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So You’ve Been Diagnosed with Mental Illness: What Now?

Mental illness is widespread throughout our society, and unfortunately, many people experiencing a mental health condition are unaware they have one. This can lead to abusing drugs and alcohol and “self-medicating” to numb their symptoms. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that only half of those with mental illnesses will receive the treatment they need. Nearly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness, translating to 51.5 million people in 2019.

The most common mental illnesses in the United States include:

  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Addiction

Although the mental illnesses we’ve listed above are more common, it doesn’t mean they can’t be severe. With that said, other less common mental conditions can also be severe. Some less common conditions include:

  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Kleptomania
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depersonalization-derealization disorder

The prevalence of any mental illness among men is 16.3% compared to 24.5% of women. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 had the highest prevalence of any mental illness at 29.4%. This is compared to adults 26 through 49 at 25%, and ages 50 and older 14.1%.

The prevalence of any mental illness was highest among adults of two or more races at 31.7 percent, followed by white adults at 22.2 percent. Asian adults reported the lowest prevalence at 14.1 percent.  

Coping with Mental Illness

It’s challenging and heart-wrenching to watch a loved one struggle with symptoms of mental illness. Sometimes, you might not have all the answers on how to support yourself or a loved one. We are all different, and our situations will vary greatly. 

The doctor might give a specific diagnosis, and you might have concerns about how someone has been behaving and talking afterward. You or a loved one may have an understanding of what approach or support is most helpful. Below, we offer tips on how to cope if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Know the Warning Signs

One such example you should look out for is withdrawal from social interaction. It can instantly indicate issues with a person, but you should also watch for an inability to function at school or work, dramatic changes in sleep, and appetite changes. 

If a person exhibits these signs or has these experiences, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dealing with a mental health problem. However, the symptoms could be related to other conditions. It’s crucial to follow up with a medical professional to address any issues and prevent other serious symptoms from developing. 

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Approaching the Issue

One of the most challenging and vital steps is starting the conversation. Whether it’s for you or a loved one, you don’t have to be an expert on the topic or have all the answers. It’s OK to be scared and feel vulnerable, but you must express yourself or listen to the other person. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. You must understand that those around you will be there for you or that you’ll be there for the individual in question. 

No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, you must be patient. Whether you’re dealing with yourself or a loved one who’s been diagnosed, you shouldn’t judge. Listen to what others are trying to say, and don’t disregard your or someone else’s feelings. 

You must speak with a mental health professional or someone you feel comfortable with to learn more about the condition. For some, it might be helpful to compare this type of situation with a physical health concern. If there were concerns about diabetes or high blood pressure, you’d handle the problem, right? 

Tips for Talking About Mental Health

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you might feel like you’ve reached rock bottom. As was mentioned above, it’s OK to feel this way, but you must stay on track and focus on the task at hand. With help from a psychologist and proper medication, you will get better. In the meantime, you have to learn how to talk about your problems. If you bottle up how you feel inside, it could lead to severe problems or hurting yourself, so here are tips on how to talk about these issues. 

Set Time Aside Without Distractions

If you’re dealing with mental illness, you must talk about it. You need to set time aside with someone you trust and speak without distractions. By doing so, you can find solutions to problems you otherwise thought couldn’t be resolved by just talking them out. 

Share As Much or As Little As You Want

When discussing your problems, feel free to speak as much or as little as you want. Speak at your own pace. If you aren’t ready to talk about something, don’t! Talking requires courage and trust, so don’t feel obligated to share anything you aren’t prepared to share. 

Various mental health diagnosis in a filing cabinet

Talk About Your Well-Being

You should focus on the positive aspects of your life and find ways to improve. Talk about de-stressing or areas that make you feel good, such as exercising or dinner you’re going to cook later that’s healthy. 

Listen to What Others Have to Say

Whether it’s a therapist or a friend, the person you speak to likely has good advice to offer. Maybe they’ve been through what you’re experiencing and have words of wisdom. Don’t shut anyone out, and make sure to take advice. You could be helping them, too, without knowing it by just listening. 

Know Your Limits

Don’t say too much because it could trigger some issues. Know your limits.

How to Respond to Suicidal Thoughts

Unfortunately, a mental illness diagnosis could lead to suicidal thoughts. Maybe you or another person feels like they can’t go on, but it’s important to reach out for help. You must immediately reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (TALK) or directly call 911. It’s important to tell others how you’re feeling, even though it might be distressing to you. If you or someone you love is planning on taking their life, just remember that things can get better with the right help.

If you’re looking for help for mental illness after a diagnosis, several options are available to you. You don’t have to feel this way forever, and a combination of medication and therapy can help you adjust to a life after this diagnosis. Just remember, nothing is permanent, and things will improve with time and assistance.

Sources

Suicide Prevention Lifeline (N.D.) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

NIMH (December 2020) Mental Illness. from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml

NCBI (N.D.) Common Mental Health Disorders from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92254/

WHO (October 2019) Schizophrenia from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/schizophrenia

MentalHealth.gov (N.D.) Depression from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/depression

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