I didn’t have a blog post idea today and then something happened that really made me mad. My friend was working today and was telling a coworker that her new medication was making her a little nauseous. Another one of her coworkers walked up and decided to insert himself in the conversation. He proceeded to tell my friend several things that made her angry (and subsequently myself and my roommates angry). I wanted to break down what he said and then talk in general about mental health medication stigma.
Things he said:
#1 Anxiety/OCD/etc. are “just personality traits.”
It really annoys me when people try and tell you that what you are dealing with in regard to your mental health is not valid. By saying this, he invalidates the seriousness of mental health problems. Mental health issues are not just personality traits. They are recognized as disorders by psychiatrists and medical professionals worldwide. It is something that is treated by mental health professionals. It isn’t something easily changed or something you can just move on from. A personality trait like getting nervous before a big event is not the same as having a generalized anxiety disorder. A personality trait like cleanliness is not the same thing as having OCD. Having a personality trait like pessimism is not the same thing as having depression. These disorders are not just personality traits and it fully invalidates someone’s struggles when you say that they are.
#2 “I know exactly how you feel.”
Unless you also struggle with a mental health disorder, this is false. This is another way to invalidate someone’s struggles. Even if you also struggle with anxiety and depression, you don’t know exactly how that person feels. It affects everyone differently. This is especially the wrong thing to say before you proceed to give your unwanted and unsubstantiated opinion on mental health in general.
#3 Medicine is just not the way to help. It basically is unnecessary for mental health disorders.
This is what the remainder of my post is going to discuss because my friend’s coworker is not the only person to think that mental health issues are not serious enough to require medication. People often try and tell you that if you exercised more, ate better, meditated, did yoga, or thought more positively you would be fine. That’s not how it works. Don’t you think that we would all do these things if it magically cured us? You can’t just think happy thoughts and get over depression or meditate and get over anxiety. There are a lot of different treatment options from medical professionals because it is an actual disorder. Therapy is an option and one I highly recommend. It has helped me a lot. But medication is also a valid option for people who are really struggling. Sometimes people feel like taking medication means that they have failed in some way or that they’re weak, but that isn’t true. It just means that you need some extra help in dealing with a disorder. When you take an Advil for a headache (physical health), you don’t have guilt, so you shouldn’t put guilt on yourself for taking medication that helps with your mental health.
It is always important to consult with a doctor or a therapist when you are thinking about medication. It’s important to make sure you are a good candidate for taking medicine to help. Once you and a medical professional have decided it is the right next step, it could take some time to figure out what medication works best. There isn’t one magic pill that is going to be an easy fix to your problem. There are side effects to medications and it is important to find the one that works the best in your body. But it is possible to find a medication that helps you a lot.
Saying it is unnecessary is an uneducated point of view. As our friend who is in pharmacy school who heard about this statement said, “there are decades of research and clinical studies that show how medications do what they do.” There are many medications that are proven to help with a variety of mental health disorders. No one should feel ashamed or judged for taking medication. If you feel the need to shame someone who does take medication, I would encourage you to put that energy into researching mental health disorders and research instead. I believe your opinion would change. Medication is not the only answer, but it is a valid option for those who are struggling.
Here are a couple of other articles that talk about mental health medication: