Fact: one-in-four people will be affected by a mental illness throughout their lifetime. It is actually one of the leading causes of disability in North America. The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite all the recent talk going around about spreading awareness and de-stigmatizing mental illness, the shame that often accompanies and is associated with mental illness still remains. I’d like to shed some light on a specific kind of mental illness that albeit is quite common, still receives incredible amounts of negative criticism, and can surprisingly manifest itself grotesquely in numerous different ways.
Anxiety. Particularly high functioning anxiety, coupled with depression. Among the more elusive types of mental illness, high-functioning anxiety might appear to be a bit of a deceiving term. For a unique group of individuals, this illness can be suppressed enough to allow them to continue with their day to day activities and responsibilities. Many psychiatrists state that it is teens and adults who are able to pull off seemingly normal lives in public, yet suffer in private, are those whose conditions tend to be the scariest. Because depression and anxiety have distinct, specific, and stereotypical symptoms, like dropping grades, performance, or mood and loss of interest in activities that the individual previously enjoyed, those who are high-functioning can often mask themselves and pretend like everything’s okay when, in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The stigma and stereotypes that often surround mental illness not only make those who have these illnesses feel judged and victimized, but also make it extremely difficult for those suffering from high functioning anxiety to be recognized. In fact, often times they can hardly identify themselves. It’s extremely important to recognize that mental illness can impact and affect people in all kinds of different ways. When it comes to mental illness, sometimes there are no particular feelings or symptoms that an individual can identify with. Just because someone doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold that supposedly defines a mental disorder, doesn’t mean that they aren’t suffering.
According to the Anxiety Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are highly treatable, however, roughly one-third receive treatment. This is due to the lack of recognition of the disorder most of the time. A lot of people suffering from mental illness often get confined to the mindset that their situation could be worse or that it isn’t that bad. It’s extremely important to validate people’s feelings, especially when it comes to people who could potentially be suffering from mental illness, simply for the reason that although someone else may have it worse than you, doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel the way you do. Feeling awful isn’t something most people do by choice, after all. By opening up communication lines through routine check-ins with friends and family, it can be easier to spot those who are quietly suffering but may not be exhibiting the typical symptoms of depression and anxiety. Anxiety can manifest itself in all sorts of ways; for me, it’s been sudden onsets of panic, coupled with nausea and muscle tension hours long crying spells, and immeasurable feelings of utter inadequacy in multiple aspects of life. The person sitting next to you on the bus could be experiencing symptoms such as these and you’d never know it. It can be extremely easy to overlook these feelings in yourself and in others. The most significant and important thing that can be used in order to beat out the stigma surrounding these illnesses is knowledge. Learning the facts about mental illness dissipates the myth that mental illness is some kind of personal failing and flaw; it instead aids individuals in acknowledging mental illness as a real medical illness with treatment and recovery possibilities.
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Anxiety doobles courtesy of instagram doodler: Marzi (x)