An overwhelming amount of Americans, about 18.2% each year, suffer from a ranging variety of mental illnesses. You may ask yourself: What is mental health? It can be defined as “psychological well-being and and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life.” Mental health is a topic that is commonly overlooked and not thought to be as important as a being’s physical health, but is frequently found to be considerably more important out of the two. Mental disorders can impact nearly everything that people do in their daily lives. Comparable to a physical injury, even the simplest of tasks can be made extremely difficult. Mental health is just as genuine and important as any other aspect of one’s health.

There are many different environmental factors that can cause one to develop a mental illness. For instance, many veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, once they return home. They can feel constantly on edge or feel like exploding over the smallest things. One big issue that individuals with PTSD, as well as many other mental disorders, deal with is triggers and responding to different stimuli. A trigger is something that contributes to a change in a person’s thinking, emotions, or behavior and is often connected to an event that caused one’s mental illness. Subsequent reminders of said event serve as triggers. Examples of this could be: the anniversary date of a trauma, getting yelling at, physical illness, a person related to the trauma, or even something as small as a certain sound, smell, or taste. Some people who deal with triggers have action plans in the instance that they experience one of their triggers. Examples of action plans can include: having a support person and talking to them, writing in a journal or reading as a distraction, or trying to do a relaxation exercise. Generally, triggers go hand-in-hand with environmentally acquired mental illnesses.

It is commonly believed that mental illness is only environmentally acquired, but it is becoming apparent through research that mental illness can form from a multitude of reasons, genetics being one of them. Mental illnesses can be passed down through families. Genes contain instructions and code for how you are supposed to function. When your mother or father have a mental disorder, it makes it very likely for you to form that mental illness. Heredity does not mean that you will always inherit a mental illness from your parents, but it does make it more likely for you to get it than if you did not have an affected family member. It is believed that mental conditions lay in multiple genes, not just one. That is why you are not always going to inherit that trait even if you have a susceptibility to it. However, the disorder itself forms from the combination and interaction of these genes, and other factors as well. Environmental stressors and psychological trauma can influence the illness in an individual who has inherited that susceptibility to it. As well as that, some mental illnesses have been linked to an imbalance of chemicals in your brain known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are responsible for different cells in the brain to function together properly. If these vital chemicals are imbalanced or not working as they should, messages may not make it through the brain as they should and this can lead to the development of a mental illness. Unfortunately, mental illnesses are generally caused by a combination of factors and we can not prevent them, but merely try and treat them once they form.

It takes a combination of aspects to diagnose a mental disorder. When in the process of being diagnosed, one may be asked for a psychological evaluation, a physical examination, or lab tests. For a psychological evaluation, you may have to talk to a mental health specialist about thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior patterns. You could even be asked to fill out a questionnaire to aid in answering these questions. These subjects are the bulk of what makes a mental illness. However, physical illness could also have something to do with what is going on. That is why a physical test may be necessary. Doctors wants to rule out any physical issues that could be causing your symptoms. It is possible for a mental illness to have physical symptoms that go along with it. For example, if a person with anxiety constantly worries about having an illness, symptoms of that illness may present themselves in that person. Then there are also things like heart palpitations, insomnia, migraines, muscle aches, and many other physical effects that can come with chronic anxiety. Lab tests/screening can be checking things like thyroid function and drug or alcohol usage. Things like that can be very helpful in diagnosing because if one is a substance abuser that could have big effects on their psychological state.

Treatment for a mental illness can vary from person to person. Every individual is different and illnesses present themselves differently in everyone. A treatment option that can seem overwhelming to some is medication. A few commonly used levels of classification for prescription psychiatric drugs includes: antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. Antidepressants are commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, and other similar conditions. They improve certain symptoms like sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy and interest, and difficulty with concentration. They also do not cause a dependency and are not addictive. Anti-anxiety medication is used to treat anxiety revolving illnesses like generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. They can help to reduce agitation, insomnia, sensory overload, and other symptoms that come with an anxiety disorder. Ones for long-term use are generally some form of antidepressant. Fast-acting ones have the potential to cause a dependency therefore they are generally for short-term use. Mood stabilizers are mostly used to treat bipolar disorders. Alternating episodes of depression and mania, as well as extreme happiness highs, are involved with bipolar disorder and mood stabilizers are used to control or help maintain these episodes. They are sometimes paired with antidepressants to help with bipolar related depression. Antipsychotics are used to treat disorders such as schizophrenia and sometimes bipolar disorder. As well as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics are also known to be used with antidepressants to treat depression. Another form of treatment is therapy. “Talk therapy” is a type of therapy that includes talking to a mental health provider about your condition, as well as similar issues or issues stemming from said disorder. During these therapy sessions you can learn about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. You can gain coping or stress management methods as well as developing other ways to help you deal with your disorder. Sometimes, this only needs to be used for a few months, but it is generally involved in some sort of long-term treatment plan. Depending on your symptoms and their severities, you and your health care provider can develop a plan that works best for you.
Common misconceptions and generalizations are a very big issue when it comes to mental illness and can stand in the way of an individual receiving proper treatment or can lead to an individual being viewed/dealt with completely wrong.Society as a whole has created stereotypes, generalizations, and prejudices against mental illness and how it affects people, as if everyone is the exact same. One mental illness that is often discussed is depression. There are many different misconceptions and generalizations about this illness. The generalization that every single person battling depression is entirely not true. In fact, the general notion that there is a 15% suicide rate with people who deal with depression is not true and is actually too high. Based on a study done by a Mayo Clinic, 2-9% would be a more accurate rate. Anxiety is another common disorder that has very many generalizations around it. It is often thought that a person dealing with anxiety just has panic attacks every single day or that anxiety is just being very nervous, but anxiety can show itself in many different forms. Anxiety attacks are one way of showing, but there are also other things, such as having certain hypersensitivities, nit-pickiness, or going into sensory overload. Many people dealing with anxiety have hypersensitivities to yelling, roughhousing, disarray, or any sort of change. Hypersensitivities are comparable to triggers and can be dealt with similarly. Nit-pickiness is obsessive behavioral tendencies, similar to those of obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. Sensory overload can be characterized as getting extremely annoyed or agitated at very little, simple things. It is generally simple sounds such as people talking, chewing, breathing, or nail biting. One could get extremely annoyed and want to scream or explode at the sound of someone tapping their foot on the ground. Bipolar disorder is more common than thought to be and also has its fair share of generalizations. The thought that bipolar disorder is solely mania is not correct. Bipolar disorder includes a wide range of mood disturbances. When you stay in a certain state and your symptoms are present for an extended period of time it is deemed as an episode. How this disorder affects you is dependent on the type of bipolar that you are diagnosed with. There are four types: bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, and “bipolar disorder not otherwise specified”. Bipolar I is characterized as manic. Bipolar II is characterized as characterized as hypomanic and depressive. Cyclothymic disorder is characterized as hypomanic and depressive symptoms. “Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified” is characterized as bipolar-like mood disturbances that do not fit the pattern of other diagnoses. Mental disorders do not change one’s basic personality. Having an understanding of how a mental illness can truly impact a person is important, especially if you have a friendship or relationship with an individual dealing with one of many mental disorders.

1 in 5 Americans suffer from a ranging variety of mental illnesses. Based on that statistic, if you are in a room with 20 people, 4 of them are dealing with a mental illness. Meaning that very many people do not talk about their struggles coming from within. his is most likely due to the large stigma around mental health issues. Many people believe that individuals with a mental health issue are mad as a hatter and threatening, or even the complete opposite, fragile and breakable. Because of this fact, many people do not want to talk about and try to get help for their issues. Instead they keep their struggles inside and continue to fight through it alone.There are two types of stigmas when it comes to mental illnesses. The first one is the social stigma. This stigma is distinguished by discrimination and preconceptions towards those with a mental illnesses. The second type of stigma is the self-stigma which can be characterized as a mental health sufferer internalizing the different perceptions about mental illness, leading to feelings of guilt and shame, and possibly the disservice of one’s self. This stigma is a contributing factor to people not getting proper treatment with their condition(s). Instead of shunning or hushing those with a mental illness, there are many contrasting ways of helping those who are struggling. One could make themselves educated on the topic of mental health in order to help or show compassion for mental health strugglers. One could also be cautious of their language. Avoid using mental illnesses as adjectives and find better words for what they are trying to communicate. Another big thing to do would be encouraging the equality of mental and physical health, seeing as both are extremely important to an individual’s overall well-being.Let’s stop trying to shame people into their denying their reality and let it be known that there is no indignity with having a mental illness.

In conclusion, mental health is just as genuine and significant as any other aspect of one’s health. It commonly gets overlooked or discarded, but needs to be more focused on. It is equally important, or even more important than, physical health.

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