Every living person can develop both physical and mental illnesses.
May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to educate people about mental health and to dispel myths and stigmas around mental illness.
Missing the Signs
Across the United States, 46 million people experience mental illness each year, often in silence. It is not uncommon for people to go years without receiving any treatment for their mental health conditions. The average age of onset is 14, with 75 percent of conditions developing by age 24.
One reason mental illnesses may not be immediately addressed is that they often manifest during adolescence. Puberty is a time of significant hormonal and developmental change, when people may be expected to act in new and previously unexpected ways.
Stigma and denial are additional reasons why mental illness may not receive needed attention. Many people are fearful of individuals with mental health diagnoses or believe a mental health diagnosis will ruin their life. This fearfulness can make them hesitant to admit they have a mental health issue.
Variation Within Mental Health Diagnoses
There are many different types of mental illnesses and they don’t always manifest the same way from person to person. For example, some people with depression may experience symptoms so severe that, even when medicated and utilizing therapy, they are unable to work and may feel suicidal. Other people who are diagnosed with depression may never feel suicidal or need medication, but struggle to complete day to day tasks and suffer from feelings of guilt and sadness.
Schizophrenia is another condition that can manifest differently. Some people with the diagnosis experience hallucinations, which may be auditory (heard), visual (seen), tactile (felt), or any combination of these. Some people with schizophrenia do not experience hallucinations at all, but struggle more with paranoia, feeling that someone is trying to harm them, or other delusions. Just like with depression, some people with schizophrenia are able to work full-time jobs and have successful careers, while others struggle to simply survive.
The most common mental health diagnosis in the United States is anxiety, which impacts approximately 18 million Americans. Like other diagnoses, it may be experienced differently by any two individuals and their ability to carry on their daily routines might be impacted differently.
While there are many more diagnoses, it is most important to know that the sooner a person receives an accurate diagnosis and treatment, the better their prognosis is for recovery from any mental illness. Whenever a new guest arrives at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we are sure to ask them about struggles they may be having with their mental health to ensure they get any care they might need.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists these signs of a potential mental illness:
- Excessive worry/fear
- Excessive sadness
- Confusion or problems concentrating/learning
- Extreme mood changes, both positive and negative
- Prolonged/strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and socializing
- Difficulty understanding or relating to other people
- Changes in sleeping habits, tiredness, and/or low energy levels
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior, or personality
- Substance abuse
- Physical ailments without obvious causes (headaches, stomach aches, or vague aches and pains)
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities
- Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Issues from Lack of Proper Treatment
According to NAMI, only about 41 percent of people who struggle with mental illness get proper treatment. When a mental illness goes untreated, it can lead to other issues:
- 1 in 4 of homeless adults staying in shelters lives with serious mental illness.
- 1 in 5 jail/prison inmates has “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
- 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition.
- Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
- Individuals living with serious mental illness are more likely to have chronic medical conditions. They die an average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
- Students with a mental health condition have the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
- Over 90 percent of people who die by suicide showed signs of mental illness before they died.
Mental Illness and Addiction
People who struggle with mental illness may also develop an addiction when they try to utilize alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate their condition. It is sometimes thought that substance abuse can cause mental illness, but according to NAMI, there isn’t one factor that is responsible.
Stress, genetics, trauma, lifestyle, and the chemical processes in the brain can all play a role in a mental illness developing. Substance abuse may just be the final straw that causes symptoms to manifest.
The state of having a mental health issue and a substance abuse diagnosis simultaneously is called a “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring diagnosis” and it is estimated that more than 10 million American adults fit this category. The team at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia includes experts in both mental health and substance abuse to provide all of our guests with the care they need to promote long-term wellness.
Regardless of whether a person suffers from mental illness, a substance abuse disorder, or both types of conditions, there are some things that Mental Health America promotes to help them to maintain their best possible health:
- Healthy diet
- Interacting with animals
- Healthy work-life balance, with time for recreation
- Small joys, such as watching a sunset, taking a nap, or seeing a friend
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental illness, there is help and there is hope. At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we recognize our guests as unique and whole individuals whose needs may include support for their mental health.