5 Myths About Mental Illness

BY SUZANNE ALDRIDGE

Staff Writer

Unlike cancer or the flu, illnesses like depression and anxiety often do not show physical symptoms and can be written off as not real or made up, especially with students in college who often feel too busy to worry about mental health.

Because of this, many mental illnesses are often paired with misguided ideas that can turn into myths. Here are a few common ones:

  1. People with mental illnesses are insane.

Many college students use this phrase when describing a teacher, or another student.

However, there is no diagnosis of “insanity” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a manual used by most mental health professionals to classify mental illnesses.

Instead, insanity is used in the legal system to determine whether an individual is able to “appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of (their) acts,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

But in the mental health field, individuals are diagnosed with a specific mental disorder, rather than just insanity.

2. Individuals with bipolar disorder become really happy, then really sad.”

Bipolar disorder does include happiness and sadness, however that is not all that people experience. Bipolar disorder comes in two parts: mania and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says mania involves symptoms such as talking very fast, taking on new activities, sleeping little and impulsivity along with extreme happiness. Depression is the opposite of mania, including more symptoms of feeling sad, tired and even suicidal thoughts along with losing interest in activities once enjoyed according to the NIMH.

Bipolar disorder may start to appear when in college, as almost half of all cases start to show symptoms before reaching 25 years of age according to the NIMH.

  1. Schizophrenics are unable to live normal, healthy lives.

While it is true that some people with extreme cases of schizophrenia need psychiatric hospitalization, the NIMH says many diagnosed with schizophrenia are able to lead independent, satisfying lives.

Antipsychotic medications, along with psychosocial treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy and self-help groups contribute to schizophrenia treatment. Other treatments are continuing to develop, making it easier for individuals in college with this disorder to live healthy lives and graduate with a degree.

  1. People diagnosed with depression are just lazy.

The NIMH says that depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, with 9.3 percent reporting with the illness from the ages of 18-25. Depression symptoms include decreased energy, fatigue and a loss in interest in activities, according to the NIMH, however the illness is often more severe than laziness.

Causes of depression may be genetic, biological, environmental and psychological.

“Brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression,” says the NIMH.

This demonstrates that there is a difference in people without depression who are lazy, and those with the illness.

  1. Those with eating disorders should just eat more.

With most eating disorders occurring while people are young, going to college with new found independence can make it difficult to keep on the path of recovery.

The NIMH says eating disorders are treatable medical illnesses rather than a controllable desire to be thin. Just like someone with depression may not be able to get out of bed to go to class, someone with anorexia may not be able to eat enough to maintain a healthy body weight.

Eating disorders are more than just a diet, but rather an uncontrollable need to have power over food.

Mental health is very important, but it becomes difficult for those with illnesses to seek out and receive help when stigmas and false ideas are so commonly believed, especially in college. Finding out the truth about mental illness is vital when it comes to helping yourself and others deal with such diseases.

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