Misinterpreted Mental Health

By: Nimisha Ajaikumar

Mental health disorders are prevalent in the current age, affecting one in four people, according to the World Health Organisation. Most people, regrettably, have devised a stigmatizing outlook of mental illness due to the extremely incorrect portrayals by pop culture. People mistakenly believe that those having a mental disorder are ‘crazy and dangerous beings who should be sent to a mental asylum,’ away from the public eye. Here is a list of five most common yet misinterpreted mental disorders.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

When people hear the word OCD, they visualize a neat-freak who continually washes his/her hands or arranges his/her shoes in a perfect line. However, OCD is much more than a penchant for tidiness. As the name suggests, people with OCD have an obsessive, irrational, and uncomfortable thought that they cannot stop thinking about. It could be something morbid like, “Today my family members will die in a car crash.” To free themselves from this obsession, they engage in compulsive, repetitive, and seemingly unrelated routines. So a person might ring his doorbell exactly five times so that his family is safe on the road. 

I had an experience with a man with OCD, who believed that he would have no friends if he did not participate in his compulsive routines. He did not have any friends, to begin with so when he reached out to me, I assured him, “I will still be your friend even if you do not wash your hands.” Such a simple sentence was so relieving for him. He excitedly told me the next day that he did not feel the need to participate in his routine. So it would be great if you regularly take out the time to provide emotional support to somebody in need.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder involves an intense phobia of social situations. People with this disorder, dread being seen in public and having to interact with others. Just imagining being out there in the open having a conversation with somebody makes their palms sweat, heart race and blood pressure rise. They experience nausea, fainting spells and breathing difficulties in social situations. 

People wrongfully associate introversion, shyness and stage fright with social phobia. Social phobia is when individuals experience physical symptoms by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system due to misreading social situations as threatening, and should not be confused with stage fright and introversion.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

DID is a personality disorder in which the self dissociates into different alters (personalities), usually as a response to childhood trauma. Several personalities share one body, each having a purpose of protecting the host personality from stressors. Thus, one woman may have five personalities, each with different genders, accents, interests, and goals. Work-life and relationships are exhausting because this disorder is highly stigmatized and usually kept a secret. This stigma arises due to the misinterpretation that a ‘murderous personality’ will take over the host and go on a killing spree, as shown in the film, ‘Split.’ The bitter truth is that these people mostly harm themselves as they contemplate suicide as an escape from this ‘exhausting existence.’ Other people also falsely assume that these alters can be exorcised from the ‘possessed body.’ 

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that entails delusions, hallucinations, and catatonia. Simply put, people with this illness have bizarre thoughts and tend to sense people and things that are not present in reality. Hearing voices and seeing dangerous creatures is a torturous experience for someone with schizophrenia, and they feel invalidated because everybody else acknowledges this as a figment of their imagination.

Sadly, these people are portrayed in films and TV series as murderous monsters with an unlimited bloodlust. Thus, the general public fears them rather than supporting them. In reality, people with schizophrenia are rarely fatal to others. They are more likely to harm themselves, mainly because they are too lonely to have a well-wisher who can remind them about reality. –

Depression

Depression is a common mental disorder but still heavily misinterpreted. People with depression experience prolonged sadness, worthlessness, and pessimism. Due to this, they find no meaning in their existence and tend to be extremely unproductive. Others overlook this for laziness and blame them for behaving like a ‘sloth.’ They are forced to get over the issue instead of being ‘so sensitive.’ We can save a life by validating their emotions and reminding them of their worth. They should not be made to feel rejected and unwanted.

Conclusion

People suffering from any mental illness deserve to be assured that “there will be a bright and positive side to their life.” They should not be stigmatized and ostracised but supported so that they do not feel abandoned in their struggle. Even a smile and a few words of kindness can mean a lot to someone who is forever fighting a war with their illness. It is high time we educate ourselves on mental illness and silence the stigma against it. We cannot afford to lose more lives due to their feeling shunned and misunderstood.

Nimisha Ajaikumar
Nimisha Ajaikumar

I am an aspiring clinical psychologist currently pursuing my Bachelor’s in Dubai. I’m passionate about mental health and I wish to make a difference in the world by making mental health facilities more accessible to all. I believe that many strive to raise awareness but only few are actually taking action. I am one of those few. I destigmatise and simplify Psychology concepts on my blog, Silence the Stigma, and demonstrate how we can apply these skills in our daily life.

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