John M. Grohol, Psy.D, listed the Top 10 Myths About Mental Health at Pychcentral. Despite a lot of community education in the last few years, many of these myths remain firmly planted in the minds and hearts of the general public.
Let’s examine and dispel the myths in order to gain a better understanding of disorders that trouble hundreds of thousands of individuals. Listed below are the first 5 common myths:
1. Mental health problems are uncommon.
False! The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 1 out of every 5 Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder within their lifetimes.
2. Mental health problems are caused by the person suffering from them.
Mental health problems arise from a complex combination of indiviudal, medical, and social factors. Dr. Grohol correctly notes that people must take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior associated with disorders; however, they are not to blame for them. It is essential that people struggling with mental health problems take responsibility, NOT blame. There is a difference.
3. Mental health problems are purely biological or genetic in nature.
Mental health problems come from many causes, and usually not just one. They are more than bad choices, bad genes, or bad chemical imbalances. Many issues and vulnerabilities work together to create them. That’s why they can’t be solved with just one strategy, like a particular pill, or a certain style of psychotherapy.
4. Mental health disorders are often life-long and difficult to treat.
Many mental health problems are short term, and can be resolved with recovery-based treatment strategies. In fact, as Dr. Grohol notes, most medications (with a few notable exceptions, such as those prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) prescribed for mental disorders should be taken for short-term (under a year) symptom relief.
5. Psychotherapy takes forever and gets into childhood issues.
We probably have Dr. Freud to thank for this one (he was actually a neurologist, by the way). The system of therapy associated with Dr. Freud and often portrayed in movies and on television is psychoanalysis, which fits this stereotype. Modern psychotherapy approaches do not. Most use a cognitive-behavioral approach which is short-term and solution-focused. Cognitive-behavioral approaches help people identify irrational thinking that leads to illness-creating behavior and emotions. It is often possible to correct irrational thinking in a matter of weeks or a few months.
David J. Wright, MA., MSW
WKPIC Doctoral Intern