

  1. bodyelectricweb says:

    Hello Ayla! I’m relatively new to blogging, but your blog stands out for me as one which is very readable, very positive and very interesting. Being a psychologist, plus mental illness sufferer and blogger myself, I’m naturally curious about and drawn to the type of topics you write about. Stigma is something all of us with diagnosed (and probably non-diagnosed) psychiatric illnesses have faced at some stage, so it is refreshing to read a blog who’s mission is reducing stigma 🙂 keep up the good work Xxxx

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