You’ve likely heard the term mental illness before. Perhaps you, or someone you know was diagnosed with a certain condition. Unfortunately, mental health is extremely complicated and highly stigmatized. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to raise awareness and educate people about mental illnesses and debunk the myths and stigma behind them.
What Are Some Examples of Mental Illness?
When we say mental illness, we’re not referring to one specific condition over another. Conditions come in many different forms and affect everyone differently. Some people struggle with a mild version of one, while others have several severe forms of others. A few of the most common diagnosed mental conditions include:
- Depression: Generalized term for a number of conditions, most commonly Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but can be Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), among many others. Commonly characterized by lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, and inability to feel pleasure.
- Anxiety: Generalized term for a number of conditions, most commonly Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), but can include Social Anxiety Disorder, Phobias, and types of Panic Disorders among others. Typically characterized by intense fear, uneasiness, and sense of doom.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A disorder that sometimes develops after exposure to a traumatic event, or some cases, multiple traumatic events. Generally characterized with intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks to a traumatic event.
- Bipolar disorder: A mood disorder characterized by episodes of depression and mania. Depression symptoms tend to be similar to MDD while a manic episode tends to consist of restlessness, grandiose thinking, and extreme excitability. Often characterized in two forms with the aforementioned as Bipolar 1, and Bipolar 2 which has milder manic episodes known as hypomania.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Disorder characterized by difficulties concentrating, impulsivity, and making decisions. Can affect school and work performance, as well as interfere with everyday life.
- Substance abuse: Disorder characterized by a dependency on a certain substance. Usually a type of drug or alcohol. Without access to this substance, they may feel powerful withdrawal symptoms which, in some cases, can be life threatening.
- Schizophrenia: A disorder that affects a person’s perceptions, thinking, and behavior. Typically associated with psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and flat affect. They may have odd beliefs and behaviors along with difficulties concentrating.
In general, a mental health disorder is any condition that interferes with your mood, thinking, function, and behavior. They can develop from a multitude of reasons ranging from genetics, to environmental and can happen at any age (URMC 2020). With that said, here is what’s important to know about mental illness:
1. It Is Not A Personal Weakness
A mental illness is just as much of an illness as something physical. Much like how physical illnesses can be diagnosed by looking at abnormalities, signs of mental illness can be discovered in the physiology of the brain itself; people struggling with mental illnesses often have structural differences in their brain chemistry. In some cases these develop as a result of genetics; inheriting MDD, for instance, similarly as someone might inherit Crohn’s Disease. It is not the result of a personal weakness and can happen to anyone at any age: children, teens, young adults can develop a condition just as someone who is middle aged or elderly can (Smith 2015).
2. You Are Not Alone
While struggling with a mental health condition may feel isolating, it is important to know that you’re not alone. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control: 1 in 5 people may experience a condition in a given year, with up to 50% of people experiencing a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. It is also believed that 1 in 25 Americans are struggling with a major mental health condition (CDC 2018). While each individual struggles differently, there are others out there who have similar experiences. It is possible to get treatment and it is possible to live a happy life.
3. Everyone is Affected Differently
Mental health is not one-size-fits all. There are numerous conditions that exist that have multiple variables in the way they affect each person. You may find yourself struggling more in one area than someone with the same diagnosis. Each person is unique in background and perspective, therefore not everyone will feel the effects of mental illness in the same way. Treatment for people is the same. Some people will need different therapies, medication, and lifestyle changes than others – even those with the same condition. This is why it’s important to reach out to a professional to get the proper diagnosis and find the best mode for recovery (Smith 2015).
4. You Can Receive Help
Depending on what you’re struggling with and the severity, there are a number of different options for treatment. There are numerous resources out there. For people in an especially dark place, there are counselors available 24/7 to talk with. For further help, you can talk with a healthcare provider or mental health professional to get on the best path for improvement. Reaching out is a great first step to getting your life back on track.
5. You Can Fight Stigma
Mental health is highly stigmatized; there are many preconceived notions about different disorders that are misguided and harmful. The best way to fight this is through education. We at Psych2Go have numerous articles and videos about various mental health topics to help make the subject easy and digestible. Similarly, there are other sites focused on mental health such as NAMI, Healthline, and Medical News Today that offer information and resources relating to psychology and mental health. A good way to get started is to look at our archives about abnormal psychology, and behavioral psychology, and mental health.
It’s highly unfortunate that mental health comes with as much stigmatization as it does. Luckily, through education we can get a more accurate understanding about mental health conditions. Struggling with mental health is truly challenging and exhausting. It’s always a great idea to reach out to a mental health professional to get on the right path for recovery. What are your thoughts about mental health? What else do we need to know about it? Let us know in the comments!
- CDC. (2018, January 26). Learn About Mental Health – Mental Health – CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
- Demaio, S. (2014, October 7). Five Things You Need To Know About Mental Health. The Conversation. theconversation.com/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-mental-health-32581
- Smith, S. (2015, May 27). 7 Things To Remember about Mental Health | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI. www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/may-2015/7-things-to-remember-about-mental-health
- TedX Talks. (2016, June 21). What They Don’t Tell You About Mental Illness | Elizabeth Medina | TEDxSpeedwayPlaza [Video]. YouTube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieXB-BGxYwg
- University of Rochester Medical Center. (2020). What You Need to Know About Mental Illness – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. URMC. www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3047
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2020, May 28). What Is Mental Health? | MentalHealth.gov. Mentalhealth. www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health