Monday, 27 February 2017

Understanding the spectrum of Mental Illness

On an average, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness, or will experience a mental health difficulty sometime in our life. Mental illness debilitates the health and affects how the person feels, behaves and interacts with others around them. A mental health problem also has the same affects, but to a lesser extent as a mental illness. 

Mental health problems are more common and is known to be a reaction to a stress in a  temporary moment. If not dealt with, it can develop into a mental illness. Mental illness is more severe and can cause extreme suffering to the person experiencing it, along with their family and friends. According to statistics, mental illness is expected to be the leading health problem in the world by the year 2020.

Today I would like to educate and bring insight to the spectrum of mental illness, and how everyone will experience theirs differently. I write this so if someone reads it and comes across their friend/partner/family member who is experiencing it, to not compare it to others who also suffer. Some symptoms will be the same, but the feeling may be very different, as we are all our own person at the end of the day. Even with the same diagnosis, it still doesn't mean they are feeling the same as someone else with the same diagnosis, and that the treatment you give someone else for their illness, will work on this person as well and vice versa. 

I suffer from diagnosis known as Borderline Personality Disorder (now known as emotional disregulation disorder), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociation Disorder. I also know other friends and people I have met along the way who have the same diagnosis. What people seem to misunderstand about diagnosis as there are various symptoms listed under DSM5, and some people may have similar symptoms but experience it differently. For example, the symptoms that impact me the most when mentally impaired with BPD will be black and white thinking, self destructive behaviour (push-pull), paranoia and abandonment. These are only 4 of the 7 criteria that really impacts my health and can be life threatening for me at the time. Then others who I know have BPD show different symptoms when they are heightened or triggered. They will display things such as impulsiveness, anger and irritability. I mainly feel pain over anger when I am in a heightened BPD episode. 

Everyone is also prone to mental illness. I know a lot of people who have symptoms of a mental illness, but because they don't display all the symptoms listed, they wont fit under a diagnosis. This is where I believe everyone falls under a spectrum of mental illness, as people will display similar behaviours a person labelled with a mental illness display in distressing times of their lives. 

I want to extend this writing to make people really think about labels they place on mentally ill people when everyone is capable of sitting under the criteria of behaviours and symptoms you will display when being mentally impaired. Diagnosis is helpful to have a better understanding about someones illness and how it impacts their health, but it doesn't define them. Everyone experiences their own mental illness differently, so this is where we need the people around us to understand that: Just because one treatment may have worked on your schizophrenic partner, it may not work for your schizophrenic friend. 

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