UNDERSTANDING MENTAL ILLNESS

This may be of assistance as you journey through my blog…

DEPRESSION

Problems and misfortunes are a part of life. Everyone experiences unhappiness, and many people may become depressed temporarily when things don’t go as they would like. Experiences of failure commonly result in temporary feelings of worthlessness and self-blame, while personal losses cause feelings of sadness, disappointment and emptiness. Such feelings are normal, and they usually pass after a short time. This is not the case with depressive illness.

What are the signs of depressive illness?

DEPRESSION ~~ becomes an illness, or clinical depression, when the feelings described above are severe, last for several weeks, and begin to interfere with one’s work and social life. Depressive illness can change the way a person thinks and behaves, and how his/her body functions. Some of the signs to look for are:

~~ feeling worthless, helpless or hopeless,
~~ sleeping more or less than usual,
~~ eating more or less than usual,
~~ having difficulty concentrating or making decisions,
~~ loss of interest in taking part in activities,
~~ decreased sex drive,
~~ avoiding other people,
~~ overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief,
~~ feeling unreasonably guilty,
~~ loss of energy, feeling very tired,
~~ thoughts of death or suicide

BIPOLAR DISORDER

Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is an illness in which there are periods of serious depression, followed by episodes of markedly elevated or irritable moods or “highs” (in the absence of drugs or alcohol). These mood swings are not necessarily related to events in the person’s life. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 1% of the population; it typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and affects men and women equally.  Depression and bipolar disorder can be treated. There is good reason for hope. By learning more about these conditions, you can help remove the stigma that prevents many people from seeking help.

ANXIETY DISORDERS

Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders which affect behaviour, thoughts, emotions and physical health. Research into their origins continues, but it is believed they are caused by a combination of biological factors and an individuals personal circumstances, much like other health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes. It is common for people to suffer from more than one anxiety disorder; and for an anxiety disorder to be accompanied by depression, eating disorders or substance abuse. Anxiety disorders can also coexist with physical disorders, in which case the physical condition should also be treated.

Some of the signs to look for are:

Panic Disorder – As the name suggests, panic disorder is expressed in panic attacks which occur without warning, accompanied by sudden feelings of terror. Physically, an attack may cause chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality and fear of dying. When a person avoids situations that he or she fears may cause a panic attack, his or her condition is described as panic disorder with agoraphobia.

Phobias ~~ Phobias are divided into two categories: social phobia, which involves fear of social situations, and specific phobias, such as fear of flying, blood and heights.

Social Phobia ~~ People with social phobia feel a paralyzing, irrational self-consciousness about social situations. They have an intense fear of being observed or of doing something horribly wrong in front of other people. The feelings are so extreme that people with social phobia tend to avoid objects or situations that might stimulate that fear, which dramatically reduces their ability to lead a normal life.

Specific Phobias – Fear of flying, fear of heights and fear of open spaces are some typical specific phobias. People suffering from a specific phobia are overwhelmed by unreasonable fears, which they are unable to control. Exposure to feared situations can cause them extreme anxiety and panic, even if they recognize that their fears are illogical.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ~~ A terrifying experience in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors of rape, child abuse, war or a natural disaster may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Common symptoms include flashbacks, during which the person re-lives the terrifying experience, nightmares, depression and feelings of anger or irritability.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder ~~ This is a condition in which people suffer from persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and / or rituals (compulsions) which they find impossible to control. Typically, obsessions concern contamination, doubting (such as worrying that the iron hasn’t been turned off) and disturbing sexual or religious thoughts. Compulsions include washing, checking, organizing and counting.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder ~~ Characterized by repeated, exaggerated worry about routine life events and activities, this disorder lasts at least six months, during which time the person is affected by extreme worry more days than not. The individual anticipates the worst, even if others would say they have no reason to expect it. Physical symptoms can include nausea, trembling fatigue, muscle tension, or headache.

Eating DisordersEating disorders can be difficult to detect. The media glamourization of so-called ideal bodies, coupled with the view that dieting is a normal activity, can obscure a person’s eating problems. It can be difficult for a person with an eating disorder to admit they have a problem. Knowing how to support someone with an eating disorder is also a challenge. Treatment is available – it can be a long process, but an eating disorder can be overcome. If you think that you, or someone you know, has an eating disorder, it is important to learn the facts. Gaining an understanding of these conditions is the first step in the journey to wellness. 

Our society’s preoccupation with body image is reflected in the fact that, at any given time, 70% of women and 35% of men are dieting. More seriously, a 1993 Statistics Canada Survey reported that in women between the ages of 15 and 25, 1-2% have anorexia and 3-5% have bulimia. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, with 10-20% eventually dying from complications.

Clearly, these potentially life-threatening conditions are a growing problem. Despite their collective label, these disorders are not about food. Eating disorders are a way of coping with deeper problems that a person finds too painful or difficult to deal with directly. They are complex conditions that signal difficulties with identity, self-concept and self-esteem. Eating disorders cross cultural, racial and socio-economic boundaries, and affect men and women.

SAD ~~ Weather often affects people’s moods. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.

Information and online source:  Canadian Mental Health Association


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33 thoughts on “UNDERSTANDING MENTAL ILLNESS

  1. Before I was ashamed to tell people that I have depression. But not any more because depression is just like any other diseases.

    Thank you for blog!

    • That sure is right! Why should anyone be ashamed of an illness and that’s the problem with a mental illness and that’s where stigma comes in. Sad isn’t it. I’ve gone through many times thinking I should actually apologize for feeling depressed, unable to help out and join in something. It really never ends.

      Thanks for the comment. Take care.

  2. Depression has such a stigma attached to it these days. In fact, it has had a bad rap for centuries. You didn’t think that depression was a modern problem did you? Now it’s time to set the record straight.

    Myths about anything are dangerous especially medical conditions. If you are showing signs of depression it is not a mark of shame. The best thing you can do is to get help. Good Luck G.

  3. This is one of a few quality post I’ve ever found. You surely explained and describes this mental illness topic with such in depth words. Really, it is open one’s mind of how mental illness is separate into different categories and types. Great post!

    • Thank you for the comment and I’m always trying to find ways for people to understand that mental illness is an illness and not a character flaw or something they made up or looking for attention.

  4. I LOVE YOUR SITE! I just recently started a new blog mostly around my disorders and it’s so nice to find a blog that can give the kind of information that yours does! I will be back :)

    • Thanks for the comment. I love blogging and that’s how I got started with this one as I wanted to get the word out about mental illness news, and people’s experiences, plus share my own struggles. Also understanding the crappy stigma we must live with. Best of luck.

  5. You didn’t mention Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s a mood disorder, combined with symptoms of Bipolar disorder, combined with depression and anxiety, combined with symptoms of OCD, all mixed together. It is the mental equivalent of third degree burns. It’s the most stigmatized mental illness because it’s the least understood, and it’s well known for the effects it has on its victims-they can’t explain their symptoms, meds don’t work, and they keep relapsing over and over again. In my opinion, it’s the worst mental illness, the hardest to treat. It’s a nightmare. But it’s nice to know I’m not the only one out there trying to educate people about mental illness. Mental illness does not mean being crazy. All of this ignorance in this day and age is horrendous and unacceptable.

    • Thanks for your comment. You made some good points. As far as BPD, I will have to look into that and perhaps include that in “Understanding Mental Illness”.

  6. Thank you for this wonderful blog, which I just stumbled upon. I suffered from a horrible Depression last year, which resulted in a Bipolar diagnosis. But, for me, this came very late in life as I just turned 40. Now I’m just trying to make sense of all of it and to find others within the blog community. I’ve found solace reading so many of your posts. You can read mine at bipolarat40.wordpress.com.
    Cheers, J

  7. You have an awesome site. I suffer from bi-polar (spectrum), impulse control disorder (compulsive gambler) and severe adult adhd.

    Over the last year I have had to personally come to grip with the facts that I am ill. Unlike a diagnoses of cancer or heart disease which would have elicited sympathy from everyone, I have been faced with a huge amount of critism.

    For example, a few years back I was diagnosed with and had surgery for non theatening skin cancer. You would have thought I had been given six months to live. People fell over themselves to be concerned about me. My mental illness (which I did not ask for) has had a far greater negative impact on my life than having a nickel sized chunk of skin removed yet I am treated like it is my fault.

    “You need to suck it up. You need to make better decisions. You created this pickle, you need to buckle down and work to repair the damage you have done.” The scary thing was that those were things told to me by my family doctor and a mental health professional. The reaction of my friends and family were initially similar.

    Thanks for having such a great site promoting awareness of mental illness.

    please feel free to visit my blog for more information on my story

    http://adhdstruggles.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks for your comment and sharing. The world can be a nasty place out there for people with mental illness. People still see it as ‘just snap out of it and get on with your life’, not seeing it as an illness. The stigma has been there for a long time and will remain, although I think we have made a wee headway.

      I took a peek at your site and it was very nice. Read your latest post and noticed you are starting Lamotrigine. I take Lam. for my moods and have been on it for about 4-5 years now, and I can honestly say with that med + Lithium combo it saved my life. I was on a whole slew of meds during my worst years, flip flopping with moods, when finally a psychiatrist who knew what the hell he was doing put me on this. Lucky me finally.

      Take care and keep in touch. Deb

  8. This statement – Such feelings are normal, and they usually pass after a short time. This is not the case with depressive illness. – is true. There is an effective way of treating panic disorders.

    Your post was well written and informative.

    Thank you.

  9. This is a great blog. I just started a blog about ending mental illness stigma and was so excited to find someone of a like mind blogging on wordpress as well! I’ve linked to you on my blog http://operationpsychout.wordpress.com and look forward to reading all the thoughts and articles/research you post. Great job!

    • Thanks for the comment, and welcome to the blogging world. I think we still have a long ways to go regarding stigma, but hopefully if we can educate that we are not all “nuts”, “crazy” or “lunatics” who deserve nothing better than to be locked in an institution, then it is a start. I will also link your blog on mine.

  10. Thanks so much for your comment and stopping by. If there is a particular subject you are looking for just let me know.

  11. Thank you so very much for both your comment, and I appreciate you recommending my site. I started this site back in 2007 and always post things that I thought would interest me and others. We all have to stick together, so anything related to mental illness I try to post. Keeping abreast of things can certainly aid somewhat in recovery. If you have any suggestions, by all means send me a note.

  12. There is so much missunderstanding in regards to mental illness that people need sites like this to sort out some of their fears. It is so easy to feel lost and lonely in your suffering. Reading a post like this hleps people feel less alone and more helpful. As a psychiatrist, I can say that I am very happy I found your blog and I will highly recommend it to my patients.

  13. I am a severe OCD sufferer and often find it difficult to juggle my mental preoccupations and work, having to keep the money coming in to look after my family. It’s a really tough challenge sometimes, especially when one’s mental conditions are stigmatised, laughed at an sniped by “normal” people and workmates ( note inverted commas for that word! ). My colleagues gossip about my condition without having the slightest understanding of it.

    OCD has a popular image of the guy who neurotically worries if he left the tap running, or the gas on, or washes his hands too much….that is the easy part of it ! Let me assure you — many OCD sufferers are blighted by far far far worse delusions than those popular images of OCD…. It’s a tough,tough road, and I say, thanks for your great site — I look forward to searching it for good articles.

    Happy Xmas to all sufferers and strugglers and outsiders and those afflicted by unwanted mental states!

    • I can only imagine the tough, tough road with SEVERE OCD. I can barely make it to the bus stop after checking the house repeatedly for possible fire hazards and tap drips. This is a true illness and for sure completely unfair to be ostracized for something we have no control of. See if the shoe was on the other foot with your colleagues.

      Hope you had a good Xmas.

  14. Thank you so much for visiting and your compliment. And yes, living with stigma everyday is a way of life unfortunately. But that’s ok, we know who we are, and this is not our fault and did nothing to deserve this.

  15. This is an awesome site. You provide so much good information and you write much better than I do.

    I also have a blog that focuses on mental illness and how it relates to Christianity. Sadly, stigma is everywhere but it’s good to see that the walls are slowly coming down. God bless you in your efforts! Allan

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