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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 January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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