According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 1 in every 5 adults, and 1 in 6 youth, experience a mental health disorder each year in the United States. A mental health disorder, more commonly known as a mental illness, is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thoughts, feelings, mood, and ability to relate to others or carry out daily tasks.
Examples of common mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
While mental illness is not always visible, it is a very real medical condition, much like heart disease or diabetes. As a result, mental illness is also very treatable. Treatments have been identified to ease the symptoms and help people manage mental illness successfully.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, rest assured that there is help available.
Diagnosing Mental Illness
Although mental illness is a medical health condition, it is not always easy to spot or diagnose. This is because it differs from the physical ailments we typically know and see affect someone’s health. For example, when a person struggles with heart disease, they show physical symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath. They are diagnosed with a series of blood tests and electrocardiograms.
Mental illnesses are disorders of the mind. Therefore, they must be diagnosed through a psychological evaluation, in which a clinician assesses each patient’s symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns. A physical exam may also be conducted to ensure there are no underlying medical issues causing mental symptoms. This is a critical step.
Getting a diagnosis is a turning point for many people with mental illness. It can feel like an incredible relief to finally have a name for the things that are causing them pain and distress. It can also pave the way for treatment. Getting a mental health diagnosis means that treatment is possible.
Doctors and therapists use diagnoses to determine a person’s treatment options. Every mental health disorder requires different treatment methods. For clinicians, having a formal diagnosis can help them understand which next steps to take, whether that be therapy, medication, or a combined approach.
For you, getting a diagnoses means that mental health treatment is possible. Recovery is around the corner. Steps can be taken to improve your quality of life.
Mental Illness is Treatable
For those asking, “Is mental illness treatable?” The answer is yes.
Most people diagnosed with a mental illness can experience relief, manage their symptoms effectively, and lead a fulfilling, productive life with active and ongoing treatment. Mental health treatment must be personalized to fit each person’s needs and specific disorder.
A mental health treatment plan, for example, may involve medication, psychotherapy, support groups, or a combination of modalities. It can also involve holistic, therapeutic activities like exercise, yoga, art and music. It should also entail good nutrition, consistent sleeping patterns, as well as social activities and opportunities. Again, each mental illness requires its own approach and care. It is important to get a formal assessment from a professional, in order to understand what combination – and which specific therapy methods – will work best for you.
Can Mental Illness Be Cured?
Mental illness can be treated, but it cannot be cured.
When a person is cured from an illness, it means that the illness is gone forever. However, some conditions simply cannot be cured. One example is diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong condition that stays with a person after diagnosis. However, diabetes can be treated and managed successfully. Those with diabetes can take medications, make lifestyle changes, and go on to lead long, fulfilling lives.
Mental illness is very similar. Currently, there is no cure for mental illness. As a chronic disorder of the brain, mental illness affects a person for life. However, mental illness can be treated and managed effectively. People with mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and PTSD – can recover and live long, healthy, and happy lives.
For chronic conditions like mental illness, diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension, treatment must be ongoing. There must be an active and continued commitment to therapy, medication, and any lifestyle changes made. By being actively engaged in your treatment, and prioritizing your mental health, you will have the best chance at recovery.
As stated by the NAMI, “For many people, recovery — including meaningful roles in social life, school and work — is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.”
Treatments for Mental Illness
Mental illnesses should be treated professionally. A doctor or mental health professional can assess the severity of your symptoms, how much they are affecting your daily life, as well as the risks and benefits of different treatment methods. From there, they can develop an individualized treatment plan, which might involve a combination of the following methods:
- Medication: Different medications can help to improve symptoms of mental illness. This varies by disorder. For example, those struggling with depression may be prescribed an antidepressant like Prozac or Zoloft, to help balance the chemicals within the brain.
- Therapy: Therapy is also recommended to help manage symptoms, regulate emotions, overcome triggers, and develop healthy coping skills. For example, individuals with anxiety can learn how to better manage stress and nervousness through therapy sessions. Therapy may be one-on-one with a counselor, or involve a group facing similar diagnoses. There are different types of mental health therapies out there, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and more.
- Support groups: Support groups offer an opportunity for individuals with similar conditions to get together, to share their experiences, and to provide support for one another. Support groups allow those struggling to better understand their condition and possible coping methods. These groups also provide them with friendship, mentorship, tools, and support when in need.
The goal of mental illness treatment is to alleviate difficult symptoms and allow a person to live a healthy, purposeful, and satisfying life. Mental illness often gets in the way of people living their life to the fullest. It can make it difficult to get out of bed, meet new people, or maintain a career. Treatment is designed to decrease these disruptions and make it possible to live healthily and fully again.
Getting Proper Mental Health Treatment
Anyone, of any background, can develop a mental illness. It may be a result of genetics, environment, lifestyle, and behavioral issues. Not one single event causes a mental illness. Similarly, it is not a personal fault that leads to mental illness. It does not come from weakness or doing something “wrong.” Rather, mental illness may be triggered by a combination of factors, like chemical imbalances, brain injury, family histories, past traumas, stressful environments, substance abuse, and social isolation.
Therefore, mental illnesses can be complicated. They cannot be overcome alone.
As stated by the NAMI of California, “Mental health conditions cannot be overcome through will power and are not related to a person’s character or intelligence, but they are treatable.”
Getting the right treatment starts with getting a diagnosis. If you suspect that you, or someone you love, is facing symptoms of a mental illness, call a doctor or mental health professional today. A medical assessment is needed to determine a course of treatment.
If you do not know where to start, you can always contact Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a mental health treatment center for young adults and adolescents. Call 877-581-1793 today.