The Misunderstanding of Mental Suffering

Psychological disorders are real challenges for the people who suffer from them. This article talks about some of the circumstances surrounding sufferers that often go unnoticed.
The Misunderstanding of Mental Suffering

Last update: 27 April, 2021

Experts estimate that about 10.8 percent of the population suffer from a mental disorder. This alarming figure is even higher when you take into account institutionalized patients, as well as those who haven’t been diagnosed. Therefore, it seems paradoxical that there’s a widespread misunderstanding of mental suffering.

Depression and chronic anxiety are widely spoken about nowadays. This is hardly surprising considering their prevalence. It seems that society is finally admitting the existence of these disorders, as well as the impact they have on the lives of the sufferers.

However, it seems that people still don’t really know how to address these illnesses when they’re confronted with them. This lack of empathy, knowledge, or resources leads sufferers to face misunderstanding, judgment, and loneliness.

A depressed woman.

The misunderstanding of mental suffering

Having an anxiety disorder, mood disorder, or any other mental disorder is challenging. This isn’t just due to the disease itself but because of the difficulty in finding the necessary support. Unfortunately, this problem tends to originate with health professionals. It might be due to limited consultation times within the public health sector, misdiagnosis, or the widespread prescription of drugs instead of psychotherapy.

In short, many people don’t receive the guidance and professional support they need. In fact, sometimes, people are diagnosed with anxiety or depression or some other disorder when they might simply be suffering from the stresses and strains of the society we all live in today.

However, the misunderstanding of those in the sufferer’s close environment is what affects them the most. Furthermore, the reactions of family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are often not appropriate. They tend to adopt the following stances:

Minimizing their problem

Many people immediately downplay the sufferer’s illness. They tend to say things like, “You’d drown in a glass of water”, “We all have problems”, or “You’re just going through a bad moment. You’ll get over it”. However, far from easing the sufferer’s problems, these types of comments only serve to make them feel even more alone, misunderstood, and undermined.


Another common attitude is to blame the sufferer for their condition. People say things like, “You’re never going to feel any better with your negative attitude”, “Stop sitting around all day doing nothing” or “The only reason you don’t eat is because you don’t want to”. Statements like this simply reflect the misunderstandings regarding mental illness. These comments aren’t harmless. In fact, they significantly increase the sufferer’s emotional discomfort.


This is equally harmful. People tend to stigmatize the sufferer and define them by their disorder, not for who they are. They don’t empathize and simply tell them to seek professional help. They just leave the sufferer completely alone with their problems.

A depressed man.

How to avoid misunderstanding mental suffering

In order to avoid being misunderstood, many people with psychological disorders choose to hide their condition. This means they’ll probably take time to seek help. For this reason, if you know someone in your environment who’s in this position, you should take the following measures:

  • Listen to them. Genuinely take an interest in what they’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing so you can understand them.
  • Empathize. Don’t judge or blame. Try to put yourself in their shoes and treat them the way you’d like to be treated.
  • Be patient. Psychological disorders can cause sufferers to be irritable or act in a hurtful or incomprehensible way. Remember that they’re the ones who are suffering the most.

Professional help is always of paramount importance. For this reason, you should encourage the sufferer to use all the resources available to them. However, they still need support from those around them. Therefore, you should be willing to accompany them on their journey to recovery. Understanding and support help the patient heal.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo y Bienestar Social. (2017). Encuesta Nacional de Salud ENSE. Recuperado marzo de 2021, de
  • Ezquiaga Terrazas, E., García López, A., Díaz de Neira, M., & García Barquero, M. J. (2011). ” Depresión”: Imprecisión diagnóstica y terapéutica. Importantes consecuencias en la práctica clínica. Revista de la asociación española de neuropsiquiatría31(3), 457-475.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.