In this article I will be challenging a number of stereotypes attached to mental illness. I hope to inform people of the reality 1 in 4 people face every day whilst also helping to banish the stigma surrounding mental health problems.
Myth #1: Schizophrenia is the same thing as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)
Example: “He says he hears voices…I think he’s got multiple personality disorder.”
Fact: When people talk about schizophrenia; a common misconception is that sufferers hear the voices of their other personalities. In reality, the two disorders (schizophrenia and MPD) are completely different. Schizophrenic are prone to delusions, hallucinations and acute paranoia. MPD however, manifests through more than one personality within the same person, usually without the person themselves actually being aware. The 2 disorders also differ in cause or origin. MPD often begins when a child cannot come to terms with a traumatic event or time whereas schizophrenia is thought to be a genetic disorder above any other possible causes although this is not yet definitive.
Myth #2: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is just being neat and tidy
Example: “Oh my gosh, she hates it when her desk isn’t tidy…she must be a bit OCD.”
Fact: The fact that this terminology is so overused really does detract from the seriousness of OCD. Yes, admittedly OCD can be surrounding cleanliness but that is not where the thought processes end. OCD is a whirlwind of intrusive and sometimes disturbing thoughts (obsessions) that seem to only lessen or temporarily disappear through performing certain rituals (compulsions). The disorder arises from extreme stress and anxiety leading to thousands of different behaviours performed in order to compensate for the disturbing thoughts. Next time you think about using this term; just remember that your thought passes while somebody with OCD struggles to be free of their thought for long periods of time.
Myth #3: Every anorexic is stick-thin
Example: “He can’t be anorexic…he’s not skinny enough!”
Fact: Believe it or not, anorexia isn’t really about food and weight at its core. Eating disorders are so much more complicated than that. The stereotypical starving, skinny image associated with anorexia ignores the much deeper cause, commonly a need for control.
Myth #4: Sadness equates to depression
Example: “She broke up with her boyfriend…she’s so depressed.”
Fact: Feeling sad is something pretty much everyone experiences. However, sadness comes to an end when the person finds solace through tears or talking about the problem. In contrast, a depressed person feels sad, mostly without improvement as no amount of crying or talking seems to help. A sad person can still experience a range of emotions but those with depression tend to have restricted emotional range. Another big difference between depression and sadness is perspective. Sadness doesn’t necessarily make it hard for a person to have a rational perspective. Depression can frequently lead to distorted perceptions. It is much easier to identify the root cause of sadness whereas depression can’t always be linked to a life event.
Myth #5: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is just an excuse for naughty children
Example: “He’s so naughty…must be ADHD.”
Fact: One of the biggest myths about people with ADHD is that they’re the ‘naughty’ kids. While behavioural issues can be part of ADHD it’s not because they don’t want to behave, or because they’re not trying. Also, just because a person is well-behaved, it doesn’t automatically they aren’t ADHD. It is important to remember that hyperactivity and misbehaviour aren’t always present. Understanding that is so crucial to understanding our society. ADHD is normally picked up on during the early years but that doesn’t mean to say that it is exclusively a childhood disorder. Some sufferers will “grow out” of their ADHD but a surprising number will continue to have ADHD into their adult lives.
Myth #6: Mood swings indicate bipolar disorder
Example: “She’s so up and down…talk about bipolar.”
Fact: The reality of bipolar is far more complex than the majority of people realise. Yes, the well-known cycles of fluctuating moods as well as varying energy levels serve as a background for diagnosis but the disorder affects sufferers in many more ways. The thoughts, behaviours and feelings of someone with bipolar can be infiltrated by the extremities of their everyday lives. The illness defines the polar opposites of human experience. Thinking can range from psychotic, sometimes delusional thought patterns producing abnormally fast and creative associations, to extreme apparent limitation so profound that no efficient mental capacity can be attained. Moods can swing rapidly between euphoria then despair or irritability to suicidal. Bipolar isn’t crying and laughing; it’s the world around moving out of sync with the world within.
Myth #7: People with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have limited abilities
Example: “I heard he’s got ASD…they find it difficult to understand things.”
Fact: People with ASD display a wide range of intellectual abilities, from restricted mental capacity to superior intelligence (Asperger’s Syndrome). Some people with ASD show exceptional talents despite finding conventional subjects difficult. Along with these difficulties, ASD can bring individual strengths along with special abilities. Some of these include a keen eye for detail, mathematical skills, musicality and honesty (sometimes brutal)! That doesn’t mean everyone with ASD has such special talents and you shouldn’t take this as a given. Just don’t underestimate people with ASD!
I sincerely hope you found this article to be an eye-opening yet enjoyable read. Keep fighting the stigma and dance even though they tell you to stop!