Myth #5: Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows a lack of willpower. People with a substance abuse problem are morally weak or "bad".
Fact: Addiction is a neurobiological disease that results from changes in the brain's chemistry. It is not the result of a character flaw or weakness. Addiction often results when a person with untreated mental illness tries to self-medicate using drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction may also mask additional underlying mental illnesses. It frequently results in behavioral and emotional problems. Addiction has nothing to do with being a bad person.
Myth #6: Mental health disorders are often life-long and difficult to treat.
Fact: Many times individuals, with a newly diagnosed disorder such as depression or anxiety, are prescribed medication. Yet, when they question their physician about how long they must remain on medication, they are only told As long as you need to be. Actually, most medications, with a few exceptions, (such as those prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) prescribed for mental disorders should be taken for short-term (under a year) symptom relief.
Myth #7: Persons with mental illness never recover.
Fact: Studies have shown that people with mental illnesses can recover and resume normal activities. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities. With treatment and support most mentally ill individuals can lead productive lives, work, pursue education and religion, enjoy hobbies, recreational activities, and contribute actively to society. For others, recovery implies the reduction or complete remission of symptoms.
Myth #8: Mental health problems are best treated by my primary care physician.
Fact: Mental disorders should be taken as seriously as any potentially chronic and disabling medical condition; therefore, mental disorders are best treated by a trained specialist: a mental health professional; psychiatrist, psychologist, or other clinician specially trained to diagnose and treat mental health problems. If you were diagnosed with cancer, wouldn't you want to consult with an oncologist? Your primary care doctor is a good place to start to discuss your symptoms, rule out other medical conditions or medication side effects that may help explain your symptoms, and to get an appropriate mental health referral. It has been estimated that up to ½ of all visits to primary care physicians are due to conditions that are caused or exacerbated by mental illness.
Myth #9: Depression is a normal part of the aging process.
Fact: It is not normal for older adults to be depressed. Signs of depression in older people include a loss of interest in activities, sleep disturbances and lethargy. Depression in the elderly is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Depression is not synonymous with dementia. Elderly white males have the highest suicide rate when compared to all other groups (triple the overall rate). With treatment and support, depressed older individuals can enjoy their golden years.
Myth #10: I can handle my own mental health problems, and if I can't, I'm weak.
Fact: The first part of this statement may not be so much a myth; most people who have a mental health problem do not seek treatment. They rely on traditional coping mechanisms (exercise, socializing, working harder, etc.) to deal with their symptoms. Many diagnostic mental health problems may be mild enough for this type of self-care to be sufficient. Talking with friends, reading a self-help book on the subject, or visiting an online self-help support group may be enough to get you through tougher times. However, a serious mental illness cannot be willed away. When problems become chronic or even worsen despite your efforts to cope, you should take that as a strong indication that additional help is needed. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away. Getting treatment for a mental illness does not mean you are weak, weak-minded or weak-willed. It simply means that you realize and accept your human and natural limitations. It takes courage to seek professional help.