In the United States, roughly one in five adults lives with a mental illness, or around 47 million people. In spite of the prevalence of mental illness, there is still a stigma surrounding admitting to mental health challenges. Despite being just as legitimate as physical illness, many people are still unwilling to confront their own struggles head-on.
While some people believe that ignoring mental health issues will make them disappear, this is rarely true. Unfortunately, pretending mental illness doesn’t exist is actually more likely to exacerbate the problem, leading to worse results. This can also lead to a higher likelihood of more significant ramifications to things like quality of life, career success and relationships.
It can be hard to admit that you need help or to own up to a professional diagnosis you have received, but speaking out can be the best way to approach recovery. Keeping mental health issues secret can be a very problematic way to approach a healthy life. These five dangers are a real risk when affected individuals fail to reveal mental health issues.
Increased Risk of Deterioration
Some mental illnesses are essentially consistent, resulting in signs and symptoms that are relatively constant. However, some conditions worsen the longer they remain untreated.
Depression, for example, can often result in a downward spiral when those living with it do not seek treatment in a timely manner. Symptoms can start with apathy and sadness and quickly devolve to a point in which it’s hard to even get out of bed or care for oneself. Depression isn’t the only condition that can worsen in time; many others will accelerate without treatment in the form of therapy or medication.
By keeping your mental health issues secret or failing to admit the reality of mental illness, you risk symptoms worsening and creating even more problems in your life. However, if you are willing to admit to your challenges, you can get help before it’s too late. It’s absolutely possible to come back from mental illness at its worst, but it’s much easier to recover when you get help sooner rather than later.
Problems With Relationships
One of the most serious external consequences of mental illness is the potential impact on relationships. The symptoms of mental health conditions, like depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety, can negatively affect relationships in many different ways, potentially irreparably harming romantic, platonic and familiar bonds.
Those with mental health issues in relationships may not be able to meet demands, like attending events, listening and responding to personal problems, providing affection and holding conversations. While this can be understandable from time to time, an ongoing inability to hold up your end of a relationship can lead to devastating consequences.
While mental illness does not necessarily excuse behavior, it can make it easier to process problems. Those who are willing to admit to their mental illnesses are more likely to receive compassion and understanding while working through the process of getting help.
More Career Problems
Career success can be challenging under normal circumstances, but this can be even harder when living with mental illness. Meeting deadlines, producing high-quality work and pleasing customers only gets more difficult when mental illness stands in the way, leading to the potential for demotions or even termination.
While some employers will continue to believe in the stigmas of mental health, many will provide support for employees who need it. Further, in the US, many forms of diagnosed mental illness are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Those with a qualifying diagnosis can receive accommodations that make work easier to accomplish. This isn’t a choice employers make; most workplaces are covered by the ADA, and employers are not permitted to fire employees due to covered conditions.
In addition, treating mental illness may be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Providing six months of unpaid leave to address mental and physical health problems, FMLA can be the opportunity you need to seek help without compromising your employment.
Less Likely to Get Help
Admitting a need for help isn’t easy. For many reasons, ranging from denial to stigma, people living with mental illness aren’t always willing to seek the help they need. Treatment, whether inpatient, outpatient, one-on-one counseling or medication, is generally the single best way to address mental illness. However, by keeping your symptoms secret, you will not be able to get the help required.
Some people believe they can use inner strength and willpower to overcome addiction alone, but this is rarely successful. Therapists and doctors go to school specifically to learn about forms of therapy and the functions of prescription medications. Many spend years studying what they need to know to be successful. The kinds of techniques taught to therapists are very specialized and can’t be utilized by just anyone. Furthermore, a back-and-forth dynamic is a standard part of therapy, and with no one leading a session or implementing therapeutic techniques, it’s highly unlikely those living with mental illness will see results.
There is no shame in having a mental illness, and there is no shame in getting help. Unfortunately, keeping your illness a secret works directly against the benefits of entering a treatment program.
Mental illness has a definite stigma that has preserved its reputation as being inferior to physical illnesses. While this situation is improving as more celebrities and notable personalities speak out about their struggles, some people are still embarrassed or ashamed of their own challenges. Unfortunate, this only perpetuates the cycle.
While speaking about personal issues like mental illness is always an individual decision, neglecting to admit to your symptoms, share your condition with others or get help can actually worsen stigmas. The more people choose to keep mental health issues secret, the less likely others are going to speak up and lessen negative associations.
By owning your own reality, you can defy the stigmas while doing what is best for your overall health.
Living with mental health is anything but easy. Fighting back against symptoms that actively work against a healthy way of life can be both challenging and upsetting, and it’s almost impossible to do alone. Keeping mental health issues secret can stand in the way of your recovery, preventing you from getting help and actively holding you back. By admitting to your feelings and experiences, you can take a very important step forward toward finally getting the care you need.
If you are considering professional assistance for mental health issues, FHE Health is here. Please contact us today to learn more about our mental health treatment programs.