Mental health conditions used to be something to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, this meant that many serious cases have gone untreated over the years. Thankfully it has become less stigmatized over time, but the different conditions are still quite misunderstood.
In honor of World Mental Health Awareness month, here is a brief look at five of the most commonly misunderstood conditions:
1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Myth: Perceived as someone who is just a neat freak or perfectionist.
Truth: It is more than just some quirky habits or desires to have things be perfect. Obsessive or compulsive disorders can cause very deep distress in the individual experiencing it.
Treatment: Typical treatment for OCD includes psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and in some cases medication is prescribed.
Myth: Thought to be a general experience of feeling down and that the individual can simply snap out of it.
Truth: Clinical depression is defined as the individual’s inability to function fully in day-to-day life. Other symptoms include a decrease in energy, a change in appetite, sleeping more and suicidal ideation over a period of time.
Treatment: Therapy with a professional clinical psychologist or therapist is required in order to potentially identify the root cause and decide the correct medication and treatment.
Myth: Feelings of anxiety can be cured by adopting healthier lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthy diets.
Truth: Along with other symptoms of stress, the telltale anxiety symptom is that of constant dread over everything and nothing in particular. It is the compulsive concern about the uncontrollable situations or things that could (but would never really) happen in life.
Treatment: The typical treatment methods for anxiety are similar to that of depression. Therapy sessions with a psychologist to help determine the root problems, and in some cases medication.
4. Bipolar Disorder
Myth: Often mistaken for depression or schizophrenia.
Truth: The stark shifts in mood or energy. Individuals experience prolonged or profound bouts of depression alternated with periods of excessively elevated (manic) or irritable moods.
Treatment: Urgent psychiatric treatment is needed in order to start the correct medication.
Myth: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is commonly misunderstood as an intentional negative behavior and tactic to avoid responsibilities. It is incorrectly believed that the individual has full control over their behavior and that they choose to be unruly.
Truth: Individuals with ADHD lack persistence and are unable to focus on any single task at hand, they also experience excessive talking or fidgeting (hyperactivity) and react to situations impulsively. ADHD impairs major life activities and is found in many individuals from youths to adults alike.
Treatment: The recommended treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy to monitor improvements.
Mental health is no longer seen as a sign of weakness or something to “just get over”. It is very difficult to empathize if you or someone close to you have not had your own experience with mental health. That’s why it is so important that everyone be education so that they may understand better. Individuals with mental health conditions will experience less prejudice and more acceptance when awareness is increased.