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Breaking the Stigma: The Truth About Mental Health Diagnoses

Breaking the Stigma: The Truth About Mental Health Diagnoses

January 26, 2023

Whether you’ve just received a diagnosis or are curious about what it would mean if you got one, you likely have some questions about these mental health labels. Why are they so important? Do they mean your stress is permanent? How do they impact treatment?


We answer these questions and more below.

What Does a Mental Health Diagnosis Mean?

Mental health exists on a spectrum. We all experience stress and anxiety from time to time. For some people, it’s worse than others. According to Julie Isaacs, senior vice president of clinical operations and therapy here at Heading Health, stress, anxiety, and other states involved in mental health conditions are signs of a mental illness when they are disproportionate to the situation, persistent, cause a significant amount of distress, and interfere with your ability to function. For example, though everyone worries and experiences fear, this can turn into a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) if it’s experienced for at least six months, tends to be excessive, and limits your ability to function (e.g., at your job or in your social relationships).

Why Diagnosis is Important

Though they can seem intimidating, mental health diagnoses are crucial components of the therapeutic process. Here’s why.

Gaining Insight

Receiving a mental health diagnosis can help explain why you’ve been struggling and anticipate what issues you may face going forward. For example, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would explain why you have been experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. Not only can this help you better navigate the condition in the future, but knowing PTSD has been the cause of your stress can alleviate any sense of guilt or shame you’ve been experiencing for having these symptoms in the first place.

Identifying the Proper Treatment

Different conditions respond better to different interventions. For example, while obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be addressed with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Zoloft and Prozac, bipolar disorder is better handled by mood stabilizers, such as Depakote or Lithium. 


By identifying your condition, your providers can make use of decades of research to offer you the most effective medications and therapeutic strategies.

Securing Insurance Coverage

Often, insurance companies will only cover a particular treatment if the patient has been diagnosed with a specific condition. For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is typically only covered for a limited set of conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and OCD.

Diagnosis and Stigma

Despite its benefits, diagnosis can come with a significant degree of stigma. People hold various negative beliefs about what it means to have a mental illness which can make seeking therapy or receiving a diagnosis a stressful, guilt-inducing process. For many, this can discourage them from seeking treatment in the first place. For example, a recent report found that 25 percent of those who did not seek help for their mental health cited stigma as the main reason why.

Myth Busting Common Misconceptions

Despite its benefits, diagnosis can come with a significant degree of stigma. People hold various negative beliefs about what it means to have a mental illness which can make seeking therapy or receiving a diagnosis a stressful, guilt-inducing process. For many, this can discourage them from seeking treatment in the first place. For example, a recent report found that 25 percent of those who did not seek help for their mental health cited stigma as the main reason why.

Myth #1: You Can’t Recover From a Mental Illness

Mental health conditions are often seen as life-long ailments with no hope of recovery.


Fact: A significant percentage of individuals with mental health conditions see substantial improvements in their symptoms after treatment. Many even experience remission, meaning they no longer show any signs of their initial illness. 


Those who don’t respond to the first few treatments can find help from novel interventions. For example, studies have found a 69 percent response rate and 52 percent remission rate in patients treated with  Spravato® (intranasal esketamine), which is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression. Similar results have been found for ketamine, and TMS.

Myth #2: Treatment is Scary

Ever since Once Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest, mental health treatments have been poorly represented in movies and other forms of entertainment. 


Fact: Treatment is typically a pretty mundane process. In many cases, patients can improve with talk therapy alone. Medications and other biological interventions have been refined over the past several decades and now provide more targeted side-effect-free relief.

Myth #3: Mental Illness is Rare

Stigma is likely directly responsible for this myth. The percentage of individuals with undiagnosed mental health conditions is almost certainly underestimated, as many are apprehensive about seeking help in the first place. Moreover, those who do get help may not be ready to talk about it with friends and family. This creates a false perception that mental illness is rare. 


Fact: Mental illness is prevalent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50 percent of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

Myth #4: Only People with a Mental Illness Should See a Therapist

Since therapists treat individuals with mental health conditions, it’s natural to assume that you shouldn’t be in therapy unless you have a mental illness.


Fact: “The techniques and coping strategies therapists offer can help anyone dealing with stress and anxiety,” Patricia Hernandez, LCSW.  “So whether your experiencing day-to-day stress, marital problems, or clinical depression, therapy can be a useful tool on your journey to mental wellness.”

Myth #5: Mental Health Problems Are a Sign of Weakness

Those who haven’t experienced a mental health condition themselves or don’t know anyone who has may not understand why someone might struggle to manage their stress and anxiety. As a result, mental illness is sometimes perceived to result from or be a sign of weakness.


Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that mental illness results from an internal weakness or lack of willpower. 


“Individuals with mental illness are no less mentally tough than the average person,” shares Andrea Marquez, LCSW,  an Austin, Texas-based therapist. In fact, the very opposite may be true. Managing a mental health condition requires strength, resilience, and a great deal of mental bravery.


Receiving a mental health diagnosis can be scary. With so many misconceptions regarding the nature of mental illness and its implications, it’s natural to feel concerned about the diagnosis you’ve received or the possibility of getting one were you to start therapy. 


The reality is that diagnoses help both patients and providers understand their condition and offer the most effective treatments. While stigma still exists, its effects are waning, and by learning about what a mental health diagnosis does and doesn’t mean, you’re helping to paint a more accurate, optimistic picture of mental health.

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How to Prepare for Your First Ketamine Session

Embarking on Your First Ketamine or Spravato® Treatment

December 15, 2022


If you’ve been prescribed ketamine or Spravato® for treatment-resistant depression, major anxiety disorder, PTSD, or another mental health challenge it’s normal to have a mixture of feelings and questions. Perhaps you are asking yourself

  • “Do I need to have something in mind when I take the medication?”
  • “What happens to my brain and body during treatment?”
  • “Is there anything I should or shouldn’t do prior or after treatment?”
  • “Are there safety concerns that I should consider?”
  • “Am I going to ‘trip’?”

In this guide we will walk you through the first treatment process, and how this medication can support your health and healing.

We Assure Care and Safety.

Before Treatment

When you are receiving IM Ketamine or Spravato® at Heading you are in the care of doctors, nurses, and medical assistants trained in understanding the intention, usage, dosage, side effects, and safety considerations of these medications. Your safety, comfort, and care are their priorities.



Your care team will connect with you prior to your appointment, consultation, and administering the medication. Areas of care that you will discuss include your mental health history, what to expect from Ketamine treatment, billing, and insurance.

Then, you’ll also be scheduled for a consultation with a psychiatrist to determine diagnosis,  eligibility, and prepare for your treatment program.


Just before treatment the medical team from the clinic will call you to ensure you know what to expect, discuss the dos & don’ts before & after treatment, and discuss having transportation to and from treatment. 

During & After Treatment

During treatment you will meet with a medical assistant, nurse, and your doctor. Your treatment will be administered, and your medical team will check on you periodically before, during, and after to assess how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Ketamine has psychological effects, and physiological effects. Once your treatment is done your care team will ensure you’re feeling well enough to leave the clinic, and will advise you to take it easy for the rest of the day and avoid driving until you’ve had a full night sleep.


Then, if you are also participating in therapy along with Ketamine, you will attend an appointment with your therapist typically within 24-72 hours after treatment.

Consider Your Intention for Treatment

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, and even in dosages aligned for mental health rather than for physical anesthesia, it can produce powerful psychedelic experiences. Psychedelic treatments, including ketamine, induce thoughts and feeling that can be outside of typical daily thinking and processing. For that reason it’s helpful to consider the intention you have going into treatment, and support processing the emotions and experiences post treatment as well. 


The psychedelic affect of Ketamine is not only part of the appeal of these medications, but also an aspect of treatment that can have a profound impact. A 2006 John Hopkins study on psychedelic treatments – in the case of this study psilocybin was used – the experience of treatment was marked as one of the most significant experiences of their lives. Additionally studies have shown that ketamine treatment can be particularly effective in treating patients who have both PTSD and treatment-resistant depression concurrently. Given the influence a traumatic experience or experiences have on the persistence nature of challenging mental health conditions, understanding what you want to gain through treatment, and what you wish you heal may be helpful going into treatment. 

Pursue a Team Approach with Ketamine Treatment and Therapy

Feelings of overwhelm, and isolation often come with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It’s important to not only know that you are not alone in your treatment. Therapist who are uniquely qualified to support patients receiving ketamine treatment may be able to support you best.  


Intention setting and experience processing can be supported through therapy, and it can be particularly helpful to have someone supporting you in digesting the experience of ketamine therapy after treatment. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Whoa, won’t I be too ‘out of it’ to navigate therapy during or immediately after treatment?”


The answer to that question, for you, might be yes.


We have found that not everyone feels up to the task of in-depth conversation during or immediately after treatment. However, this isn’t necessarily an issue. You’re still receiving benefit of ketamine treatment after the dissociative and psychedelic affects have worn off.


Ketamine is thought to support a brain change concept called neuroplasticity. This refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize synaptic connections – sort of like a software update on your computer. Studies have shown that there may be optimal windows of time, after the dissociative effects of ketamine are gone, to take advantage of the change-making aspects of the treatment. Therapists who are well-versed in ketamine’s ability to treat mental health and specialize in supporting individuals who have experienced trauma, or have hard to treat or treatment-resistant disorders can offer relevant can offer guidance that positively impacts healing.

Bottom line – mental health healing can be a team-effort, and a Therapist is an important member of the team who will continually help you focus your needs, experiences, and healing at the center of care. 


“My advice to anyone anxious when starting therapy is to approach it with an open mind,” Ken shares, a therapist at Heading.

In other words, it’s important to adopt a more flexible attitude towards your own general beliefs about therapy and mental health, and even ketamine treatment. 


If you are receiving Ketamine and also attending therapy your therapist will continue to guide you with warmth and compassion, and they’ll be able to do so more effectively if you are open about what treatments you are seeking, and if they are specialized in supporting patients who are attending both psychedelic therapy and talk therapy concurrently.


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Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

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I’m Anxious about Talking to My Therapist. Is that Normal?

I'm Anxious about Talking to My Therapist. Is That Normal?

December 12, 2022

Over the past several years, one in four young adults in the U.S. sought mental health care. If you’re like many of the millions of Americans starting therapy, plenty of emotions may be running through your mind. While you may be excited about taking this really bold step (and you should be!), you may also feel nervous about meeting your new therapist – especially if this is your first time starting therapy.


The good news is that there are ways to approach nerves, awkward feelings, or anxiety about starting therapy.  Here are some ways to increase your mental health awareness and work with anxiety when embarking on a relationship with a therapist.


Four Tips for Managing Therapy Anxiety


Ken Brown, LPC – Heading Health

#1: It’s Okay To Tell Your Therapist (and Yourself) That You’re Feeling Nervous

Trying to ignore your anxiety won’t help it go away. Acknowledging and accepting one’s anxiety is so important to overcoming it that it’s at the heart of one of today’s main therapies: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.


“Be honest,” shares Ken Brown LPC, a Heading therapist in Texas. “It’s totally okay to tell yourself and tell your therapist that you’re nervous about talking.”


After all, therapy is a team effort, which can be a totally foreign experience, especially if talking about feelings and experiences is not something you often do in your day-to-day life. 


For many, therapy is the first time they have entered a space in which being completely open is not only tolerated but celebrated. Talking about the therapy environment’s impact on your thoughts and feelings is part of the process. 


#2: Set Aside Your Preconceptions

It’s easy to go into therapy with preconceived notions about what it will be like, what you should be getting out of the process, what it would mean to have a mental health condition, and so on. With all these expectations rolling around in your head as you prepare for therapy, it’s natural to feel anxious.

“My advice to anyone anxious when starting therapy is to approach it with an open mind,” Ken shares.


In other words, it’s important to set aside any general beliefs you hold about therapy and mental health. Your therapist will guide you with warmth and compassion throughout the entire process, and they’ll be able to do so more freely and effectively when you come in with an open mind.


#3: Remind Yourself that Your Therapist is There to Help​

In our day-to-day interactions with our friends, family, and coworkers, there’s often an unspoken pressure to put on a happy face. When someone asks how you’re doing, you say “good,” regardless of what the truth is.  It can feel weird to open up, especially to a therapist you’ve never met before, after holding back how you really feel for so long.


“It’s important to remember that it is okay not to be okay,” Ken shares, “Remember that therapy is a safe, non-judgmental place for a person to process their thoughts and feelings.”


There’s nothing wrong with feeling unwell. Therapists are there to listen and provide you with the tools needed to work through whatever problems are bringing you down. They have years of training and have decided to dedicate their lives to helping individuals work through their mental health struggles.


#4: Recognize Your Strength and Bravery

Though therapy is no longer as stigmatized as it used to be, it can be hard to let go of years of harmful messages about mental health maintenance. As a result, people may experience feelings of shame or embarrassment over their decision to see a therapist and talk about their thoughts and emotions to improve their mental health. Recent mental health statistics indicate that 47% of adults feel seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness.


While these reactions may be real, they aren’t grounded in reality. 


‘If you are seeking help for improving your mental health, you are not “weak,” “flawed,” or “defective,” shares  Ken. “Someone who seeks to improve their mental health is someone who is showing a high level of self-awareness and personal strength.”


Take the first step

Want to find out if Heading is right for you? 

Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

Schedule your consultation