Shannon Schell, LMHC
Debunking 5 Myths About Mental Health
We all have loved ones, family, and friends who have resisted going to therapy because of a strong belief set they may have acquired related to the stigma that exists around mental health treatment. This stigma is deeply rooted in our society and has prevented many people from getting the help and care that they need.
As a therapist, I am naturally a strong advocate for mental health and feel it is important to debunk the myths and educate on the facts about mental health treatment.
Myth 1: I am weak if I go to therapy.
Often, this is accompanied by the belief of, “If I am strong enough, I should be able to face these issues on my own.” While exercising routinely, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest, and avoiding alcohol and drugs can improve mental health and well being, sometimes more of an intervention is necessary. Making the decision to go see a therapist may be a life altering and imperative next step. Mental health therapists help their clients to improve self-awareness and gain different perspectives around an existing problem.
Many successful individuals have attended therapy including past presidents, prominent business owners, celebrities, and lawyers. The best therapists also have their own therapists that they turn to for help. It is not a weakness to attend therapy. It is an act of courage to acknowledge that there are issues to be worked on and to seek help for self-improvement and growth.
Myth 2: Therapy never fixes anything and doesn’t work.
Therapy requires a high degree of commitment to want to work on and change thought processes and behaviors. Thought processes and behaviors don’t change overnight, and there is not a subscribed amount of time in which these will change. While therapists may have some “magic,” they don’t have the magic to fix problems for you and make your decisions. Therapy is a collaborative process in which therapists partner with their clients to create goals and establish a treatment plan that centers around the client achieving the personal growth he/she is striving for.
Myth 3: Physical health is more important than mental health.
Physical health and mental health are absolutely connected and entwined with each other. Mental health issues can contribute to physical health problems and vice versa. For example, someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may also experience somatic symptoms that include sweating, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle tension. Medical conditions may also have an impact on mental health. According to the DSM-5, a differential diagnosis for Generalized Anxiety Disorder is anxiety disorder due to another medical condition. In other words, certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, may have a physiological effect on an individual’s anxiety and worry. To sum it all up, mental health is JUST AS important as physical health.
Myth 4: I am the only one facing this mental health issue.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults experiences a mental health condition every year. NAMI also cites that one in 17 adults also lives with a serious mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. According to NAMI, about 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder making it one of the most common mental health disorders. The same organization cites that an estimated 16 million adults in the U.S. have had at least one major depressive episode in the last year. These staggering numbers tell us that you are not alone. These disorders are treatable.
For more information and statistics, please visit: www.nami.org
Myth 5: People CHOOSE to be addicted to drugs and alcohol.
The word “choose” suggests that people with addictions have the will power to avoid drugs and alcohol and can simply stop them cold turkey if they choose to do so. In my professional opinion and experience this is not accurate. Someone may choose to try a drug initially, but a person in the throes of addiction does not choose to be in that type of pain. A person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol is suffering from a disease that often requires a medical intervention to treat it. This can be explained by the science behind addiction and the reward pathway that exists in our brains. Through repeated use the body relies on some drugs to maintain rewarding feelings. In other words, the person who is addicted may no longer be able to experience pleasure through natural rewards, such as food or sex, and only able to feel pleasure through repeated use of the drug. Brain scans show that addiction changes the structure of the brain which clearly indicates that will power does not play a role.
Being armed with the facts about mental illness lessens the stigma around it. As a community, we can help spread awareness so that individuals struggling with mental illness can be free to seek the help and support they need without feeling shame.
If you or a loved one is in need of support, feel free to click here to send me a message or contact me at (813) 501-2703. I am currently accepting new clients for evenings and Saturday mornings. My office is located in the Carrollwood area at 13801 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. Tampa, FL.