Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Laura Goorin: So, the myth that all neat freaks have OCD is a common one. Most people who are clean just actually care about being clean, and that's totally different than having OCD. Also, there are no five stages of loss. It's just a myth. Narrator: That's Laura Goorin, one of three psychologists we brought into our studios to debunk some of the most common mental-health myths. Goorin: So, the myth that most people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities, that was a very old way that it was understood, and it's been proven to not be true. So, with schizophrenia, it's not another personality. What it is, though, is a break with reality and a part of ourselves, maybe, for instance, that believes that someone is out to get them. OK, so that's a really common one with schizophrenia. So the myth that all "neat freaks" have OCD is a common one. It seems like it's almost a popular cultural thing that people say to each other, "You have OCD," when somebody is, like, organizing their bag. And, in reality, OCD itself, the illness has different components. And one of the subsets is the keeping things organized and clean. But it has to be at an obsessive level, where people are thinking about it all the time. And so that itself is really uncommon. Most people who are clean just actually care about being clean. And that's totally different than having OCD. Jillian Stile: Bipolar disorder is not simply mood swings. It's a very high elevation of maybe a positive mood and a very low, negative mood. Everybody has mood swings. But with bipolar disorder, it's not just that. It's severe forms of elevated mood or depressed mood, and they cycle through that. And so sometimes it could be shown as symptoms of, like, a manic episode, might be somebody, like, hypersexuality or not sleeping at all and things like that. It's not simply feeling good. Goorin: This is a common myth, and I hear people throw this one around a lot too. Anxiety itself is thinking, thinking, thinking. And just imagine yourself going into the worry thoughts of "what if." What if, what if this happens, what if that happens. And it's unremitting, and it goes on for hours for some people. Sometimes it's more passing for others. But being stressed out about something, as humans, we're wired to handle stressors, and we've been dealing with an onslaught of stressors since the beginning of time. You know, going to work, taking the subway, coming in contact with other people. You know, that can be stressful. That can be stress-inducing. Unless you have an actual, like, panic attack while you're taking the subway, that would be more of an anxiety reaction, whereas the stress of taking the subway is more stress-based. Stile: You know, everybody feels anxious, let's say, before a presentation or before an exam. But an anxiety disorder is the extreme form of that where it becomes, you know, it interferes with somebody's daily functioning. Goorin: This is actually a really important myth. Sadness is an ephemeral reaction to something. It's an emotion and, by definition, lasts a few seconds. It can last, like, 10 minutes, but on average, we have an emotion, it passes, and then we have another emotion. The thing that tends to bring us from sadness to depression is rumination, which means thinking and thinking and thinking about the thing over and over and over again. And that's how we then go from sadness to depression, but it's not an immediate thing. We all have moments of sadness, and we just allow them and let them pass. We tend to be OK. But if we get caught up in getting ruminating and thinking about all the reasons why we're sad, that's when we tend to go into depression. So, to the myth that depression is not a real illness, it is a real illness, and, in fact, it can be incredibly debilitating. In order to classify as having depression, we have to have some kind of a lethargic kind of behavior where we have trouble getting out of bed. I mean, there are different ways of depression, but one of the primary ones has this, what they're called neurovegetative symptoms, like, where we can't sleep, where we can't eat. There's also a kind of depression which is dysthymia, which has an anhedonia component into it, which means less pleasure in things that we used to enjoy, which is another kind of depression. And a lot of people will describe, like, "Oh, I used to love pottery, and now I can't even look at pots." You know? Like, something just totally changes for them when they're deeply in this state of depression. Neil Altman: Talking about painful things that you've learned how to sort cover over can initially be more painful but in the interest of working out things that if not dealt with straightforwardly are gonna come back to bite them. I'll say another thing about that is that sometimes patients wonder, "What's the therapist gonna feel if I say thus and so?" Like, "Can the therapist handle the level of despair that I sometimes feel?" And on those occasions, when the patient has the strength to put it out there and see how the therapist responds, the fact that the therapist can handle it is a big step toward the patient then being able to handle it. There are reasons, and they may change over time. But I think the thing that I would want to debunk in that respect is the idea that there's a single reason. So that if you handle that, then you're gonna be freed of that. And there's not. In most cases, there's not. You've got to discover the reasons, in the plural, that you're depressed and what you can do something about. And what you can't. Stile: The myth that only women get depressed couldn't be further from the truth. However, women are twice as likely to experience depression. So, the reason why oftentimes people think women have a higher rate of depression than men is because of maybe hormonal changes, life circumstances, and stress. The other thing that I like to think about is that women might express their feelings in a different way than men do. So, sometimes men might, you know, act out behaviorally, whereas women might focus on their internal experience. And so they might be more likely to see a therapist if that's the case. Goorin: When people have gone down the road of eventually deciding to go on medications for antidepressants, they don't change your personality; they change the symptoms of depression. They can also work for anxiety. So, typically, if you have just typical symptoms of depression and anxiety, we'll be given an antidepressant is what it's called, an SSRI. And that will help us regulate the symptoms of our, just, up and down of moods. And the way I describe it to people is it's like going back to your baseline you when it's the right medication. But it doesn't change your personality. Your personality, you're you. So, in terms of the myth that we'll always be cured from depression by antidepressants, the research shows that the most effective thing right now for depression is actually therapy. And then for people who need antidepressants, therapy and antidepressants together are another effective form. And not everybody has to take it. So even with people who are taking antidepressants, it's important to still be in therapy. Altman: The myth that bad parenting causes mental illness I think is a trap. Because parents are all too ready to take responsibility and to feel guilty about all sorts of problems that their children have. So there's no point in reinforcing that and harming and damaging the mental health of parents. If you think that your parents caused your mental illness, you're gonna end up endlessly complaining about your parent. What can you do about the way you were raised? You can do something about what it's left you with in the present. Goorin: Around LGBT adults and youth, there's so many myths associated with mental health. And a big part of it I think is, unfortunately, because the profession that I'm in had a really dirty history along these lines in the DSM, which is our Diagnostic Statistic Manual, until 1973, homosexuality was actually listed as a disorder. And after a lot of pushback and studies and LGBTQ rights being integrated into theory, we realized that that was really outdated. And since then, in DSM-3, it stopped being, unless somebody has specific anxiety related to being gay, then they're not diagnosed ever with a mental-health-related disorder associated with it. The same is true for being trans, actually. That it's only if somebody has what's called dysphoria, where they don't like their body, that they then have a diagnosis. But just being trans in and of itself isn't a disorder anymore. You know, to the question about what role mental health plays in the attacks of gun violence, unfortunately, that's been a mischaracterization of people who have severe mental illness, is that they're more likely to commit crimes and with guns. It's not that people with mental illness are more likely to be aggressive. It's the people who commit these crimes have access to guns, and they tend to be really self-loathing. Like, that's kind of the primary thing that makes people have a lack of empathy. That seems to be the things that make them be more violent and aggressive. Those are better predictors than any type of a mental health disorder. People talk about a whole town, like, on the news, "A whole town was traumatized by the shooting," for instance. Right? And it doesn't work that way, and that's actually one of the most common mental-health disorders that I've seen mischaracterized in that particular way, is PTSD. People seem to think that by virtue of having the experience to a potentially traumatic event, that you'll have these particular realm of symptoms that include hypervigilance, there's impulsivity. There's so many different realms of what comes up for people after trauma, and I've heard people say, you know, "Because I was traumatized, because I was there at 9/11," for instance. Well, a whole city was there, and we have really good numbers about the number of people who ended up having PTSD, and they're actually really small. When something like this happens, a major tragedy like a gun shooting or a 9/11 or any other type of tragedy like that, people tend to be resilient. There's a big myth, actually, even within the mental-health field saying that there are prototypical ways to respond to grief and loss. And that's in pop culture as well, that people have these ideas that there's one way to grieve and if we're not devastated and deeply traumatized that somehow we're in denial or unfeeling. And that's not true. In fact, since the beginning of time, we've been dealing with death.