The questions you’re too afraid to ask, answered
What is mental health?
Our emotional health and psychological well-being are what we mean when we talk about mental health. It refers to the way we think about ourselves, our relationships with others and the world around us. A person is said to be in a mentally healthy state if they can use their cognitive and emotional capacities, interact with others, and fulfill day-to-day obligations.
What is mental illness?
We all experience some kind of problem with our mental health on occasion. Sometimes we feel sad, anxious or stressed. These feelings are normal and part of being human. However, a mental health problem becomes a mental illness when persistent symptoms cause you to feel stressed out and make it difficult for you to carry out regular responsibilities.
Mental illness is a broad term used to describe a wide range of conditions that affect your moods, thinking and behavior. When someone is experiencing a mental illness, they may have difficulty functioning in their daily lives. They may also have problems thinking clearly or making decisions.
Everyone has their ups and downs. The key, however, is to consider the frequency and intensity of your emotions and behaviors. You want to note when your emotions and behaviors are happening more often and for longer periods of time.
How common is mental illness?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in any given year.* The most common mental illnesses include depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. Mental illnesses can be debilitating and often go untreated due to a lack of knowledge, access to care, or stigma.
How to address the stigma around mental health?
Stigma is a term that is used to describe a negative label, stereotype or preconceived belief about a person or group. Stigmas are usually based on ignorance and/or misinformation.
Stigmas are harmful because they prevent those who need help from seeking it out because they fear being judged by others or having their friends or family turn their back on them if they were to disclose their struggles.
We can work towards reducing stigma surrounding mental health issues by educating ourselves on these topics and by talking openly about them with others who may be experiencing, or have experienced similar issues in their life. Keep an open mind and be aware of your own biases, misinformation, and fears. Actively work toward not passing judgment especially if you do not have a full understanding of the condition or what it entails.
What are the signs and symptoms of mental illness?
Mental illness symptoms can vary widely. They affect people in different ways and at different stages of life. Some mental illnesses cause symptoms that are obvious to others, while others may be less obvious.
But some of the most common symptoms include:
Changes in thinking, feeling or behavior that are severe, sudden and unexpected
A general feeling of unhappiness, stress or anxiety
Sudden increase in appetite or sudden decrease in appetite
Mental fog, confused thinking or the inability to think clearly
Withdrawing from friends
Decrease in participation of activities
Significant exhaustion, low energy, or sleep issues
Increased alcohol or drug use
When to seek help for a mental illness?
You may notice changes in your emotions, behaviors, and thought processes, it can be hard to know what is “normal” behavior and what is not. After all, everyone has their ups and downs. The key, however, is to consider the frequency and intensity of your emotions and behaviors. You want to note when your emotions and behaviors are happening more often and for longer periods of time. If the emotions and behaviors are intense enough that they are disrupting your relationships and daily activities, it’s best to talk things over with a professional.
How to seek help for yourself?
When you are looking for help, it can be overwhelming. There are so many options and different types of treatment and services. It can be frustrating trying to figure out what kind of service you need and which practitioner is right for you.
The first step is to find a therapist or psychologist that you feel comfortable with. You need to feel comfortable enough to tell them everything without judgment or fear of judgment from them. This may take a few visits to find the right person, but it is worth it in the end.
Here are some additional notes to keep in mind when seeking help:
A good therapist should work with you on finding the right treatment for your needs. If they do not seem interested in this then perhaps it is time to move on and find someone else who is more willing to listen to your concerns and help find solutions for them.
Therapists should also be able to give referrals if they do not feel like they are the right fit for you.
After making the appointment, write down what you want to talk about and any questions that come to mind so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Your first meeting with a therapist is an important one because it sets the foundation for the rest of your sessions together. Your therapist should be able to answer any questions you may have about their background or training. They should also ask some questions about yourself so that they can better understand where you are coming from and how we will work together best.
You may find that your first session goes by quickly as there is so much information being shared between both parties, but try not to worry if it doesn’t feel like enough time has passed yet, many people experience this feeling at first but it eventually passes as they become more comfortable with their therapist and themselves as well.
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in any given year.*
Where can you start looking for a therapist?
Psychology Today is one of the most trusted sources for finding mental health professionals. You can search by location, specialty and insurance.
If you have insurance, call your insurance company and ask for a referral to a mental health professional in your network. Your insurance company may also offer assistance with locating a provider who takes your plan.
Ask your primary care provider for assistance in referring you to a mental health professional.
Ask friends or family members if they know of anyone who has sought out therapy or if they have any recommendations. It’s ok to be open about how hard life can be, you are only human.
What if you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm?
If you're having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it's important to get help right away.
Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Contact a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How to get help for a loved one with a mental illness?
If a loved one is experiencing a mental illness, you can help them by:
Seeking professional help. You can find a therapist or support group in your area through trusted sources like Psychology Today. If you don't have access to this resource, ask your local hospital or mental health clinic if they offer services for people with mental illness in the area.
Talking to them about it. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares enough to listen can make all the difference in how well someone deals with their condition and begins their healing process.
How to help a loved one who is reluctant to accept help?
If you are concerned about a loved one who is reluctant to accept help, it is important that you approach the situation with patience and sensitivity. The most important thing to remember is that they may not know how to ask for help or what resources are available.
Be supportive and understanding of their feelings. Even if they seem unwilling or unable to accept your assistance, it will still be helpful if you can express empathy for their situation without pressuring them further into accepting your help.
Ask if they would be open-minded about seeking professional treatment or other forms of support such as therapy sessions with friends (if possible), books, self-help guides. These aren’t meant to replace professional help, but rather ease them into the idea of seeking the help of a mental health professional in the future.
Mental illness and disorders do not define who you are
Mental health conditions can be debilitating, but they don't have to stop you from living a fulfilling life. If you're struggling with your mental health right now, know that there is help out there for you. You are not alone. Reach out to a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you manage your symptoms.
Connect with a Lotus Theory Therapist today, schedule a call.