Hard to believe, yet many people have common misconceptions about mental illness.
That is, they believe that people suffering from problems such as anxiety or depression choose to be that way.
However, that is far from reality for millions of people.
Why Would Someone Choose This?
It’s a fair question. If mental illness is somehow a “choice,” why would someone choose anxiety or depression over being healthy? It certainly means avoiding all of those dark, dreary days when you feel alone or experiencing a spike in panic and fear because of anxiety.
The truth, of course, is that these and other mental health problems are not choices at all. Rather, they occur for several different reasons which, when you take a step back, actually make sense.
The Role of Genetics in Depression and Anxiety
One of the most common misconceptions that people have is they don’t understand that mental illness can be an inherited trait. However, for people prone to depression, their brain chemistry is actually different.
This is because of epigenes, a chemical tag that can turn off neurotransmitters in the brain. Other chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine also play important roles in how our brains function. When those chemicals are not doing their jobs properly we experience problems, including depression and anxiety.
The Only Way to Cope
When we experience a significant life event, such as a traumatic incident, a personal loss, or similar situation our brains don’t always know how to cope. Instead of having lots of energy, we become slow and sluggish. Rather than being calm, we become uptight, nervous, fearful, and anxious.
We get stuck in these thought patterns and it becomes difficult to get out of them without professional help. Many people struggle for years with depression and other mental health problems because they did not have a proper diagnosis or the treatment they needed.
A Person’s Actions
Another misconception that leads people to think depression and mental health problems are a choice are one’s actions. If you choose to sit around the house all day and watch TV, the perception might be that you are lazy.
But what if it is not laziness at all and instead feelings of being disconnected, worthless, even unloved? These are very powerful emotions that feed into themselves, making it harder for someone struggling with depression to “snap out of it.” The reality is that they need professional help.
What Can be Done?
There are several things that can be done to address depression or anxiety. If you know somebody who is struggling let them know that you want to help, even if it is simply being present and listening.
Also, do your best to avoid judging their actions. There are often darker forces involved that are influencing the situation and that are out of their control.
On the other hand, if you are the one struggling, take heart. There are people out there who do want to help you get better.
Getting Help for Depression and Anxiety
Certainly, there are many common misconceptions about mental illness. As noted, issues such as anxiety and depression are not choices that people make. Instead, they are the results of a myriad of issues that could be affecting them, including genetics and life experiences.
However, there is hope. Ultimately, those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other issues need professional counseling. Through counseling and help from those who care about them, they can live fuller and richer lives.
If that is your case, a therapist can help you as well to understand what is happening to you and why. Plus, therapy can teach you how to better manage your symptoms so that you can be more in control of your own life.