The Counseling Archives: Harmful Myths Revolving Around Mental Illness

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Debunking common myths related to mental health problems are encountered during counseling. The things you hear during counseling about assumptions on psychological illness will surprise and worry you.

It’s quite startling and disheartening that in this modern age, people still believe in myths concerning mental illnesses. At this point, the majority are expected to be at least oriented about the existence of mental health issues regardless of location or race.

Mental illness is real, and it affects everybody in some random way. However, there are still a lot of negative attitudes towards mental health issues that fuel discrimination and stigma, making it harder for people to reach out and subject themselves to counseling, and for therapists to efficiently promote healing.

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Exposing Mental Health Myths

To completely eradicate unsubstantial and problematic beliefs regarding issues on psychological well-being, here are three of the most common myths that people until now still believe.

On the low end are individuals afflicted with severe and persistent mental illness like schizophrenia in which life experiences tend to be profoundly and concretely limited. On the opposite end are individuals known as the worried well – high functioning individuals who possess an acute awareness of consistent though tolerable difficulties. — Jeremy Clyman Psy.D.

  1. Psychological Illness Is Not Real

Mental illness is as real as cancer or the flu or whatever physical condition that you can think of. Until this day, there are still those who believe that mental health problems are just a “state of mind” which people can easily “get over.” Mental illnesses, if not addressed appropriately, create distress and don’t immediately disappear when someone utters the magic words, “shrug it off.”

The pain felt in certain parts of the body will not quickly subside without proper treatment, and no matter how many rituals or chants you’ve done to call out your gods for a reprieve, physical manifestations don’t go away. This is precisely the same with mental illness.

  1. Mentally Ill Individuals Are Dangerous

No thanks to inaccurate media portrayals, other people see mentally ill persons as violent and potentially dangerous. A lot of people are intolerant of mental illness due to what they see on their screens. Prediction of violence is mostly overrated that whenever someone is recognized as mentally ill, the first thing that comes to mind is intensity and assault. Though the previous attacks seen in the news are committed by personalities who were diagnosed with a specific psychological illness, the scope and nature of violence are more complicated and is not entirely linked with mental issues.

Sadly, there are some mental health professionals who still advocate for the removal or mental/emotional amputation of certain human aspects because they are destructive or self-destructive. — Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC

Mental illness and violence are not exclusive; in fact, researchers disagree that mental illness is a definitive predictor for doing violent acts. Looking at a particular psychological illness, it is concluded that people who struggle with mental illness are no more violent than those without mental illness. Countless reports excluding mentally ill people from certain communities are in itself, already an act of violence; unfortunately, people who suffer from mental diseases are the ones who are usually excluded. Furthermore, it is also essential to note that those who struggle with mental illnesses are more likely to become victims of violence rather than being the purveyors of violence.

  1. There Is No Escape From Mental Illness

Here’s some good news for you non-believers. People do and can recover from psychological conditions. In the advent of modern medicine, different kinds of effective psychotherapeutic treatments, medications, and services are materializing. By now, people should be aware that with proper psychological care, individuals who are mentally ill can survive their condition and go back living their lives productively and healthily.

The benevolent view would be that there will be more access to treatment for everyone. A more cynical view suggests an increase in pathologizing normal experience (e.g., converting shyness into social anxiety disorder) . — Bruce Poulsen Ph.D.

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People have this habit of immediately jumping to conclusions without prior research or proper information-gathering. Though it may take some time and more convincing for the majority to take mental health seriously, changing behaviors and perception can be possible.

Psychiatry Explains The Mysterious Appeal Of Conspiracy Theories

 

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There seems to be something inexplicably compelling about the nature of conspiracy theories—more than 50% of Americans believe in at least one. — Sander van der Linden Ph.D.

Believing in the unbelievable and somewhat unexplainable is a way for people to cope with the uncertainty of the world.

The current president of the United States publicizes conspiracy theories left and right claiming that his phone was wiretapped by President Obama when he was campaigning for the presidency. He also said climate change is just a hoax that was perpetrated by China even though everyone knows that it’s real and it’s happening.

The thing is, President Trump is not the only one who is fond of jumping into conspiracy theories whenever there is a need to explain some complicated issue that is happening around the world. What he doesn’t (or does) realize is that coming from his position of influence and power, touting conspiracies like it was just some piece of unimportant information is damaging.

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Why Conspiracy Theories Are Ruinous

The pain and suffering brought about conspiracy theories can tremendously hurt especially the people who are involved within the context of the story. Say, for example, the parents of the murdered Sandy Hook children, who, until this day, are still being charged by a lot of people of making up stories. Even if the shooting was all over the media, there are still those who believed that the parents of these slain kids who suffered an insurmountable amount of loss and grief are actually lying.

Alex Jones, who is a vocal Trump supporter and the host of Infowars has been generously throwing a lot of conspiracy theories – from the infamous hoaxed global warming to Sesame Street normalizing autism and so much more. But even with the existence of reliable scientific evidence, there are still people who would rather believe someone who is endlessly ranting about conspiracy theories on television. Why?

Conspiracy theories arise surrounding many different events and issues, from assassinations to suicides, terrorist attacks to wars, and scientific theories to medical treatments. — Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D.

The Appealing Characteristics Of Conspiracy Theories

Psychiatry explains why people are drawn to conspiracy theories to the point of relinquishing the truth and believing the lie altogether.

The Definition.Conspiracy theory, in the most straightforward sense, is the assumption that there are influential people who are secretly conspiring to create plans or schemes that are exponentially malevolent. These theories have become quite convincing because of the fact that they are used as a tool to expound peculiarities or baffling realities.

The Dilemma.Things are occurring in the world at this very moment that cannot be elucidated clearly. Often, when individuals are unsure when it comes to change — when they got fired, or when terrorism or a natural disaster has happened — they are inclined to the tendency of wanting to figure out what’s going on. With this also comes the propensity to consider the worst. The combination of figuring out what in the world is happening and considering the worst usually leads to the creation of conspiracy theories.

The Beginning. Conspiracy theories are particularly conceivable to flourish during times of increasing uncertainty in a specific society, most likely after a notorious incident has happened. These significant, often heart-wrenching incidences would instantaneously imply immediate yet threatening changes in society and reality.

The Susceptibility. When one person is more susceptible to conspiracy theories than others, there are a few reasons behind that.

  1. Education Level – conspiracy theories are less likely seen in highly educated individuals and are more likely among the less educated.
  2. Political Ideology – whether left or right, it is found out that the more a person’s political views become radical, the higher chances of believing conspiracies.
  3. Collective Narcissism –due to their nature (thinking they are superior to others), narcissistic folks would rather believe in the unexplainable than settle with substantial evidence.
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In a turbulent, scary world, conspiracy theories are what other people cling to for control and answers. The good news is, everyone’s not predisposed to conspiracies; there are still people who stand out to find truth amidst the liberal lies.

Still, while these conspiracy theories may seem harmless enough, the consequences of these beliefs can be far more damaging than you might realize. — Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.

Ideas About Seasonal Affective Disorder That Aren’t True

 

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The things we tell ourselves can help or hinder our efforts to make lasting changes. — SETH J. GILLIHAN, PHD

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a psychological illness that people tend to acquire when the seasons change. Professionals believe that the disease develops due to the gloomy weather and the fact that clouds usually cover the sun. As it is a form of depression, you can also expect the patient to experience bouts of helplessness, apathy, unexplainable exhaustion, and hopelessness.

According to surveys, approximately five percent of the American population deals with SAD on a yearly basis. That’s over 150,000 people – a significant quantity that should allow truths about the disease to come out, frankly speaking. Despite that, the patients with this illness still face misunderstandings after getting diagnosed with the disease.

To offer you more insight, here are some ideas about Seasonal Affective Disorder that aren’t true.

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  1. SAD Is Not A Real Illness

The first myth that’s been going around for ages pertains to the notion that it’s a make-believe disorder and that the folks who are going through it have an existing depression. They merely have the “winter blues,” as people call it. This idea came to light as researchers from Auburn University revealed the sun exposure and location have nothing to do with the depressive episodes that their respondents experience during the changing of the seasons.

Although that sounds legitimate, SAD can go on for months and isn’t just curable with exercise and a different sleeping pattern. You’ll most likely need therapy to overcome it; that’s why it’s wrong to claim that it’s unreal until all indications say so.

As she thought more about it, she realized that she had usually felt pretty depressed as the winter went on and would feel better as the spring started. John Cline Ph.D.

  1. Only Women Experience It

The majority of the patients who receive a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder belong to the female population. While that is a fact, it isn’t true that only women feel blue when seasons change. In reality, some men go to psychiatrists at such times, thinking that they need help for clinical depression. But then the results show that they have SAD instead.

The thing about most disorders is that they don’t choose the affected people based on sex, age, and race. Everyone beyond their 30s is prone to acquiring this particular condition as the hormones that make you dynamic begins to decline around that age. Nonetheless, even children or young adults may also develop Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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  1. There’s No Treatment For SAD

It is dismaying to hear that some patients go through the illness without seeing a therapist as they assume that there’s nothing the latter can do to help. That thought can never be real because there are treatments available for SAD.

The most recognized one is the light therapy. The professional will subject the patient to a fluorescent light that’s much brighter compared to other lightings. According to studies, it can improve the mood and disposition of the person significantly.

There’s also psychotherapy wherein the counselor aims to teach the individual to identify their issues and manage it well. It’s more on conversing, and it may allow the patient not to feel lonely.

You can combine both treatments and even get medication in case a single therapy isn’t enough.

What the world needs is for all of us to accept and love ourselves, despite our limitations and difficulties. — Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC

Beliefs About Schizophrenia – Hit Or Miss?

Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million individuals across the globe, according to the latest census of the World Health Organization. We should ideally know enough about the disorder, considering it isn’t a newly discovered mental illness by any means. But other than hearing about its symptoms, e.g., hallucination, movement and thought dysfunctionality, and overall lack of drive to do anything worthwhile, the fact that there are billions of inhabitants in this planet still makes the disease unfamiliar for many people.

 

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For that reason, our aim today is to offer some truth and dispel any baseless belief about schizophrenia. Continue reading below.

 

Hit: It Is An Actual Mental Illness

The first thing to talk about is the validity of the psychiatric ailment. In the past, a lot of experts who didn’t have faith in psychiatry said that schizophrenia is a make-believe illness. Ronald Laing, in particular, popularized the theory that the condition is practically a sign of sanity. Despite that, schizophrenia remains a real mental disorder.

And, yes, schizophrenia is a psychosis as opposed to a neurosis. The difference is that psychotics see and hear things that aren’t there while neurotics, who can be seriously disabled, at least don’t suffer from hallucinations. — Stephen Mason Ph.D.

Miss: The Disease Is Synonymous With A Multiple Personality Disorder

The belief that schizophrenic people lead a dual life is not based on evidence. Even though they are delusional sometimes and can’t function like a regular human being when an episode happens, these folks are still aware that they have a single identity. That’s what differentiates them from patients with a split personality, so it isn’t acceptable to make both diseases synonymous with each other.

 

Hit: Schizophrenia Isn’t Entirely Hereditary Or Due To Poor Rearing

Since the illness occurs in the brain, there isn’t a 100% guarantee that a parent can transmit schizophrenia to their children. The probability may increase as the number of schizophrenic folks within the family rises, for sure, but that can’t be the only cause.

Similarly, the disorder isn’t a result of corrupt parenting either. An individual can have the best childhood anyone can ever dream of and still acquire schizophrenia years after because of external influences, such as drugs, trauma, etc.

 

Miss: Patients Can Never Be Intelligent

This myth has something to do with the conventional notion that a mental disease makes it difficult for sufferers to take regular examinations at school. The same isn’t far off for people who have schizophrenia, of course. Just like the patients with other neurological disorders, however, their smarts lie elsewhere.

To some, it makes no sense to consider why an individual might be hearing voices telling them they are worthless, smelling a poisonous gas in their home, or believing that a government agency has targeted them. If one sees these experiences as mere manifestations of biologic abnormality as opposed to a complex biopsychosocial problem, then psychotic symptoms will appear devoid of any meaning or significance. Mark L. Ruffalo D.Psa., L.C.S.W.

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Most of the time, schizophrenic individuals excel in the creativity field. They can be great at dancing, drawing, painting, or various artistic stuff. Hence, no one can say they aren’t intelligent when they’re gaining accolades through arts, right?

 

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Hit: It Is Treatable

Due to the symptoms not being wholly caused by grief, anger, or fear, schizophrenia may be more treatable – not curable – than depression, anxiety, etc. In reality, half of the patients who receive regular treatment may improve or recover from the illness. The ones who will carry it forever are, not surprisingly, the individuals who won’t accept medical intervention.

 

Miss: The Disorder Makes Patients Incapable Of Living A Normal Life

Assuming that the person doesn’t deal with severe episodes, it’s not impossible for him or her to have a mundane life wherein they don’t need the assistance of a minder. It is a blessing as well that many organizations are open to hiring employees who suffer from certain mental diseases. Their goal is to bring some regularity in the patient’s life and hopefully become one of the instruments for their recuperation.

For people to live healthy, successful, socially active lives, it is necessary that a person does not “become” their disorder. — Robert T Muller Ph.D.

Is Following A Religion A Sign Of Mental Illness?

During the hardest time in your life, who or what do you gain strength from to get over it?

Some may say that they turn to their family or friends. After all, it feels calming to talk to your loved ones regarding your issues and possibly receive any advice from them. When these people return to their respective homes and lives, however, other problematic individuals find peace and solace from religious faith.

When people think of their mortality, most don’t want to be alone as they make that transition to the other side. That’s when someone might turn to spirituality and/or religion for support. — Kalila Borghini, LCSW

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In this article, we won’t discuss whether there’s indeed a God or not. Instead, we’ll answer the question: “Is following a religion a sign of mental illness?”

Read on to know more.

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Facts About Child Mental Health That You Shouldn’t Ignore

 

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A parent’s love for his or her child goes beyond what’s understandable for people who don’t have kids yet. The former will go to great lengths to make sure that the offspring receives all the nurturing he or she requires to thrive on this planet. And in case the child faces a problem, the parents feel hurt as well and may want to keep them away from danger as much as possible.

For this reason, it should no longer surprise you if someone whose kid suffers from a psychiatric disorder gets upset over a false assumption you probably made about their child’s condition. They all have too much to bear on their shoulders even without outsiders thinking they know a lot.

To avoid becoming burdensome to people, therefore, you should learn some facts about child mental health today.

Fact #1: Psychiatric Diseases Are Real

A brain disorder rarely has a physical manifestation, but it doesn’t mean that the mental issue isn’t there. Science can tell you that a lot of the irregular symptoms you may notice in one kid – not the others – may point toward a more severe condition.

The first question to ask when a child is not behaving is whether the child’s body and brain are experiencing safety. If not, the top priority is to figure out what to do to help the child feel safe. — Dona Matthews Ph.D.

Fact #2: The Illness Isn’t Just An Act

It’s wrong also to assume that the signals a child shows are merely a part of a fraud that he or she created. Though the youngsters may be smart, they can’t have perfect acting skills that early to keep on seeming depressed or unable to comprehend others’ words.

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Fact #3: Kids Of All Races Can Acquire A Mental Disease

Ethnicity has nothing to do with the probability of a child gaining some psychological illness. At most, the ailment is already in their genes since their conception.

Social media has amplified feelings of loneliness for many young people. Before social media, if someone was left out of a party, get together, or other social function, they might hear about it, but they would never see what they were actually missing out on. — Amy Quinn, MA, MS, LMFT

Fact #4: The Disorder Didn’t Develop Due To Parenting Issues

If you’re considering that the psychiatric condition of the troubled kid is the result of the parents’ inability to guide him or her in life, then you’re gravely mistaken. Childrearing problems may just influence the little ones’ behavior but not their neurological operation.

Fact #5: Outgrowing An Illness May Be Impossible

As sad as it sounds, the odds of a kid outperforming autism, bipolar, or paranoia are slim. Once the indications appear, the mental disease may stay with the child for life. Being trained to function as a regular youngster can only do so much for the patient as well.

Fact #6: Alternative Treatment Options Are Available

When the doctor suggests a medication to treat the disorder, it is a parent’s right to not agree with the idea. There’s still no absolute cure for most psychiatric illness; that’s why the drugs may not be as effective as you think. There are different forms of therapy for children that you may look into instead that don’t have mood-altering side effects.

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It is important to convey your love and support. Try to be open to what your child has to say and refrain from dismissing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. — Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC

To sum things up, a child can struggle with his or her mental health regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. How the parents brought them up isn’t a contributing factor as well because even a well-loved kid can acquire a psychiatric disease.

If you want to be of assistance to them, you may start by memorizing the facts above, thank you very much.

Helpful Habits The You Need To Practice To Grow Your Positive Mindset

Suffering has long been romanticized in literature, art, and folklore as transformative and empowering. — Susanne Babbel MFT, PhD

The power of positivity is often underestimated. A positive outlook can permeate into all facets of your life from work, relationships, and personal health. Often, we just need some reminding to look on the brighter side of things to get us back on track – the following are some helpful reminders to keep in mind.

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Busting Myths That Revolve Around Autism

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Saying that dealing with autism is difficult isn’t enough to describe what a patient goes through on a regular basis. First, there’s the rollercoaster of emotions that get triggered when sights or noises overwhelm their senses. At times, the person experiences the opposite of that, which makes others think their head is in the cloud.

Many parents begin to feel upset and overwhelmed by the burden of not being able to be there to help their child. The feeling of urgency and the need to get to their children to help them through the meltdown is often all these parents can think of. — Bridgette Montgomery, LCSW

Of course, a day cannot pass without the stigma surrounding autism shows itself. The problem is that the non-autistic individuals often have a robust perception of what it’s like to have this condition before they get to meet one who has it. Thus, they either embarrass the patient or make a fool out of themselves for not knowing much about autism.

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To prevent the latter possibilities, find out the truth behind the myths about autistic people.

  1. They Have A Mental Disease

Autism isn’t and will never be a mental illness. What constitutes the said term is a disorder that a person develops after an incident happens in their life. The former condition, on the other hand, is something that the patient is born with.

  1. They Can’t Empathize With Anyone

Empathy isn’t lacking in an autistic individual. There are moments, however, that they can’t display it the same way that regular people do.

Each child is unique genetically, environmentally, and in every other way, with thousands of interacting variables creating a complex and particular human being. One size can never fit all when it comes to knowing how to respond to, and what to expect from, a challenging young human being. — Dona Matthews Ph.D.

  1. They Are Uncontrollable

Having the condition doesn’t guarantee that the patient will be violent. It’s possible that any outburst stems from emotional disturbance or sensory overkill, but they are still not crazy.

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  1. They Prefer To Be Friendless

Autistic folks do have friends. The thing is, it may take longer for them to find one they can trust than the others. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of maintaining a friendship.

  1. They Are Anti-Social

Albeit autistic individuals are indeed not the type who will greet strangers in a gathering and try to befriend them, they still have a social life. Only, it can be restricted to a select few.

When a person doesn’t make eye contact and gives no indication they’ve heard you, we may assume they don’t understand or aren’t paying attention. That isn’t necessarily accurate. — Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC

  1. They Are Dumb

The brain function of an individual with autism may be different from the rest, but it doesn’t entail that he or she is incapable of learning. There are even instances when someone with this condition turns out to be smarter than regular folks.

  1. They Are Forever Single

All bets are off the table when it comes to love. An autistic person can find his or her life partner too. They just need to work hard for it; yet, who doesn’t do that these days?

  1. They Got It From Vaccines

A couple of decades ago, such a belief came about when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published research, stating that the vaccination that toddlers receive for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) causes autism. In truth, that claim has plenty of loopholes, and the drug is still beneficial for kids.

  1. They Can Outgrow The Condition

It will honestly be amazing if this myth becomes a reality because it can give hope to the patients and their families. Sadly, however, studies reveal that no one ever succeeded in beating the ailment.

  1. They Have A Single Type Of Autism

The word ‘autism’ only acts as an umbrella for various forms of disorders. There are high- and low-functioning types and their symptoms are diverse, so it’s erroneous to assume that all autistic individuals belong to just one category.