By Sue Perbody

Maintaining a strong mental health is important is one’s life, but that is a lot easier said than done. Most of the time, our mental health is something we do not have much jurisdiction over. Chemical imbalances can happen beyond our control, but what can we do to prevent or help these disorders? Is there any way to avoid mental illness from happening, all together? How can we break the stigma against mental health awareness?
Various mental health disorders include, but are not limited to, anxiety, mood, personality, and obsessive compulsive disorders. Each of these have their own contributing factors, and should be maintained properly. For example, anxiety can cause an increased heart rate and sweating, as well as trembles and a wide range of emotions. Everybody experiences anxiety, and it is important to notice the difference between nervousness and actual anxiety. Does the thought of this idea or task affect your ability to perform daily tasks? Does it cause extensive meltdowns and a wide range of emotions that you have little to no control over? If so, you may have an anxiety or mood disorder.

Mood disorders are a combination of anxiety and depression. There is a chemical imbalance in your brain that affects your ability to perform daily activities. It is also important to understand the difference between general sadness and depression. Are you losing interest in activities that used to exceed your desires? Do you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide? Are you having trouble sleeping, and are feeling constantly fatigued? If so, you are likely experiencing some type of clinical depression.

While on the topic of mood disorders, let’s touch onto Bipolar Disorder. As an individual that lives with Bipolar Disorder, I can say that it certainly is a journey. Bipolar Disorder is a brain illness that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Now, what makes this different from depression? These cycles go up and down, from feeling manic to feeling depressed. Manic episodes are described as having a lot of energy, talking fast, being easily agitated, and doing risky activities. Depressive episodes are described as having little energy, not being able to enjoy the little things, forgetting things a lot, and lingering thoughts of suicide. If you think you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your primary care physician immediately.

Personality disorders are best described as the involvement of thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy and inflexible that can have an effect on relationships and work. I am most familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD. My best friend has been experiencing this disorder since a young age, receiving her diagnosis at age 18. Borderline Personality Disorder shows signs and symptoms that include an intense fear of abandonment, a pattern of unstable relationships, periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality that can last a few minutes or a few hours, and impulsive behaviors. It is important to know the difference between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, because they are often misinterpreted. BPD can occur via genetics, or a stressful childhood. Many people with the disorder report being sexually or physically abused during their childhood. Exposure to hostile conflict and unstable relationships can also play a large factor. Studies show that individuals with BPD can have structural and functional changes in the brain, specifically in the areas that control impulses and emotions. Overall, it is important to give yourself the right diagnosis to ensure proper treatment.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, comes in two major forms. It occurs as a regular disorder, and it also occurs as a Personality Disorder. OCD is a chronic, long-lasting disorder in which an individual has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and behaviors that feel the need to be repeated over and over again. These obsessions can interfere with all aspects on one’s daily routine, including work, school, and personal relationships. Not all habits or rituals are compulsions. Everyone double checks things sometimes. But for a person with OCD, they can’t control their thoughts of behaviors, spending at least one hour a day on the thoughts.

In terms of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, also known as OCPD, it involved rigid adherence to rules and regulations, an overwhelming need for order, and a sense of righteousness about the way things “should be done.” People with OCPD think that their way is the “right and best way” and usually feel comfortable with such self-imposed systems of rules. People with OCPD are also fixated with following procedures to manage daily tasks. As an individual that has characteristics of OCPD, I must say it is a very interesting diagnosis to live with. I pick up certain tasks and rituals that, to me, are the only way that they can be done. If these tasks are not done the way that I know is considered “correct,” I get anxious and stressed out. I have to re-do the task the way that my brain tells me is the right way to do it. I must say, it drives my boyfriend absolutely insane. But, he works alongside me to ensure that my worries don’t go overboard. It’s important to have a support system in place, and have people who understand your diagnosis

People sometimes say that mental illness is “all in your head.” Surprise, that’s actually the case! Medication, alongside therapeutic techniques, can make a world of difference in mental health maintenance and recovery. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, or are having suicidal thoughts or self-harming actions, contact your primary care physician immediately for professional assistance. There is always help available.

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