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4 Mental Health Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

common mental health myths, Mental Health Myths

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re far from alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. However, myths about mental health can prevent people from getting the support they need. In this blog post, the team from Eagle View Behavioral Health in Bettendorf, Iowa, debunks some of the most common mental health myths so you can separate fact from fiction and seek out the care you need to improve your overall well-being. 

Myth #1: Mental Health Issues Aren’t “Real” Medical Problems

Mental illnesses are recognized medical conditions that directly impact a person’s brain function, brain chemistry, and behavior. In most cases, mental illnesses are caused by a complex interplay of genetic vulnerabilities, biological factors, and environmental stressors. 

  • Certain gene variations can make someone more vulnerable to developing conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and others. However, genetic factors alone are not a direct cause—they simply increase a person’s overall risk.
  • Biological factors affecting the physical makeup and functioning of the brain can contribute to mental illness in ways researchers are still exploring. Many mental health conditions have been linked to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which are the chemical messengers that allow brain cells to communicate. For example, serotonin imbalances are associated with depression, while dopamine and norepinephrine imbalances can contribute to conditions like ADHD and schizophrenia. It is also possible for changes in brain structure and functioning due to traumatic brain injuries or infections to trigger mental illness.
  • Environmental stressors can increase a person’s risk of struggling with their mental health. No single environmental factor directly causes mental illness on its own. However, exposure to traumatic life events, chronically high stress levels, environmental toxins, and alcohol or drug abuse are all recognized as potential contributing factors in the onset of mental illness. 

Myth #2: Mental Illness Makes People Dangerous

This is perhaps the most dangerous myth about mental illness. The vast majority of people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than anyone else in the general population. In the small subset of individuals who do act violently, there are often co-occurring factors like substance abuse, a history of violence before their illness onset, stronger paranoid symptoms and delusions, or a decision to discontinue taking their psychiatric medication.

The reality is that people with mental health conditions are far more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators of crimes against others. Research shows that people with severe psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and PTSD are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime compared to the general population. Many of these individuals face abuse and victimization regularly, and factors like homelessness, social isolation, and a history of trauma can further increase their risk of victimization.

Myth #3: Successful People Don’t Struggle With Their Mental Health

Mental illnesses can impact people regardless of age, race, religion, income level, or background. In fact, many of history’s most successful people have been diagnosed with mental health conditions that affect their day-to-day functioning. For example:

  • Author J.K. Rowling has been open about her struggles with clinical depression and how writing helped her cope. 
  • Celebrated artist Frida Kahlo experienced bipolar disorder yet created some of the most iconic artworks of the 20th century. 
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama has discussed her experiences with anxiety during the pandemic and political unrest in 2020 and 2021. 
  • Pop icon Lady Gaga is outspoken about her experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a victim of rape.
  • Entrepreneur Elyn Saks manages schizophrenia through medication, psychotherapy, and other self-care practices while maintaining a successful career as a law professor. 

Myth #4: A Mental Health Diagnosis Is a Life Sentence 

It’s true that mental illnesses cannot be completely cured in the same way that you’d cure someone with a bacterial infection by giving them antibiotics or help a person recover from a broken leg with a cast, crutches, and physical therapy. However, the situation is far from hopeless.

Mental illnesses can be effectively managed when a person has access to proper care and support. Treatment for mental illness is personalized to fit individual needs but typically includes medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and community support.

  • Psychiatric medication plays a crucial role in managing mental illness by helping to correct chemical imbalances and stabilize brain function. Medications can be used to control symptoms like depressed mood, anxious thoughts, mania, or hallucinations.
  • Psychotherapy teaches new coping strategies and life skills to those with mental illness. Through techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, people with mental health diagnoses learn to change unhealthy thought patterns, regulate their emotions, process past experiences, and develop healthier behaviors moving forward.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, eating a nutritious diet, practicing stress management, and getting quality sleep, can greatly improve a person’s overall mental health. However, they are most beneficial when combined with other treatments.
  • A strong community-based support system provides shared advice and education from peers, skills training, employment opportunities, independence resources, social acceptance, and an overall network of understanding.

At Eagle View Behavioral Health, we offer free, confidential mental health evaluations and comprehensive treatment services to help you achieve optimal health and well-being. Contact us today to learn more.

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