What is mental illness?

Mental illness is often called the invisible illness and it affects millions of people each year. While it may present itself in numerous behaviors and physical forms, it originates in the brain and its components; you cannot simply look at someone and determine if they have a mental illness.

Mental illness is anything that affects the way a person behaves, feels, or thinks. Mental illness is very individual in how it manifests and how it is treated and can often couple together, depending on the symptoms presented.

Getting the diagnosis right

There is often a negative social stigma associated with mental illness, when, in fact, many people lead very normal lives when they receive the right support and medical intervention.

Mental illness can affect people of all ages and can have variations in symptoms and progression. These illnesses can be quite challenging to recognize and diagnose; they can develop slowly, or suddenly, following an injury, and may require numerous tests over time to make an accurate diagnosis.

Mental illnesses may not stand on their own and be accompanied by another underlying medical condition or addiction. Those who are diagnosed with mental disorders are more likely to struggle with self-acceptance, depression, and addiction.

Getting the diagnosis right

Finding the right support

When a family member is first diagnosed with mental illness, it is extremely important that the family, as a whole, understand the diagnosis and the role the family members must take — which can change over time — to assist in the best care possible for the individual diagnosed.

Every family member can benefit from counseling, to discuss many of the feelings that can develop such as guilt, grief, frustration, loneliness, fear, sadness, and anger. Support can be found locally and even online, where treatment options, experiences, and encouragement can be shared.

Mental illness in adults

The diagnosis of mental illness in an adult can lead to serious questions about, employment, healthcare, and the ability to function in family life. Families can experience financial stress when it comes to paying bills, physical stress when it comes to making possible accommodations to such freedoms as driving and shopping, and emotional stress when maintaining meaningful connections to friends and routine experiences with family.

One common misconception is that people can outgrow their mental illness. In fact, it is tremendously important that those diagnosed with mental illness regularly check in with their help care providers to ensure that the medical interventions they are receiving are continuing to work.

Even if the individual diagnosed is not in the immediate family, perhaps a grandparent or other relative, significant strain can be placed on the family unit who is in their network of support.

Mental illness in children

Parents and guardians of children with mental illness find their greatest struggle in exploring treatments that work with limited side effects. Children with mental illness may experience secondary side effects with exhibit behaviors such as aggressiveness, hyperactivity, depression, defiance, lethargy, or even poor memory.

Finding the right prescription with the right dosage can take months or years, and once the right treatment is found, it is important to make sure the child is taking the medication as scheduled. Therapies or prescriptions can require adjustments over time, and teens are especially at risk as many may try to stop or self-regulate.

Medications used to treat mental illness should never be stopped immediately, and must always be under the supervision of a medical professional.

If you need more information about the effects of mental illness on a family or have questions about this and similar topics, get in touch with Dr. Marsha Ferrick, today!