Mental illness can be a confusing topic for most people. There are many misunderstandings about what it means to have an emotional disorder. As a therapist, I often hear clients come into my office ashamed or embarrassed about seeking therapy. Many people feel that they are alone in their struggles, that they are the only one dealing with a particular concern. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will suffer from a mental illness in their life.
There are a number of concerns that clients have when coming in for therapy. The first is that people may be afraid of opening up about why they are seeking therapy because they think that they are going “crazy”. They are afraid that when a therapist hears why they are coming in for therapy, that the therapist is going to require psychiatric hospitalization. In the majority of cases, therapist do not hospitalize unless the client is going to hurt themselves or others. In many cases of people that think that they are going “crazy”, it is because they are having emotions and feelings that are all pervasive and can elicit a feeling of fear of a worst case scenario. It is very gratifying as a therapist to see rapid relief of a client after giving an explanation of what is occurring.
Another common concern for clients is that they have some type of personality flaw. They believe that they feel a certain way because of who they are as a person. I will hear something to the effect of “If I wasn’t such a negative person, I wouldn’t feel so bad. I think that I am just a pessimist.” There can also be a lot of self-blame for their emotional concerns. “If I had a stronger will or character, I would not be feeling this way”. When the depression is able to be managed, the client will feel less negative and pessimistic and it will be easier to stay in a more emotionally balanced place.
There is also the belief that a person struggling with a mental illness is weak or should have more control over their emotions. Most people do not want to be anxious or depressed. If it was really a will or choice to get themselves out of their emotional concern then I believe most people would use their will. This is not to say that there are not proactive ways of working on their concerns. Without the right tools or understanding, it is a great challenge for most people to work out of depression or anxiety on their own. Once shown tools to use, individuals can make improvements on their own.
There are two main reasons why individuals are affected by mental illness. The first is biological. There are chemical changes in the brain that have occurred, causing mental disorders. These changes in the brain are different depending on the illness. The second reason for a mental illness has to do with a person’s environment. If someone is living or working in a hostile or abusive situation, this can trigger emotional disturbances. This is also true for when a tragic event occurs.
I hope through explaining some common misperceptions, you are able to have a better understanding of mental illness. I also hope that if you are struggling with mental illness, this helps to give you relief about any misconceptions you have about yourself. Until next time, take care of yourself and be well.