• Millions of people in the US alone struggle with a mental illness, from major depression to anxiety, schizophrenia, and many others.
  • Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions out there about mental illness—let’s dismiss them for good.
  • First, mental illness is real despite the myth that those who claim they have a mental illness are just dramatic or weak.
  • Also, individuals who suffer from a mental illness are not more dangerous nor less intelligent than those who don’t have a mental illness.
  • Many mental illnesses don’t come with an easy fix: it isn’t about simply adjusting your state of mind but seeking treatment just as those with physical illnesses must do.
  • Finally, mental illness isn’t a small-scale problem—people all around us are struggling with a mental health problem right now, whether it’s obvious or not.

450 million people suffer with a mental illness right now: 40 million adults in the US suffer with an anxiety disorder, 16 million suffer with major depression, and 6.1 million suffer with bipolar disorder.

Despite these striking statistics, many still believe that mental illnesses are made up or exaggerated—that those who claim to have a mental illness are dramatic or just want attention. But in reality, people are suffering every day from harmful mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and many others. And on top of that, they have to face the many misconceptions and stigmas that come with their mental illness.

An important part of raising awareness for mental health is educating yourself and getting the facts right. So, let’s take a look at these common misconceptions about mental illness and clear them up for good:

Myth: Mental illness isn’t real—these people are just dramatic or weak.
Reality: Mental illness is real, and the people affected are strong.

As I briefly touched on earlier, some people believe that mental illness is made up. They think that people are just using it as an excuse to get out of something, to slack off at work, to get attention. But really, these individuals are fighting an unbelievably challenging battle. Sickness isn’t always characterized by a fever, a bad cough, or any other outward physical symptom—these people are still sick and they’re still suffering, but they show amazing strength for fighting back.

Myth: People with mental illness are dangerous and should be feared.
Reality: Generally speaking, people struggling with a mental disorder are not more dangerous than those without a mental illness.

These people live mostly “normal” lives and face their own daily struggles, just like you do. These people are so normal, in fact, that you probably wouldn’t even realize they have a mental illness.

Myth: Depression is a state of mind and an easy fix.
Reality: Depression is an illness that demands treatment.

Depression is more than just feeling sad or unmotivated—it’s an illness caused by changes in brain chemistry and other factors like genetics, fluctuating hormone levels, and stress. And it can’t be easily fixed either: it often takes treatment to effectively deal with or recover from depression, such as therapy and/or medication.

Myth: Addiction isn’t a disease, it’s a choice.
Reality: Addiction IS a disease. 

Like depression, addiction and substance use disorder are related to genetics and stress, in addition to other underlying conditions like anxiety or depression. Individuals who suffer from addiction and substance abuse can’t simply shake the habit or their urge to use; again, it takes treatment and intervention because it is a mental illness.

Myth: Mental illness exists, but it isn’t common.
Reality: 450 million people currently suffer from mental health conditions.

Some people deny the entire existence of mental illness while others acknowledge its existence but think it’s rare. This relates back to the notion that people must see something to believe it. In reality, people all around us are suffering from mental illness, whether that be depression, ADHD, OCD, schizophrenia, or another condition—even if it’s not clear from just looking at them.

Myth: People with mental illness are “stupid” or less intelligent.
Reality: They are just as smart as people without a mental illness.


One’s IQ or intelligence has nothing to do with mental illness. While certain conditions may make it more difficult for an individual to concentrate or excel in a certain area, these individuals are not “stupid” or less intelligent. They’re simply good at some things and bad at others, just like everybody else—they’re smart, they’re capable, and they’re worthy.