Myths and stereotypes

Myths surrounding psychiatry and psychiatrists

If I don't help myself, no one will help me

This destructive opinion is shared especially by men. It relates to a popular conviction that a man who admits to his problems gives out a signal that he is weak.

In order to sustain the imperative of a strong man, denial strategies are of to be used – resorting to work, alcohol, sex, gambling, drugs, etc. Showing weakness is often combined with being a target for ridicule and rejection. Expressing and sharing feelings may also be regarded as weakness. As a result, suppression and denial of one’s feelings, more and more desperate and less effective attempts at rational, intellectual coping with problems begin to prevail.

Family conditions become important, if looking for help and support was associated with experiencing continuous disappointment and abandonment, or even shame and humiliation.


Visiting a psychiatrist is a sign of failure

This view contains many destructive meanings. It may result from a self-imposed assumption that you need to cope with all your problems entirely by yourself. Reaching for help may be seen as a generalised failure. On the other hand, life brings a lot of matters, which often evoke a sense of helplessness and confusion in us. Mental distress can be shut down inside, it can be hid, and you can pretend that nothing happens in front of everyone else. However, the costs that go along with it affect our functioning increasingly over time. Unresolved issues remain and will probably torment us even more.

Of course, there is a difference between a trivial problem that will go away when you ignore it, and one that requires attention and solutions. Most people have no difficulty with this distinction, but many disregard and underestimate their difficulties, which may turn out to be harmful when ignored. Searching for help may be delayed or postponed, which in the case of some people and situations can aggravate the complaints or the other way around – they can become more and more chronic in nature, the risk of complications or even threats to life (e.g. in depression, psychoses or anorexia nervosa).

Contact with a psychiatrist can just become an attempt to care about your life and well-being in the face of increasingly troublesome mental ailments. Could be a new start in life and manifestation of modern thinking based on a desire to use the various resources offered by the environment around us. 

Visiting a psychiatrist is equal to complete surrender in my own matters.

Could be a new start in life and manifestation of modern thinking based on a desire to use the various resources offered by the environment around us.

Difficulties in achieving one’s objectives and goals awake similar feelings of threat, fear, injustice, guilt or anger in everyone. Experienced feelings, on the one hand, bring suffering; they are a sign that something in our life doesn’t work out. On the other hand, they are a source of energy to remove obstacles in our way. The sense of discomfort associated with failures instils a sense of anguish, but it is also an incentive for the removal of this discomfort. It motivates to activities different, which may be more helpful in overcoming the problem.

In other words, the sense of helplessness may be just a stage in life. One that triggers in us fresh energy to cope with troubles. In this context, contact with a specialist may be useful to temporarily support oneself on their knowledge and experience. 

My depression is just a fad and a momentary breakdown

This belief may stem from ignorance, misunderstanding or the attitude of downplaying problems. In everyday language, depression is often referred to as a short, transient state of sadness or downheartedness. In medical terms, depression comprises a set of symptoms, which include depressed mood and activity, sleep disorders, anxiety, depressive assessment of the future and the past, discouraged attitude to life, diminution of interests, withdrawal from life. These symptoms can not be treated as a whim; especially because depression may also be joined by suicidal thoughts and attempts, which can be life threatening.

It is also worth knowing that approximately 10% of all adults suffer persistent depressive mood disorders during a single year. Although some of them are probably trying to deal with depression on their own, it does not change the fact that depressive disorders are among the most common health problems. If one takes into account the consequences of depression, then depression is comparable with diseases most often treated by contemporary medicine (cardiovascular diseases, degenerative diseases of the musculoskeletal system, cancer).

For the last several years, in almost all developed European countries a marked increase in the number of people treated for depression is observed.

If someone has anorexia, they just have to get a grip and finally begin to eat normally

Anorexia nervosa is a serious disorder that requires intensive and relatively long-term treatment, as well as the cooperation of various specialists. One of the symptoms of mental anorexia is a strong fear of gaining weight. This fear is often paralysing when attempting to eat meals. The problem of dealing with anorexia is complex and goes far beyond a simple solution for eating meals.

The destructive implication of this myth, often encountered among the families of these people or their surroundings, is that it affects the decision to discontinue the treatment and causes the anguish of coping with the disease alone. Sometimes the family recognizes its helplessness to help only after several years.It often happens when symptoms are already advanced and deeply rooted.

When you have neurosis, you go to a neurologist

Neurosis is a mental disorder for which the main standard of treatment is psychotherapy, providing durable and effective cure. The use of drugs serves an additional function, supporting the main treatment. In turn, a neurologist is a specialist who diagnoses and treats diseases of the nervous system (e.g. inflammation of the facial nerve, severing of the sciatic nerve, cerebrovascular diseases, infectious diseases affecting the nervous system etc.). A neurologist – as a specialist in his field – may not have adequate knowledge about the diagnosis and treatment of neurotic disorders, rules for the application of psychotropic drugs, the ability to use special psychotherapy. Many patients seek help from physicians of other specialties before they reach out to a psychiatrist. They obtain superficial, symptomatic aid, which is often ineffective. It does happen that a person with anxiety or depression symptoms is prescribed the wrong drug or an incorrect dosage. The problem among neurologists and family physicians is the overly frequent use of benzodiazepines causing long-term addiction and difficulties following the withdrawal of the drug.

Are psychotropic drugs addictive?

There are several groups of psychotropic drugs. Some of them belong to the benzodiazepine or hypnotic group and in fact can cause addiction when used for too long. Hypnotic drugs from the benzodiazepine group can be quite safely applied for a period of 4 weeks. Practice shows that after approximately two weeks, some hypnotic drugs become less effective. In the case of anxiety, benzodiazepine treatment lasts an average of 4-6 weeks, only in highly exceptional cases up to 8 weeks.

In regard to other drugs – antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers – fortunately, there is no such restriction. They can be taken indefinitely without risk of addiction. This means that at any time after establishing it with the doctor, the medication can be gradually withdrawn. Sudden, fast withdrawal can sometimes cause unpleasant symptoms, but it does not equal to a constant compulsion to take these drugs.

W odniesieniu do innych leków – leki przeciwdepresyjne, leki neuroleptyczne lub normotymiczne – na szczęście nie ma takich ograniczeń. Mogą być one przyjmowane dowolnie długo bez ryzyka uzależnienia. Oznacza to, że w każdym momencie po ustaleniu tego z lekarzem lek można stopniowo odstawić. Nagłe, zbyt szybkie odstawienie może wywołać niekiedy nieprzyjemne objawy, ale nie oznacza to wcale ciągłego przymusu przyjmowania tych leków