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Many of Us Suffer from Mental Disorders but Most Choose to Ignore Them
As time goes on, discussing mental health and the disorders so many of us face has become less and less taboo. With shows like ’13 Reasons Why,’ we seem to all be open to discussion suicide and bullying far more often than we would have just a few years ago.As time goes on, discussing mental health and the disorders so many of us face has become less and less taboo. With shows like ’13 Reasons Why,’ we seem to all be open to discussion suicide and bullying far more often than we would have just a few years ago.
But the ability to discuss it more freely does not mean mental health is improving. In fact, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental health, and as many as 6.9% of adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode last year. Of these, only about 41% of adults in the U.S. received mental health services during that time.1 But why? It seems like media is more willing to talk about things like bipolar disorder and depression, but despite it being all around us, many are choosing to just ignore their problems.
Mental health matters and we should face it.
We’ve all seen the commercials about depression. The scene usually involves an attractive young/middle-aged woman lying on her couch or longingly staring out the window. We hear the voice-over comment on how living with depression can make you feel like a prisoner. You don’t want to engage with your friends or family anymore. In fact, you sometimes don’t even want to get out of bed. For some people, that commercial is an accurate representation of their life. But for others, their depression may not look that way. In fact, they may only feel sad or mildly moody a few times a week. To them, that’s their normal. Perhaps that’s why it can be difficult to know you should seek help.
Unfortunately, choosing to do nothing, or failing to recognize you need to do something at all, can have heartbreaking consequences. More than 90% of children who commit suicide were living with untreated mental health issues. More so, those living with mental illness are more likely to develop chronic medical conditions and even die 25 years earlier than others.
While it can sometimes feel embarrassing to seek help for something you may not truly understand, it is never embarrassing to want to help yourself and be healthy. So if you’re thinking you may have a problem, know you aren’t along, and know what to look for.
There are different types of mental health disorders we might be experiencing.
There are numerous types of mental health disorders. The following lists out the most common ones and summarizes what they are:2
1. Social or general anxiety disorders
People who suffer from these disorders respond to situations with fear and panic attacks. For anxiety sufferers, something as normal as walking out their front door can lead to complete fear and an emotional breakdown. This disorder affects about 1.5% of the U.S. population of those aged 18 and up.3
2. Depression, bipolar and cyclothymic
These are classified as mood disorders, and they typically involve intense feelings of sadness or periods of being super happy followed by being super sad. While anyone undergoing stress can experience mood swings, those with diagnosed mood disorders tend to fluctuate more frequently and intensely. Mood disorders affect almost 10% of the U.S. adult population.4
3. Psychotic episodes such as hallucinations and delusions
Psychotic disorders involve distorted awareness. People who live with psychotic disorders often see things or hear things that are not real. Schizophrenia is a common example of a psychotic episode. 4% of the U.S. adult population has been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.
4. Anorexia, binge eating and bulimia
While many young girls (and some boys) may think eating disorders are a phase everyone goes through, that’s not the case. Extreme emotions and attitudes toward your weight or the things you eat/don’t eat are actually examples of an eating disorder that should not be ignored or accepted. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to someone and get help. Eating disorders affect about 30 million people of all ages and genders in the U.S.5
5. Pyromania, kleptomania and other impulse disorders
As the name suggests, impulse disorder sufferers are unable to ignore their impulses. It is common for people with impulse problems to lose sight of things that are important, such as responsibilities and relationships. These disorders affect 10.5% of the American population of men and women.6
6. Alcoholism and drug addiction
This addiction disorder goes hand-in-hand with impulse disorders, as those who struggle with alcoholism and drugs are unable to deny their craving for things they shouldn’t abuse. This heartbreaking disorder affects over 13% of the U.S. population.7
7. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Movies and books can sometimes make OCD look funny or endearing depending on the habit of the person exhibiting the behavior. In reality, those with OCD can live challenging lives, as small tasks like turning a door knob can turn into long and complicated rituals. Those living with OCD experience constant thoughts and fears known as obsessions. Those obsessions lead the person to perform rituals, or compulsions. About 2.3% of the population (ages 18-54) suffer from OCD.8
8. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a heart-breaking condition which is common in veterans and victims of crime such as assault. People with PTSD often have lifetime fears and memories and can have problems dealing with their emotions. This disorder affects 8% of Americans.
It’s not a shame to seek help if anyone has mental disorders.
Mental disorders are not new to us but not everyone knows how to cope with them. Like every other physical illness, mental disorders should be treated. If you find yourself or your friend having any symptoms of mental disorders, it’s better to get help as soon as possible.
How to get help for a friend or a loved one: be understanding.
Some of you may be reading about these disorders and, instead of recognizing yourself, you find yourself thinking of a friend. If you feel you know someone who may have a mental health disorder, there are steps to take to ensure you are respectful in reaching out.
First of all, don’t try to play psychologist. Even if you mean well, trying to “fix” your friend, or offering advice can sometimes make things worse. It is most important to listen. Be very patient and don’t expect anything to be resolved immediately. If you are afraid to start the conversation for fear you will say the wrong thing, Help Guide.org offers conversation starters and sample questions to aid you in being a helpful friend.
Perhaps most importantly, never downplay what they are feeling. Even if the frustration you feel is with yourself because you don’t feel helpful, don’t ever tell someone struggling with something like depression to “snap out of it” or that “it’s all in your head.”
If you feel conversations with your friend or loved one are going well, encourage them to reach out to a physician they trust. You can even offer to accompany them on their first visit. The first step is being able to tell a professional they feel upset or “just not right.”
How to get help for yourself: talk about it.
Even if you know you want to get help, finding that assistance can still feel overwhelming. MentalHealth.gov offers suicide prevention hotlines, treatment referral helplines and more. If you’ve already talked to your physician about how you feel and what you want to do about it, great! If not, what’s holding you back from taking that first step?
You don’t ever need to feel embarrassed about your mental health. Remember there are people who want to help you and will do whatever it takes to give you that help in the way that’s right for you. Start by talking to your family doctor. In some cases, she/he will be able to prescribe something or recommend someone to talk to. If not, they can refer you to a specialist for more in-depth help.
Check in often to see if everything’s okay.
If you or your friend have gotten help and even started talking to a therapist or taking a specific medication, consistently check in with how you’re feeling. Remember that medicine doesn’t always get it right the first time. Be aware of side-effects and reach out to someone you trust before hand to look out for any negative changes in your attitude or strange behaviors. It can sometimes be necessary to change prescriptions one or more times before finding what works best for you and your body. And that’s okay!
Mental Health America has a list of what to look for in adults, adolescents and children that may indicate you or your loved one should speak to a medical or mental health professional.
Take care of yourself for yourself.
Sometimes mental health disorders can trick you into believing you’re a burden to your family or friends. Remember that voice is a liar and you are so worthy and loved. Mental illness affects nearly 44 million people; you are not alone.
Get help because you deserve it. You deserve to be happy, healthy and energetic for many, many years to come.
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