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Mythbusting Mental Illness

Apr 24, 2020

The perception of mental illness by a family member of someone living with both a mental illness and a drug or alcohol addiction may be influenced by misinformation. Myths about mental illness can affect many choices, from acknowledging a mental illness even exists in the family to  recognizing what kind of treatment is needed for some with co-occurring mental health and addiction issues. Today let’s separate fact from fiction in five common beliefs about mental illnesses.

Myths about mental illness can mislead us into thinking everyone with one already knows they have it and can see how it’s affected their lives. The truth is, people with a mental illness can go undiagnosed for years while they live and work, without exhibiting the exaggerated behaviors associated with a small percentage of people with a severe mental illness. If you suspect you or someone you know may be living with a mental illness exacerbated by substance abuse or co-occurring with addiction, it’s helpful to find treatment programs offering dual diagnosis treatment.

Myth: I would know if I had a mental illness.

Fact Check: People can live with an undiagnosed mental illness for years.

Mental health issues can develop anytime during the course of our lives and not being treated for one in your past doesn’t mean one hasn’t developed due to a significant life change or some other reason. Twenty percent of adults in America have experienced some form of mental health issue, and ten percent of us have lived with severe depression. A serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, appears in one in twenty five adults and may coincide with a substance use disorder or addiction.

Myth: Mental illness is always accompanied by aggressive behavior.

Fact Check: Only a small percentage of people with a serious mental illness exhibit aggressive behaviors.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues do not automatically lead to physical assaults or other aggressive (and criminal) acts. Data shows us people who suffer from severe mental illness are actually at a higher risk for becoming victims themselves. If you’re assessing yourself for a potential mental health issue, a lack of violent behavior aimed at others or a lack of incidents of self-harm should not be part of the criteria you’re using.

Myth: Mental illness prevents a person from keeping a job.

Fact Check: Someone with a mental illness can work consistently in the same job or field for years.

While some people may find symptoms of mental illness can interfere with their employment, those who intentionally manage a mental health issue, including one co-occurring with a substance use disorder, can find it easier to protect their job and even secure growth opportunities through consistent productivity, reliable attendance, and strong working relationships with coworkers and supervisors. Identifying a mental health issue through the services of a family doctor or an outpatient program with dual diagnosis treatment can be one way to restore your mental health and overall well-being as you continue to work.

Myth: Mental illness is a personal weakness.

Fact Check: Anyone can develop a mental health issue at any time during their lives.

Characterizing mental illness as a failure of the individual neglects a long list of legitimate reasons a person can develop a mental health issue, including anxiety or severe depression, at any time during their life. This list includes a serious injury, a long-term illness, a loss of a loved one, a job change, a traumatic experience, and much more. Identifying a need for focusing on improving your mental health for any reason, including a connection to substance use disorders, is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Myth: Mental illness has no permanent recovery.

Fact Check: Someone living with mental illness can fully recover and thrive in life with the help of treatment.

This myth may be fed by the number of people who have not found suitable treatment for their mental illness or who have neglected committing to investing themselves in the treatment that has been provided. Finding a form of therapy is not a “one and done” type of approach. If something you’ve tried in the past didn’t work, it doesn’t mean every treatment will end the same way. It’s essential to find a treatment program that is aligned with your needs, including your mental health needs and any co-occurring substance use issues.


Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.

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