Mental Illness: What it is and Common Misconceptions

Anna Norton

The human brain is a deep and vast void of both apprehensive and favorable thoughts. It is the most complex organ in the human body and an essential part of the body’s nervous system. 

However, like other vital organs, the brain can be damaged, or built in a way in which it cannot properly function. Signals are sent throughout the brain to release chemicals, or neurotransmitters,  as a response to certain situations. Four of these chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine. However, when chemicals such as these are not regulated, the brain has a hard time controlling the emotions that are caused. When this happens, typically it is due to a mental health disorder. Mental disorders can be inherited or adopted over time. 

Despite the toll that mental illness has taken on our population in modern society,  the average person knows very little about what mental disorders are and how they can affect someone in their everyday life. 

We have created stereotypes to damage our perception of the daily struggle some have to face.  For example, it may be shocking to some, that just because you like your colored pencils to be in rainbow order on your desk, does not mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Additionally, getting a bit stressed out whenever you hear the monotonous voice of the sit-up test you used to have to take in elementary school, is not a clear sign that you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 It is important to acknowledge the difference between a stereotype and the truth; using the name of a disorder in such a lighthearted manner is extremely offensive and hurtful. Especially to those who have to wrestle with their minds day after day in an exhausting cycle of pain and temporary relief.

̈“Being depressed, anxious, or self-harming is not a choice.̈  Says the first anonymous source, “ ̈We can’t control when or how the episodes happen. When it happens in school, people try so, so hard to hide it because they don’t want to be judged by their classmates or teacher. “

Three of the most common types of mental disorders include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia disorders. Anxiety disorders are visible when someone is faced with an extreme extent of fear and distress on a day to day basis. Examples of these disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, selective mutism, and separation anxiety. 

Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, often cause excessive mood swings and a feeling of hopelessness. It is common for those with mood disorders to experience incredibly low self-esteem, bad eating habits, irregular sleeping habits, isolation, and a lack of motivation to complete even regular day to day tasks.

Schizophrenia disorders are often found when a person has an unusual perception of reality. They may experience symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations. The four main types of schizophrenia are paranoid schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, undifferentiated schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder.  

“I would say that the hardest part about living with a mental illness is relationships, especially family relationships. I have always felt like a burden to my family. I used to distance myself away from my friends and I would always be paranoid that they are just friends with me out of pity. I’ve never felt that I deserve the love that I receive” described a second anonymous source.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with North Attleboro families as they mourn the loss of a senior girl in their community who recently committed suicide.

If you ever feel sad or anxious and don’t think that you can handle it by yourself, please contact a school guidance counselor, adult, or guardian. You do not need to be mentally ill to feel uncomfortable with your own thoughts. 

You can contact the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health on their emergency line (877-382-1609).  They are available to help all 24 hours of the day. 

For more information visit The National Institute of Mental Health.