Sunday, December 12, 2010

You Are Not Your Illness

Serious mental illness affects approximately 14 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And mental illness is the second leading cause of disability in the United States, according to Yet, 2/3 of people who have mental illness do not seek treatment. Some of the reasons people do not seek treatment are due to lack of resources, insurance, and for some people it is the stigma that is connected to mental illness. There are some who believe that mental health disorders are due to not having enough will power, moral failings or weakness - ALL of which are untrue.

Here are a few people throughout history who have dealt with mental illness. You decide whether or not they lacked will power, morally failed or were weak:

Winston Churchhill - depression
Abraham Lincoln - depression
Princess Diana - bulimia
Earl Campbell - panic disorder
John Madden - phobia of flying

The reality is, if you were diagnosed with cancer, you would go to the doctor. Mental health disorders are no different. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder you should go see a therapist, psychiatrist, or your family physician. If your doctor gave you medication for the treatment of the cancer, most likely you would take it, which is no different than a psychiatrist prescribing medication for a mental health disorder. You might have to do some physical therapy as part of the treatment for the cancer, just like you might need to talk with a therapist to help you process what you're dealing with as part of your treatment for a mental health disorder. The bottom line is, regardless of the type of illness that you have, it is important to obtain the proper treatment to help you live your life to the fullest.

Regardless of whether you are dealing with a medical illness or a mental health illness, it is important to remember that you are not your illness. You would not introduce yourself to someone and say "hi, I'm cancer." Neither should you introduce yourself to someone and say "hi, I'm bipolar." Yet when I counsel clients the second statement is very common. It is important to remember that you have cancer, or you have bipolar disorder. If you have an illness, you can seek treatment, and make progress toward overcoming the illness. If you ARE the illness it becomes harder to make change. Remember, at the end of the day it is about your quality of life.

If you feel you might be dealing with a mental health illness, and you would like to seek help, please contact our office.

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