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Common Reasons People Don’t Seek Treatment


Common Reasons People Don’t Seek Treatment

Some estimates report that globally, more than 70% of people with mental illness do not receive treatment. While there are a number of factors believed to be responsible for this phenomenon, this article aims to explore an individual’s responsibility to seek treatment, and the barriers or maladaptive thoughts that often get in the way.

1) “What will others say?”

Some of the most common reasons that individuals do not seek help is due to fear and shame regarding others’ evaluations of them, and their emotions getting in the way. It is by definition, a vulnerable process to admit that you need help, and many people still feel as though there is a stigma in our society associated with having a mental illness.

In some ways, this is still a legitimate concern, as being diagnosed with a disorder and receiving medication has the potential to negatively impact one’s life goals, such as their career, education, or military aspirations. However, often times these concerns are mitigated by the assistance they do receive through support from therapists and mental health professionals, in learning to beat their addictions, and manage their symptoms in healthy and adaptive ways.

2) “Treatment is for other people, not me.

In today’s society, people generally appear to be becoming more and more accepting of others’ mental illness, and their need to seek help. However, a barrier remains in one’s acceptance of their own need for help. While they may champion mental health causes for others, they themselves don’t want to appear weak, incompetent, or unable to care for themselves, let alone “mentally ill”, “crazy”, or even “addict”.

They may believe the lie that they are inadequate or a failure in admitting that something is “wrong” with their mental health and with their ability to cope with life’s challenges. Additionally, they also end up falling into the trap of believing that they “should be able to handle things” on their own without assistance and feel that it is shameful to have to ask for help.

3) “I can do it on my own.”

Still, others may feel as if they don’t have a clear idea about what constitutes an actual mental health condition, and are convinced that they already have all the tools to handle the situation (some call this denial). Sure, some anxiety and guilt can be adaptive and carry important lessons about who you do and do not want to be, but only when paired with a healthy amount of insight. A lack of self-awareness and self-discipline can lead you down a dangerous path towards misguided self-medication. Enter high-risk behaviors like substance use, binge-drinking, and self-injury; anything to numb the emotions.

Minimization of symptoms and a lack of knowledge are the enemy of someone being able to seek out and receive the help that they need. The answer is education. Get to know the signs and symptoms that may indicate that something more severe is going on, or talk with someone trusted who may be able to provide some feedback on your behavior as of late. 

4) “I am a lost cause, nothing will help.”

Still, others will lean the opposite way regarding their thoughts towards treatment, and believe that  “nothing will help me” or “I’ll never get better.” Often times these thoughts are born out of one’s experience with depression, or mistrust and concerns about revealing themselves to a “stranger” These typically represent some of the greatest barriers to change, as treatment providers and therapists alike recognize that harnessing one’s willpower and being honest about one’s experience, are perhaps the largest catalyst to change.

As before, education is again the answer, as there are a number of treatment options available. For those caught up in addictive patterns, detox is often the first step.

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