Why Mental Health and Treatment for Disorders Matter

** DISCLAIMER ** 

This article discusses mental health. I  am not a medical professional. The content on this website, and in this article are not meant to replace any medical or legal advice. Always speak to a licensed professional about your health, or for emergences, reach out to 911. Use the content on this site with discretion. 

Mental Disorders Affect .

Mental health awareness is a topic that hits close to home and encourages others to speak about it more often. My passion for mental health advocacy developed from my own struggles with anxiety and seeing friends and loved one’s battle with symptoms. One of the most challenging aspects of disorders is they don’t always make their presence known with blazing red flags, and they aren’t always diagnosed. 

Disorders don’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, wealth, or any other factor.  Despite this fact, there are still negative views towards those who may be suffering from disorders. They can be viewed as a weakness rather than a condition like any other. By removing stigmas associated with disorders and raising awareness, I hope that others will feel more comfortable talking about their symptoms. More discussions could lead to more diagnoses and discovering the best form of treatment to help. My best treatment for anxiety has been therapy, along with medication as needed.

I've Lived With A Mental Disorder Since Childhood

Anxiety is a squatter that has lived in my mind since childhood and more than likely always will. I have occasional panic attacks, which can cause rapid breathing, nausea, racing thoughts, and even digestion issues. Despite the lifelong bond, I have learned how to live with anxiety, for the most part, at least. Some days anxiety can take over.  It can leave me feeling drained, both physically and emotionally. Other days anxiety barely makes a noise, and I don’t even think about it. 

Despite My Symptoms, I Didn't Suspect I Had a Mental Disorder Until My Senior Year of Highschool

For the majority of my life, anxiety was a disorder that I was unaware I suffered from. It wasn’t until having a conversation in my senior year of high school that the light bulb went off in my head. A friend of mine talked about their own symptoms, and many of the physical effects she described matched my own. Until that point in time, I assumed everyone had similar symptoms. The only difference I thought was that maybe they learned how to cope with them better. I didn’t perceive it as an anxiety disorder; I blamed myself for not managing stress well.  That light bulb going off was key for me a few months later in the fall.

Receiving a Mental Disorder Diagnosis Allowed Me to Treat the Symptoms

After graduating high school, I intended to go to college in the fall of that year. The week leading up to the start of the semester, I had a flare-up of panic attacks. Then, I felt like going to college wouldn’t have been healthy. I was having nausea constantly, making it hard even to want to eat. I decided to take a year off and focus on my mental health. I scheduled an appointment with my doctor and discussed my symptoms to make sure it was an anxiety disorder. 

While I wouldn’t ever ask to have an anxiety disorder, I’m at least thankful to have a diagnosis. Once I completed that initial step, I was able to find a medication that worked for me. Since starting that prescription in 2008, there have been periods of time where I didn’t need to take them. It depends on what is happening in my life and which tools work best for me during those periods. In January of 2020, I added therapy to my toolkit, which has been a phenomenal help. 

Treatment Programs Can Be Customized

A stigma of mental health disorder treatment that I hope will fade away is the negative view of medication. There is no difference between taking medication for mental health, diabetes, or even heartburn. Some patients may opt for an as-needed medication rather than a daily dose. Like other disorders, some treatment programs may not need medication instead of focusing on lifestyle or diet changes. If you are hesitant about medication or prefer holistic approaches, your doctor can help guide you in the best direction. It’s important to talk about your symptoms, as well as your goals and/or concerns about treatment options. 

Mental Disorder Diagnoses Can Improve, and Even Save Lives

If a mental disorder continues undiagnosed or untreated, it can affect that person’s health, coping habits, and overall well-being. Those effects can extend into places of work, school, and socially. The following statistics are taken directly from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions.
  • 18.4% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2019 (9.5 million individuals)
  • The rate of unemployment is higher among U.S. adults who have a mental illness (5.8%) compared to those who do not (3.6%)
  • High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers.
  • Students aged 6-17 with mental, emotional, or behavioral concerns are 3x more likely to repeat a grade.
These social, physical, and financial effects can snowball and worsen mental disorders triggered by stress factors. The best way to help reduce the effect is reaching an early diagnosis and finding a treatment program that best works for the individual. But where do you begin? And how can you help someone else you suspect you have a disorder.

Where to Begin Seeking Help for Mental Disorders

I suggest two resources for mental health help; the first being your doctor, and the second being the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). If you are the type who prefers to research online first, there is a fantastic list of common symptoms, both physically and behaviorally, on NAMI’s Warning Signs page. If it’s suspected that you or someone you know may be suffering from a disorder, the NAMI HelpLine is an available resource for asking questions. 

If you are struggling with a disorder, please know that help is out there. You can work to find a method that will best help you. One recommendation I will make is to keep a journal of your thoughts and write down any symptoms you may experience. Then, if you decide to speak to a medical professional, it can be a valuable resource. 

Speaking up about symptoms can be the most difficult step. If a friend, co-worker, or loved one approaches you by asking questions, simply listening can be a lifesaver for them. Offer as much help as you emotionally can in a way that maintains any boundaries you may need. You can offer the NAMI helpline number, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or if needed, the suicide hotline, 1-800-273-8255. 

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