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6 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Mental Illness

6 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Mental Illness

How often do we hear someone say “I’m so depressed!” Or “I’m so ADD!”  Usually, people are using these terms in a casual fashion to refer to a temporary, down mood or to comment on their mildly scattered state of mind. Unfortunately, stigma and misinformation about actual illnesses still exist. A mental illness is a disturbance of mood, thinking, or behavior. The individual’s symptoms may be mild or debilitating, but they undermine his or her ability to function in daily life. Some of the most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,  approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States has an episode of some type of mental illness in a given year, and many individuals are never diagnosed.  Loving a person with a mental illness can be challenging, but many resources are available to help you cope. Below are truths to common misconceptions that people have about mental illness and how it affects a person’s character and personality.

1. Mental illness is not a character flaw

Even today, many people believe that depression and other mental disorders are the result of a negative attitude or some other character flaw. Often individuals with mental illness have this belief, too, and feel guilty that they can’t “kick” the disorder on their own. The most helpful thing you can do as a loved one is to remember that they didn’t choose the illness.   An abundance of research exists to show that mental illnesses have a number of causes, ranging from genetic causes to faulty activity in crucial parts of the brain.  Reminding your loved one that he or she has an illness, not a character flaw, is a way to be supportive.

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2.  Treatment can be very effective for people with mental illness

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma against seeking therapy or psychiatric treatment. Some people might think therapy and psychiatry is only for “crazy” people. The individual with the illness might be afraid to seek help for this reason, especially if his or her family is opposed to psychiatric treatment. To give another example, someone with depression might feel that nothing can help them, and that seeking treatment is pointless. (Feelings of hopelessness are common in depression, for example). Treatment can be very effective, especially when it is encouraged by family members and loved ones. Sharing your own experiences with therapy may boost your loved one book that first appointment.

3. They are committed to sometimes difficult treatment

Depending on the type of mental illness, your loved one may need long-term treatment. If medication is necessary, it may take a while to find the right medication. Some medications have side effects, and it can be a discouraging process trying to find the right treatment. The individual may at times feel like dropping out of treatment altogether. You can help by reminding him or her that while it’s difficult sometimes, not treating the illness will only make it worse. Again, openness about your own struggles (whether they be with relationships, mental health, or dealing with difficult situations) can encourage your loved one to stick it out.

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4. People with mental illnesses can have full lives

Especially in the early stages of treatment, individuals may struggle with accepting their condition, and feel like they are destined to be “outsiders” in life. You can remind your loved one that with proper treatment many individuals are living full, stable lives with a mental illness. In addition, many great contributions to our society have been made by people with mental illness. One example is Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist with bipolar disorder, who has written many books on the subject of bipolar. Not only is it possible to deal with a mental illness, a person can actually learn to overcome it and be an example for others. While it may seem far away — it is possible to have a full life just like everyone else!

5. A diagnosis does not define a person

Some individuals may start to identify themselves by their illness, and have self-limiting beliefs about what they are capable of. You can help by reminding them of their strengths, interests, and the things they have achieved. Labels and diagnoses are necessary when professionals are discussing recovery. It’s important that the individual remember, however, that he or she is a multi-dimensional human being behind the diagnosis. Once under control and well-understood, a mental illness can be another part of a very complex persona. Just like the color of your hair doesn’t define you, neither does your mental illness.

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6. People with mental illness can learn to communicate

Coping with mental illness, including treatment and recovery, can be a rollercoaster ride. At times, the individual can feel so overwhelmed by emotion that he or she retreats into silence. This can be frustrating for the person who just wants to help.  A helpful thing to say at these times is “I may not understand what you are going through, but I want you to know I care. Please let me know what I can do to support you.” Allow them time to explain their feelings and you may be able to relate in your own way.

Coping with a mental illness can be challenging, and understanding the ups and downs of the person experiencing the conditions can be confusing. But with education, treatment, and support, individuals with mental illness can live happy, full, and successful lives.  Their most important tool of recovery is the people around them who care, like you.

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Featured photo credit: Sad Young Man/Deposit Photos via depositphotos.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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