This week (October 4-10) is National Mental Illness Awareness week. The purpose of this week is to bring awareness to mental health issues, and to stop the stigma, discrimination, and shame that surrounds the topic. A lot of people suffer in silence because of these stigmas and the shame that they feel. In the United States, 46.4% of adults will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.
Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person. I would argue that it’s the complete opposite. So many people struggle with mental health issues and illnesses everyday, but others may never realize it. Do you know how strong you have to be to put on a smile and face the world when you would rather be curled up in bed, crying?
There are so many mental illnesses. Some I had never even heard of until I did some more in depth research. Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, are disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior.
There are five categories of mental illnesses: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia & psychotic disorders, dementia, and eating disorders.
There are six types of anxiety disorders that are most common.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is when a person feels anxious on most days and worries about a lot of different things. This lasts for a period of at least six months. Most times, it lasts a lot longer.
Social Anxiety. I struggle with this one, as well. People who suffer from social anxiety have an intense fear of being criticized, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations. These people have a hard time speaking in public, and even find it difficult to eat in public.
Specific Phobias. A person with specific phobia feels very fearful about a particular object or situation. These people usually do everything in their power to avoid said situations. There are many different types of phobias. Some phobias include: spiders, needles, and travelling on an airplane.
Panic Disorder. Some people think that all people with anxiety have panic attacks. That’s not the case. Panic attacks are a disorder of their own. When someone has a panic attack, these attacks are often intense, overwhelming, and are accompanied with uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with physical symptoms. Panic attacks often include shortness of breath, chest pain, excessive sweating, and dizziness. Sometimes panic attacks may cause the person to feel like they are having a heart attack.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD often gets misused or misinterpreted. OCD isn’t just having to have everything perfectly lined up. Obsessive compulsive disorder can be a fear of germs, causing the person to constantly wash their hands in fear of contamination. Most of the time, someone with OCD has strict routines, behaviors, or rituals.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A lot of people associate PTSD with war, but that’s not the only thing that can trigger PTSD in someone. Childhood trauma, adult-hood trauma, abusive relationships, car accidents, disasters, etc. There are many things that can cause traumatic stress for someone. People who suffer from PTSD can have a difficult time relaxing and have nightmares, and/or flashbacks. They also tend to avoid a situation that is similar to the event that is causing them stress. PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms that last longer than a month.
The most common mood disorders are: Major Depression, Dysthymia (a mild, chronic state of depression), Bipolar, and substance-induced mood disorder. MDD is prolonged and persistent periods of extreme sadness. Bipolar (also called manic depression or bipolar affective disorder) is depression that includes alternating times of depression and mania. I found a great article on Hypomania (which is what my therapist thinks I have). It focuses on signs that someone is having a manic episode. You can read the article here. I read it to Donald and he said it was spot-on. He has always said it was my eyes that give me away.
Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders is not one that I am familiar with. We have all seen movies of people who suffer with schizophrenia, but I didn’t know exactly how accurate that portrayal was. According to the Mayo Clinic. “Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling. People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment.”
Dementia. I used to work at an assisted living facility that housed adults with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I have had many trainings on the subject and have taken extra “courses” to understand it better, It’s so sad to watch someone’s mental health decline so rapidly. There are seven stages of dementia: ranging from no impairment to very severe decline. Also from the Mayo Clinic, “Dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn’t a specific disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia. Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes.”
Eating Disorders. I’ve never really thought about how an eating disorder would be considered a mental illness, but then I remembered that body dysmorphia was a real thing, and could probably be categorized together. I have never dealt with an eating disorder, nor known anyone who has, so I was also uneducated on this one. Eating disorders are illnesses where people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and thoughts and emotions regarding food. People who suffer from eating disorders become pre-occupied with their body weight and image, resulting in an unhealthy relationship with food.
I read that Borderline Personality Disorder is considered the “most difficult” to treat and to live with. Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships. This is one that my doctor was concerned about me having. My therapist hasn’t ruled it out, yet.
Some mental illnesses that I didn’t mention are: Autism (ASD), personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and post-partum depression.
There are five rare mental illnesses that I came across that I have never heard of: Stendhal Syndrome, Apotemnophilia, Alien Hand Syndrome, Capgras Syndrome, and Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. I have yet to do research on these, but I plan to in the near future. I like to be as educated as I can on all things mental health and mental illness.
Do you or a loved one suffer from mental illness?
Have you heard of all of these illnesses?
Do you agree that mental illnesses/mental health disorders have a negative stigma surrounding them?