Mental Illness: Myths vs. Facts

Bipolar Disorder

MYTH

FACT

  1. There’s only one type of bipolar disorder.
  2. People with bipolar disorder are just moody.
  3. Bipolar disorder is mostly mania (or “highs”).
  4. People can stop taking their medication once their bipolar disorder is under control.
  1. There are seven types of bipolar disorder.
  2. Mood changes for people with bipolar disorder can be so extreme they have difficulty functioning.
  3. People with bipolar disorder experience it differently, but there are episodes of depression, or “lows,” as well as “highs”.
  4. Medication helps manage bipolar disorder symptoms and prevent extreme high or low episodes. When someone stops taking their medication, their symptoms will often return quickly. Individuals should always talk to their doctor about weaning off bipolar disorder medication.

Schizophrenia

MYTH

FACT

  • People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities.
  • People with schizophrenia are dangerous.
  • All people with schizophrenia hear voices.
  • Most people develop schizophrenia in childhood.
  • People with schizophrenia can’t live a normal life.
  • Dissociative identity disorder (DID)—not schizophrenia—is a mental health condition in which a person has two or more distinct personality states.
  • People with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
  • Schizophrenia is a complex illness that each individual experiences differently. Some people with schizophrenia may hear or see things that aren’t there, others may deal with disorganized thinking or emotional flatness. Learn more about schizophrenia symptoms here.
  • Schizophrenia diagnoses are uncommon in children. Symptoms tend to begin appearing for men in the late teens and early 20s, and in the late 20s to early 30s for women.
  • Although there is no cure, schizophrenia can be treated and managed in a variety of ways. Living well with schizophrenia doesn’t have to be the exception—it should be the expectation!

Borderline Personality Disorder

MYTH

FACT

  • People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are manipulative, attention-seeking, and uncaring.
  • People with BPD act out by choice.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is untreatable.
  • People with BPD act in many ways, but most unhealthy coping skills (lying or impulsivity, for example) are actually attempts at dealing with the stress, anxiety, and unhappiness associated with BPD.
  • People with BPD don’t choose to feel out of control. In fact, BPD almost always develops because of childhood trauma—and no child chooses to be a victim.
  • Treatment for BPD is not only possible, it can also be highly effective. The important thing to note is that treatment should be tailored to a person’s unique needs and experiences.

Depression

MYTH

FACT

  • Depression isn’t a legitimate illness, it’s just a mindset.
  • People with depression just need to snap out of it/exercise/eat healthy.
  • Once you feel better, your depression is cured.
  • Depression is just as much a real health condition as diabetes or asthma—it’s caused by a combination of biological, environmental, and social factors. It affects a person’s thoughts, emotions, and actions and requires understanding and medical care.
  • Depression is not due to a negative attitude or laziness. It is a condition that requires a diagnosis and treatment. With quality care, people with depression can manage their symptoms and get back to the life they choose.
  • People with depression can enter recovery, meaning they have found effective ways of managing their symptoms. Some people’s recovery lasts a long time. Other people may experience symptoms again and need to adjust their treatment plan.

Anxiety Disorders

MYTH

FACT

  • Anxiety isn’t a true illness–everyone gets stressed out sometimes.
  • People with anxiety should avoid stressful situations.
  • Medication is the only way to treat anxiety disorders.
  • While everyone experiences stress or feels anxious from time to time, anxiety disorders are different. Anxiety disorders impact a person’s ability to function in life, affecting both emotional and physical health. Learn more about the difference between stress and anxiety here.
  • Avoiding stressful situations can make anxiety disorders worse. It’s more important to learn coping skills—anxiety doesn’t have to control your life.
  • While medication can be helpful for many people, therapy is often just as (or more) effective in the long term.

 

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