In my opinion, there is one thing that ranks as way more important than the growing multitude of the treatments for anxiety disorders. Of course, I do not wish to give the impression that by saying the aforementioned statement I am implying that the treatment for anxiety disorders is unimportant. It is in fact very important and helpful. But what I hope to achieve through this article, and bear in mind that this opinion is just coming from my own perspective:
“That I view THE MINDSET that everyone should have before they enter any treatment as equally important, if not more so, than the treatment itself.”
Ensuing thousands of researches and experiments, a multitude of psychotherapy methods and medications had been discovered, and throughout the decades of development these methods have significantly improved over the time (kindly refer to the other articles for possible treatment methods for anxiety disorders). Of course, there is still a long way to go before we came to develop more effective methods in managing/treating anxiety disorders.
However, the stigma towards people who are suffering from not just anxiety disorders, but mental disorders throughout the psycho-pathological spectrum, have not decreased in accord with the leaps and jumps we made upon the development of our treatments. In certain countries, the stigma had only become worse, and because of these negative social connotations that people attach to mental illnesses, a big portion of people did not receive proper treatment from professionals. Some became reluctant to seek for help and guidance and refuse any such attempts for fear of attracting communal judgment. What’s worse is that some choose to believe that psychological ‘services’ are illegal, unscientific and are in truth a scam.
What I hope to achieve through this article is to contribute at least a little towards the fight against the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental disorders, as well as the treatments that entail any such illness. For thematic purposes, I will use anxiety disorders as an example from hereon, since this is in accord with our latest project, A-Project, an online anxiety awareness campaign. Without further ado, here’s three main points that I hope to convey:
1. Understand anxiety disorders.
The first step in any battle is always to understand our enemy. It is much better for us to build up a healthier mindset when we are still relatively mindful about ourselves. Of course, it is never too late to learn about anxiety disorders even if we suspect ourselves or our close ones of experiencing it. Once we understand it, we can detect the potential causes and the myriad of ways to help those that we can reach out for.
2. Learn about the stigma towards anxiety disorders.
People who are experiencing anxiety disorders are not weak. They are not mentally weak because anxiety disorders can hit almost anyone and sometimes without any signs to indicate any such occurrences. Most of the stigma came from a lack of understanding and knowledge. People tend to label individuals who experienced mental illness as ‘weak’, ‘thinking too much’ or as ‘attention seekers’.
While some may think that mental illnesses can be contagious and tend to avoid coming close to those afflicted. In truth, mental illnesses are not viruses that grow in our brain or body. It is not contagious through the air and the water that we shared, or through a touch or a word we speak. It is very personal but at the same time, influenced by everything from our bodies and thoughts (internal) as well as our surroundings (external).
To put it shortly, while stigma might not be the number one cause of the devastation that stems from anxiety disorders, but it is definitely the number one factor that stops people from seeking for help.
3. Stop reinforcing the stigma.
When we hear someone sharing their anxiety experiences, be concerned and pay extra attention to the words they used. Understand the severity of the situation and DO NOT jump to conclusions easily. Giving advises such as ‘stop thinking about it’ or ‘think positive’ doesn’t help and may sometimes worsen the situation.
Anxiety disorders are not something that will just disappear over the time, like a flu. People who are experiencing it need to seek for professional help as soon as possible because anxiety disorders can gradually escalate in intensity if proper treatment is delayed. By strengthening the stigma, we are halting their desire to reach out for assistance.
One thing I am personally disgusted the most by is when people start sharing the news of one’s experiences of dealing with anxiety disorders for the sole reason of “entertainment”, thinking that he/she will never know. That is selfish and foolish. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the notion of sharing if the purpose of said sharing is to find a solution, then it is a very healthy act and he is lucky to have such a group of friends that are very willing to openly discuss such matters without any judgment. We should never be ashamed of ours when experiencing a mental illness, but sometimes the pressure from our environment will form an invisible cage and imprison us in it, and it is until we are finally willing to take steps to shake these shackles off, until the public realizes that having a mental illness is just like having a cough, that we can finally be free of this mental entrapment. So let us keep these private information only to the people who are able to provide help, and not share it with others with the intention of sharing our maladies as if it is a bawdy bar joke, because seriously, this is not a good ice breaking topic, nor is it entertaining. Dire scenarios demand dire attitudes.
So, these are the three important points I would like to point out.
To those who think these are just common sense, you are doing it right, keep up the good work.
To those who think that your small action does not affect much, you are wrong. We are all connected and our actions will move the strings which are closely tied to us.
To those who are suffering from mental illness, reach out for help. Believe in science, believe in the professionals who studied for so many years and used up all their savings just to get a degree and graduated with the sole intention to help.
And if you seriously believe that they aim to do harm after all these years of training, and are secretly harboring some ill-advised plan of dominating the world through psycho-pharmacological drug implements on the population en-large, or lacing the water with chemicals that turns the frogs gay, then good luck.
These actions might not be as glorified as those who left their names in the pages of history but I believe the weight of the impact that we have onto people who we have influenced are just as equal to the conquests of old.