Why do some claim that mental disorders are “fake” and that we should just “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and move on”?
While resilience is a good thing, dismissing mental disorders as imaginary or personal weakness is misinformed and counterproductive.
Mental disorders can be truly debilitating and impair the everyday functioning of an individual. On a societal level, the economic cost of mental illness in Canada is over $50 billion per year (17,18). Depression and anxiety alone may have an economic cost on the world of US$1 trillion each year (6).
While a mental disorder generally only describes symptoms being experienced, it does not explain its cause. However, we do know of reliable factors that play a role in mental illness (2,19,20,21):
Genetics, and its interaction with the environment (22,23,24)
- Certain genes and family history may be associated with elevated risk
- Exposure to drugs or alcohol during fetal development (25,26,27,28)
- Bidirectional interaction between physical conditions and mental disorders (e.g., heart disease) (7,29,30,31,32)
- Adverse childhood experience (bullying, emotional abuse, maltreatment, parental loss) (36,37,38)
- Abuse, trauma, adversity (39,40,41)
- Socio-economic status, education, inequalities (42,43,44)
Other psychological factors (45-54)
A mental diagnosis can provide relief, clarify a treatment plan, and qualify you for certain insurance benefits, but it can understandably be distressing. Don’t hesitate to bring up your concerns with your healthcare professional, or get a second opinion.
It’s also important to remember that for many there is still a lot of stigma in getting psychiatric help. Belittling mental disorders only adds to this stigma, needlessly prolonging mental distress.