Mental health statistics always surprise me.
As a blogger in this niche, they shouldn’t, because I reference them often. But as much time as I spend reading them, every time I type them, they surprise me.
It really is startling how common mental illness is, and how broad the spectrum is. From the slightly neurotic to those requiring extensive inpatient treatment, it affects more people than you might realize.
Do you know someone with mental illness? It is likely that you do. Recent statistics indicate that 1 in 5 American adults suffer from a mental health condition in a given year. That is 20% of the adult population. Because of this, many people are very curious about mental illness and the challenges it presents.
I was presented with a bunch of questions recently on social media, so I decided to do my best to answer some of them in a single blog post.
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
Mental health facts
These questions and their subsequent answers are going to really help you to paint a picture in your mind of how common mental illness is and the types of people it affects.
What age does mental illness normally present?
Most common mental illnesses always have warning signs you can look out for. Some of them are:
- Sleep or appetite change
- Mood change
- Problems thinking
If someone is having more than one of these symptoms, they should see a medical professional.
Why is there such a stigma attached to it?
I think there are a few reasons why the stigma still exists.
- People fear the unknown. If someone is not educated about something, it is easy to imagine they might have some discomfort about it. I wonder if people do not educate themselves about mental illness because they are afraid they might discover they have symptoms.
- People fear the “other.” There is a societal discomfort regarding things that are different than the norm. Like those made uncomfortable by other people’s beliefs, I think many feel the same way about people whose brains work differently.
- It is not portrayed well in the media. I think Hollywood has come a long way. But there are still too many instances of stereotypical representations.
Will I always be on medication once diagnosed?
The fact of the matter is, those with mental health issues have chemical imbalances in their brain. What does that mean? Well, our brains need to manufacture certain chemicals so that we can experience feelings of happiness and pleasure and calm. Those with certain mental health conditions have brains that are deficient in that process. This is why we take medicine. Medicine helps our brain create the chemicals we need to be happy.
For this reason, it is likely that you will always be on medication. That does not mean that are not stories of people who are able to manage their condition without medication. But it is not very common, and I do not recommend it unless you are under the guidance of your doctor.
Can medication make my illness worse?
All medication has side effects. Even over the counter medicine. That is the sacrifice we make when we enter treatment. But the cost of not being treated is much higher than the cost of side effects we might experience.
However, for the sake of disclosure, here are common side effects of a medicine frequently used to treat depression: Zoloft.
- tired feeling
- sleep problems (insomnia)
- skin rash
- upset stomach
- stomach pain
- dry mouth
- changes in appetite
- abnormal ejaculation
- decreased sex drive
- difficulty having an orgasm
- dry mouth, and
- weight loss.
I had to stop taking it and switch to another medication because it was causing some extreme fatigue, food sensitivities, and digestive issues.
Can I cope without medication?
As I mentioned, there are rare cases where people can manage their condition without medication. There are some natural things you can do, such as proper nutrition, exercise, changing your circadian rhythms, supplements, etc. However, I do not recommend taking this route without consulting a medical profession. If it is really important to you to try this, do your research, and ask your doctor for guidance. Be your own advocate, but take care of yourself.
Are mental illnesses hereditary?
Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:
- Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
- Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
- Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression and other emotional disorders.
The article also provides some common risk factors to be aware of:
- A history of mental illness in a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling
- Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one’s death or a divorce
- An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes
- Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head
- Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or assault
- Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- A childhood history of abuse or neglect
- Few friends or few healthy relationships
- A previous mental illness
Why do these mental health facts matter?
We all need to be aware of them. Obviously, they’re important if you live with mental health issues ourselves. But what if you don’t? Well, then you can use them to help those close to you that do!
It is our collective responsibility to live with empathy and awareness. It doesn’t matter what your politics are. Or your religion. Or how you were raised. It doesn’t matter what music you listen to. Or what your favorite food is. Or who your best friend is.
It doesn’t matter how you make money. Or where you live. Or how many kids you have. It doesn’t matter if you prefer cats to dogs. Or if you like the color blue.
If you are an oxygen breathing human, it is up to you to make sure that the generation we are currently raising grows up in a safe, loving, and emotionally healthy environment. We need to practice kindness on a daily basis, and not let so many people slip through the cracks of society.
So, share this post, and do your part to spread the word. You might help more people than you think.
Thank you to those that provided questions for me to answer! I hope this post illuminated some wisdom about mental health for anyone wanting to learn more. Tell me in the comments: What was the most interesting thing you learned? Also, please make sure to share this article.