*Mental Health Month: 9 Myths About Mental Illness & Therapy – World of

[image: Mental Health Month: 9 Myths About Mental Illness & Therapy]Even in
today’s advanced world, there’s still much misunderstanding and stigma
surrounding mental illness. Many of us are quick to dismiss people with
mental illness as inferior or less than or wonder why they can’t just snap
out of it.

Many of us also rarely believe that mental illness merits the same
understanding and compassion as medical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer
or heart disease.

Such stigma has devastating effects. It “prevents some people from
accessing support and professional help and breeds shame and secrecy, which
can significantly worsen a person’s condition as well as their prognosis —
even to a point of being life-threatening, in the case of suicidal
ideation,” according to Joyce Marter, LCPC, a psychotherapist and
owner of Urban
Balance >, a multi-site counseling practice in
the greater Chicago area.

That’s why it’s so important to talk about the facts. Below, experts share
accurate information about mental illness.

*1. Myth: Having a mental illness means you’re weak.*

*Fact: *Having a mental illness has nothing to do with strength, and it
can’t be willed away, according to Deborah
PsyD, psychologist and author of *Living with
*Depression >*. Think of it
this way: Would you expect someone to will away their diabetes?

Serani also pointed out that seeking help for mental illness takes strength
— especially in today’s society. “Despite research showing how mental
illness is a real medical illness, society continues to stigmatize people
who have them.”

*2. Myth: Anyone who behaves erratically is
or “borderline.”*

*Fact:* “Bipolar disorder and borderline personality
disorder are
complex biopsychosocial disorders that can usually be successfully managed
through a combination of
psychotherapy> and
medication,” said Dr. John Grohol, founder of Psych Central.com.

But many people, even religious leaders, assume that individuals who
display different aspects of their personality or behave irrationally are
“bipolar,” Marter said.

Marter shared an example of a client who was about to tell her priest that
she’d been hospitalized for an episode and was working really hard to

Unfortunately, before she could, the priest called another person “crazy
and bipolar.” As Marter said, “Like many, it probably would never have
occurred to him that this attractive, intelligent, lovely woman dealt with
a mental illness.”

*3. Myth: People with a mental illness don’t lead productive lives.*

*Fact: *“People with a mental illness who receive treatment with therapy
and medication can live full, enjoyable and productive lives,” Serani said.
Marter regularly sees highly educated and successful people who have mood
disorders, anxiety > disorders,
eating disorders or substance abuse.

Many high-profile people also have struggled with mental illness, including
Harrison Ford, Halle Berry and Terry Bradshaw. In her book*Living with
Depression*, Serani lists over 400 high-profile individuals.

“People with mental illness look like you and me and very well may be you
and me at various points in our lives. We all have issues and nobody is
immune from the effects of mental illness on ourselves, our friends, our
families and our communities,” Marter said.

*4. Myth: Psychotherapy is like talking to a friend. *

*Fact: *While social support is key for well-being, both Marter and Serani
stressed that friends aren’t a replacement for therapy. “Therapy is a place
to process your feelings with an objective professional who will
compassionately collaborate with you to process your feelings, understand
yourself and your relationships, improve your thinking and clarify your
work [and] life vision,” Marter said.

Serani also has heard people call therapy a ripoff because you’re paying
someone to listen to you. In a way, you are, she said, except that you’re
working with “an Olympic medal listener.”

Therapists train many years to become effective listeners in order to gain
understanding, identify and analyze, she said.

*5. Myth: Seeking psychotherapy means you have “serious” problems.*

*Fact: *“Seeing a therapist is healthy, normal, positive and proactive,”
Marter said. Therapy can be valuable in various ways. For instance, it can
teach you strategies to process your emotions and cope with life stressors,
help identify and change negative beliefs or patterns in your life and
understand more about your behaviors, relationships and yourself, she said.

*6. Myth: Therapists tell you what to do.*

*Fact: *Therapists don’t dole out advice. Instead, they help you help
yourself, Serani said. “Advice-giving creates dependency, whereas helping
you discover your behavioral pattern and motives creates self-awareness.”

“The goal of psychotherapy is to empower you with ways to deal with life
issues, learn your triggers and build resiliency, so you can find
well-being,” she said. She likened therapy to the famous Chinese proverb:
“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; you feed
him for a lifetime.”

*7. Myth: Medication is enough to treat mental illness.*

*Fact: *Research shows that psychotherapy, particularly
(CBT), is highly effective for mental illness, saidJohn
Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of *The Available Parent: Radical
Optimism for Raising Teens and

A combination of psychotherapy and medication also is effective. (In fact,
Marter recommended that individuals taking medication participate in
psychotherapy, too.)

Also important is seeing a psychiatrist as opposed to a general
practitioner, Marter said. “There is great variance among physicians
regarding training, knowledge and experience with treating mental
disorders.” Psychiatrists have a deeper understanding of psychotropic

*8. Myth: Having a parent with mental illness guarantees you’ll struggle,

*Fact: *As Duffy said, “though you may inherit a predisposition to certain
mental illnesses, you may never suffer the symptoms, and there are
preventive measures you can take.” Some of these measures include: the
ability to effectively identify emotions, communicate well, cope with
stress and participate in physical activities. Essentially, it’s any
measure that can help you “build resilience for that time if [or] when
mental illness comes along,” he said.

*9. Myth: Alcoholism and substance abuse are the result of poor lifestyle

*Fact: “*Addiction is a
Marter said. She explained that it’s a biological, genetically-based
disorder. “Its hallmark is progressive use in the face of adverse
consequences [such as] effects on school or work, health, finance, legal,

With mental illness, there’s no “us” vs. “them.” Mental illness touches *
everyone. *Please educate yourself, and proceed with compassion.
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