Mental illnesses are just as common as any other disease or illness and yet individuals who live with them are ostracized from society and largely misunderstood. The first important act is to define what mental illness is and isn’t.
According to the official APA definition, “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”
Like any other defect or condition, mental illnesses affect a person’s social abilities and mostly leaves them unable to take proper care of themselves or earn a living. They should not be confused with mental health problems which are mostly temporary and can come up due to life’s daily stresses.
Although quite common, there are still many myths and misconceptions when it comes to mental illnesses. We’re going to delve into the most common ones today.
Mental illnesses are genetic and people are born with them
While there is a correlation between genetic predisposition and mental issues, this is not always the case as people are not born with them but rather a list of factors including physical and sexual abuse, stress, death of a loved one, trauma, unemployment, physical illness and genetics may contribute to the onset of mental illness.
Some mental conditions such as bipolar disorder are known to run in families but others show no signs.
Only those who have a family history can develop a mental illness
This is insanely wrong as mental illnesses can develop at any point in time of a person’s life due to the stresses of today’s life. It is important to note that everyone is vulnerable to them as they do not discriminate. Many a times people are told to brush real issues as “breakdowns” and this is very wrong.
People with mental illness are usually very dangerous
This is a false assumption and a very dangerous one as well as it adds to the stereotype of people with mental disabilities as aggressive and dangerous individuals who can cause you hard. This is quite rare in most cases especially if dealt with early and properly.
Mental illnesses are a sign of mental disability and brain damage.
Again, this is wrong. Mental illnesses may affect an individual’s cognition but that does not mean it affects their ability to understand complex phenomena, although many may perceive these in a different way than normal. It is important to understand that mental illnesses are just like any other ailment and yet they are considered taboo.
Once you get a mental illness, it is a lifelong disease
This train of thought is very wrong and is usually the case because there is a lot of stigma attached to seeking help and therapy from professionals as when it is treated professionally and diagnosed early, there are more chances of a full recovery.
However, that does not mean that there are not those who live with some form of mental illness throughout their lives and again this is similar to other physical ailments. But this does not mean that an individual cannot live a good standard of life even while living with these conditions. Each person’s experience with a mental condition can be vastly different.