Misconceptions About Stress & Mental Health

Life gets hectic and sometimes it’s hard to find the line between stress being “normal” and stress interfering with our functioning. Everyone gets angry and sad, but how intense are these emotions for you and how often do they happen? Do your emotions interfere with your ability to function in your day to day life?

Your body’s reaction to stress is derived from the part of your brain that stimulates the “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream during a stressful event. This causes increased blood flow, heart rate and blood pressure, making sure you’re ready to “fight” whatever your stimulus is.

What causes stress?

Stress in our society has a negative connotation, but some stress is good. Stress is what reminds us we have things to do. Some positive life experiences can be just as stress-inducing as negative ones, like planning a wedding or starting a new job.

Bottom line, stress affects everyone, but it may be easier to manage in smaller amounts, especially with the help of a therapist or a mental health professional. When things become overwhelming, we can develop maladaptive coping skills to lessen the effects of stress.

Consequences of stress

Physical symptoms include headaches, insomnia, fatigue, stomachaches, body aches and digestive issues. Consistently high levels of stress have been linked to hypertension, stroke, diabetes, chronic pain and even heart attacks.

Emotional symptoms include irritability, sadness, anger, avoidance and feeling overwhelmed.

Mental symptoms include anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, issues with appetite and substance use disorders.

How can a therapist help with my stress?

To help with stress management, therapy has been shown to help reduce the impact of stress and anxiety on your daily life. Therapists are great resources who can provide an unbiased perspective on the things causing you distress.

Misconceptions about therapy

Misconception: “Therapy is for people with serious issues”

Truth: Majority of people who see a therapist are learning new ways to deal with everyday struggles, like work-related stress and how to improve relationships within families.

Misconception: “Therapy is too expensive”

Truth: Therapy can be pricey, but some insurances cover mental health services. If it doesn’t? Therapy is a long-term investment that can ultimately improve your quality of life including productivity at work.

Misconception: “A therapist will judge me, I should just talk to my friends”

Truth: Therapists have spent many years in training, learning how to diagnose and treat behavioral, cognitive and emotional issues. Therapists are also required to participate in supervision, where they spend time learning how to manage their own emotions. With a therapist, you can feel more at ease talking about your life; with friends, you might find yourself censoring yourself to not hurt anyone’s feelings. Everything stays confidential unless it’s a matter of safety.

How can a prescriber help with my stress?

To manage your stress, psychotropic medications along with therapy can be beneficial. Research has shown that “pills and skills” together have higher rates of efficacy than medications or therapy alone. Whether your stress comes with anxiety, depression or you’re just plain “freaking out”, your prescriber can help you figure out which class of medications will address your most distressing symptoms.

Misconceptions about psychotropic medications

Misconception: “Psych medications change your personality”

Truth: Medications have not been linked to personality changes. If anything, these medications work on neurotransmitters in the brain and body to regulate emotions, therefore can help showcase your best personality traits that might have been clouded by your stress.

Misconception: “Psych medications are for weak people who can’t deal with their problems”

Truth: Research shows that anxiety, stress and other psychiatric disorders are linked to chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as physiological dysregulation in other parts of the body. Just like hypertension and diabetes, mental health conditions should be treated with medications.

Misconception: “Prescribers just want everyone to be on medication”

Truth: Psychiatric prescribers are trained in evaluating and treating the biological, social and psychological factors involved in mental health conditions. Most prescribers realize the importance of psychotherapy along with medications and will only prescribe medication in appropriate settings. After all, you’re the expert on you, they’re there to support you.