Talking about mental health can be tricky, to say the least. There are so many different terms used for what seems like the same thing — with all of these different definitions floating around.
Mental illness is not the same as depression or anxiety. People with mental illnesses can’t just stop being depressed or anxious. They must address other underlying problems that may contribute to their symptoms.
Certain medications can actually make people feel worse before they help. And while there are things you can do to help yourself deal with stress, that is very dependent on who you are as a person.
It can be hard to understand how someone could ever consider themselves mentally ill when they seem totally in control of everything else in their lives.
But it’s important to remember that everyone deals with stress differently. For some, thoughts become more frequent and persistent, making them worry about something they cannot change. This is called worrying.
For others, feelings such as sadness or anger take over, changing how they act towards people and situations. These are examples of depression.
For still others, alcohol becomes a way to cope with daily life. It can eventually add up and lead to trouble, but at first, it makes individuals feel less lonely or nervous.
We refer to this as drinking problem. Only one of these behaviors needs to exist for someone to be considered clinically diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
The causes of mental illness
There are many different factors that can contribute to the development of mental health issues. Genetics, early life experiences, stress, social support, lifestyle choices, and financial stability are some examples.
Some of these things are potentially modifiable, while others aren’t. For example, genetics is almost impossible to change, but having good relationships with people you love and who make you feel loved and supported can have a profound positive effect on your emotional wellbeing.
Keeping in shape by doing exercise or engaging in other activities that you enjoy will help promote overall wellness. Money is a powerful motivator so ensuring there is enough for daily needs as well as longer term goals is important.
Education is another way to modify the risk of developing a mental health condition. This includes educating yourself about symptoms of various conditions and how to manage them.
The effects of mental illness
One of the most difficult things that people with mental illnesses go through is explaining the symptoms to other people. It can be very hard for them to describe what happens to them, why they feel the way they do, and how it impacts those around them.
Mental health conditions are not like physical diseases like diabetes or cancer, where you know what they are and someone else could tell if you have them.
With depression, for example, people may not recognize the signs of an episode until it’s too late. This can make it harder for loved ones to help you before you get worse, and even increase your risk of self-harm or suicide because you don’t want others to see you in such a bad state.
There are also times when people with mental health issues show “normal” levels of emotion but still suffer from stress or anxiety. This can put additional pressure on family members who might not know what to do.
Treatment for mental illness
One of the biggest things that can get in the way of someone with mental health issues seeking help is the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
Stigma comes from judgments about who has or doesn’t have an illness, as well as negative assumptions about how people with mental health conditions should handle their symptoms.
There are many reasons why people may feel this way. Sometimes, they don’t understand what mental illnesses are.
People also may not know what treatments work for different types of mental illnesses. They might believe that medication alone can fix everything, when actually it only helps some patients. Or they could think that counseling is a waste of time because nothing changes even though you keep talking.
All too often, individuals with mental health challenges face skepticism or disbelief regarding whether they really need treatment, let alone if their present level of functioning is considered “normal.”
This can make them hesitate to seek appropriate help, put extra stress on themselves, and/or perpetuate harmful attitudes towards people with mental health problems. It can also prevent them from accepting new treatments for themselves or for others.
Here are 9 ways to explain mental illness to someone who doesn’t understand it.
Coping strategies for those with mental illness
A lot of people develop certain coping mechanisms they use to get through their day. These things are called _coping_ or _stress-management_ skills.
For example, someone who is stressed out may devote some time to hobbies or activities that make them feel better. They might also talk about how they’re feeling in order to help themselves process what’s going on.
Some other ways individuals cope with stress include doing something they’ve done before, thinking about past times where they felt more relaxed, looking at pictures or reading books related to relaxation, practicing yoga, and/or taking long baths or showers.
These types of behaviors can really help you deal with your own stressors and worries. It’s important to recognize that having these skills means not just for you, but for others as well.
Help them through counseling
A lot of people develop mental health conditions due to stress or trauma in their lives, which can include things like job losses, divorce, death of a loved one, and other life changes.
These experiences can make it hard for someone to connect with others and feel safe, which is why it’s important to help them work on that.
Counseling is a great way to do this because it teaches you about yourself and how your behaviors affect others. This helps you learn how to be more compassionate and understanding towards yourself and those around you.
It also gives you space to talk about what you’re going through while still keeping some distance from everyone else so you don’t get too involved. Many clinics offer free counseling services!
If you’re worried about whether someone has a mental illness, ask if they see a counselor. If they say yes, give them our tips above to explain what counseling is and isn’t.
Provide a normal environment
If someone does not understand mental illness, they may think that people who are mentally ill are always acting crazy or behaving irrationalally.
People with mental health conditions often have their symptoms in control, but when there is an episode, it can be difficult to recognize.
That’s why it’s important to create a supportive environment.
Making sure everyone is aware of what services you go to for help and how to connect with them makes it easier for others to ask for help if needed.
This also gives those seeking help knowledge about your situation so they don’t feel like outsiders asking questions that only make you feel more isolated.
It takes time and effort to build these relationships, but in the long run, they are worth it.
Let them talk
It’s important to let people who don’t understand mental illness ask questions. Don’t make assumptions about what they want to know or how they feel, but instead listen and be honest.
There are many ways to explain mental health conditions to someone who doesn’t understand them. Some of the most effective strategies focus less on symptoms and diagnoses and more on why it is important to you as a person to have these conversations.
This can include things like explaining how your mental health condition affects yourself (by changing how you feel, sleep, eat, etc.), others around you, and relationships with loved ones and friends. It may also describe the importance of talking about difficult feelings and emotions so that you can work through them in a way that is helpful for you.
Some experts recommend using terms such as “mental health” or “well-being” instead of “depression” or “anxiety.” This avoids using diagnostic labels and may help shift their perception of depression and anxiety as something that only afflicted you — not part of your internal system.
Consistency is one of the most important things when trying to explain mental illness to someone who doesn’t understand it. It’s hard to believe that person might not know what symptoms are, but they can be very perceptive about why you’re acting like this sometimes.
They may notice something isn’t quite right, but they won’t know what it is unless you tell them!
By being honest with people, it helps them relate. They will try to make an assumption or guess as to what is going on, but no matter what they think it is, they’ll never know for sure unless you let go and talk about it.
It also helps their perception of you if you aren’t always hiding your feelings and symptoms. If there is ever a time when you feel depressed or anxious, then don’t hesitate to ask for help and discuss how to best handle those emotions.