Does A Mental Health Diagnosis Mean You’re Crazy?

September 14, 2017

Mental Health

Prevalence of Mental Illness in the United States

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S.—3.6 million—live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S.—8.4 million—live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S.—42 million—experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Hopefully these numbers serve two purposes:

  1. Create awareness of the prevalence of mental health challenges
  2. Normalize your experience if you have a mental health diagnosis or have opted not to receive a diagnosis

All of us at any given point can exhibit the symptoms of one or more mental health diagnoses. The more common diagnoses are depression and anxiety. I feel safe saying that everyone I know has struggled with one or both of these. The thing is, I am only able to readily name one person who actually received a formal diagnosis. And this is typical. It is believed that close to 50% of people go undiagnosed.

A mental health diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, abnormal, or damaged goods. It just means you have an element of yourself that has involuntarily become your new norm, for a period of time or indefinitely.

Depression has been my norm for almost 20 years. It’s far from something I desire to struggle with but it is indeed involuntary, and I deal with it as proactively as I can. This past spring, I began experiencing anxiety. I’m not sure I will have to contend with it frequently but even if I do, I have no urge to view it fatalistically. There’s always hope. Mental health struggles don’t define us, they are merely a component of our life that needs to be managed….no different than other aspects of our lives.

Mental health challenges typically generate feelings of shame, confusion, frustration, and sadness. I’ve found people struggle the most with feeling alone and out of control. Giving in to either of these is dangerous. Sure, there are aspects of mental health that are uncontrollable, but there are just as many, if not more components, that can be controlled. That may be through appropriate dosages of medication or through the use of effective prevention and coping techniques, and hopefully any thoughts of being alone are dispelled with the statistics provided above. If you are struggling with diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health challenges, you are far from alone. In fact, you’re incredibly normal. Therefore you need not be tempted to isolate. Let trusted individuals know how you’re feeling and begin taking the steps to reclaim your healthy self.


Quick and Dirty Tips to Reclaim Your Healthy Self:

  1. Acknowledge Something Is Wrong – It is so important to identify your challenges and call them out. It may also help to pinpoint them to a period of time or an event that triggered them. This will give you insight into a possible root cause.
  2. Share Your Thoughts/Feelings With Someone – A key part of getting over the shame is actually saying out loud to someone what you’re struggling with. Be certain to let that person know you’re not necessarily looking for feedback, you just need to release it.
  3. Do Your Research – Whether you decide to go to counseling or not, it’s good to do your own research. Do a search for your symptoms and look for a range of things it could possibly be. Just because you have depressive-like symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you are depressed. For instance, hypothyroidism shares a few similar symptoms as depression. So, your symptoms could fit a wide array of diagnoses that could fall under mental health or physical health. You are more or less looking to solidify all of your symptoms than you are looking to self-diagnose. A word of caution, do not spend too much time on the internet. You just want to get enough information to further define the symptoms you’re experiencing. To be able to either relay them to a professional or begin your own work of unraveling your triggers, time of onset, root causes, and go-to (maladaptive) coping vs. healthy coping mechanisms. If you’re not wanting to muck around on the internet and just want to go straight to a tool to assist you with your search, here’s a link to a mental health symptom checker. But remember your symptoms can also be linked to an issue with your physical health so make sure you schedule an appointment with a primary care physician as well to rule that out.
  4. Seek Help/Support – I highly recommend leveraging the knowledge and expertise of a professional in your pursuit of optimal mental health. Thankfully therapy and counseling is beginning to have less of a stigma. There’s a huge benefit to allowing someone to walk alongside us as we try to navigate our struggles and build toward the healthiest possible norm. Aside from referrals, two resources you can look into to find a therapist are Talkspace and Open Path Collective.

I am hoping this post is helpful to you guys. I am always willing to dive deeper into this kind of stuff. Just let me know if you have any specific questions.

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