So, You Think You Have a Mental Illness

“We must bring the issue of mental illness out into the sunlight, out of the shadow, out of the closet, deal with it, treat people, have centers where people can get the necessary help.”

– John Lewis

With 1 in 5 U.S. adults suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s not a huge leap for one to think they may be suffering from one, as well. Depression and anxiety are extremely prevalent. Sharing similar hallmarks to certain other illnesses can drive many to assume they may be suffering from some sort of mental health issue.

According to Mental Health America, “mental illnesses are brain-based conditions that affect thinking, emotions, and behaviors.” Research suggests that 21% of adults in the U.S. experience some form of mental illness. 1 in 25 U.S. adults live with serious mental illness, and 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health illness

There are things TO DO and things NOT TO DO when it comes to being curious about your own mental health. One of the big ones for me is to educate without overloading myself. Dr. Google may be right, but I believe it’s only smart to begin the deep education part after a proper diagnosis has been made by a mental health professional.

One major thing someone can do for someone is to just listen. You don’t have to pretend to understand, just listen. It may not help either side of the conversation, but it can act as a distraction.

One thing to avoid is any articles with names like “Signs You May Be…” or any other similar catechism. These are often misguided pieces of information and are used to create worry and fear rather than to be informative. After all, that headache you just Googled might just be cancer.

However, there are symptoms to keep an eye out for.

In Adults, Young Adults and Adolescents:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance use

In Older Children And Pre-Adolescents:

  • Substance use
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities – at home and/or at school
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • In Younger Children:
  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Before letting a list like this define you it’s important to seek out professional help. These are only places to start.

If it turns out after receiving proper medical care that you may have a mental illness there are things to do, as well.

  • Accept your feelings
  • Establish a support network
  • Seek counseling
  • Take time for yourself
  • Handling unusual behavior
  • Talk to a doctor about medication
  • Therapy

No, not all of these are going to work for everybody (I still struggle myself), but they’re a place to start. You must accept the issue before you can move forward. Only do so cautiously, though. The opinion of a mental health professional is needed before anything else.

One thought on “So, You Think You Have a Mental Illness

  1. This is so informative and well-written, Josh. My favourite part was where you wrote something like “before you let this define you” as that is a trap I think a lot of us fall into; getting labelled or labelling ourselves as “mentally ill” when we are sooo much more than that. We are artists, parents, Doctors, builders, FRIENDS, dreamers, do-ers, WARRIORS even. Hugs to you. I love your blog xx

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