Mental illness is not confined to anxiety and depression

We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about anxiety and depression more, when we’re really just destigmatising anxiety and depression more, and that’s it.

I can tell you that a lot of people are going to read that sentence and think, “And?” or “What’s she talking about?” You probably thought I messed up what I was trying to say, or maybe you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that sentence. Anxiety and depression are mental health issues, right? Yes, but mental health issues are not confined to anxiety and depression.

You could argue that anxiety and depression are the more talked about illnesses because they’re the most common ones, but we don’t know just how true that is. More often than not, mood disorders that show any signs of depression, such as bipolar disorder, are put down to just that – depression. It can take years for doctors and even patients themselves to realise that there is something more to their problem.

As I said, patients can go undiagnosed for years, because they don’t really know that they have a problem. Personally, I know how that feels. I went until the age of fifteen before realising that there was something wrong with me, that this crippling anxiety I’d been feeling my whole life was not normal. Why didn’t I realise? Well, because nobody ever talked about it. Ten years ago, anxiety was still a taboo. People weren’t sure if it was a real thing, they looked down on people who had it, they didn’t understand it, and they were scared of it. And while I’m so glad that moves have been made to destigmatise anxiety and make my life that little bit easier, I can’t help but think about the people who still have a mental illness that nobody talks about. I can’t help but think about the forgotten side of mental health.

Unfortunately the likes of borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still have a huge amount of stigma attached to them. People forget that they are a part of the group of mental illnesses, and they know little to nothing about them. Because they know nothing about them, the people who have to live with these illnesses every day are afraid to talk about them. And because they’re afraid to talk, nobody is learning.

When there’s so little information given to us about these illnesses, how are people supposed to recognise that they have a problem in the first place? Would you know the signs of borderline personality disorder if you had them? Most people wouldn’t. Oftentimes, patients are only diagnosed when their illness gets to an advanced stage, and this is what helps make up the negative stigma attached to the illness.

And that’s not the only thing that creates negative portrayals of mental illness. Patricia R. Owen conducted a study on the portrayals of schizophrenia by entertainment media, and in this study of more than 40 movies (released between 1990 and 2010) she discovered that over 80% of characters who were schizophrenic showed violent behaviour, and almost a third displayed suicidal behaviour. This portrayal that people with schizophrenia are dangerous is wrong, and it’s having a detrimental effect on sufferers who are afraid to speak out for fear of having this label slapped on them.

People have a fear of the unknown, but we can help them with that. By speaking out more about the less commonly known mental illnesses, we can break the stigma attached to them and help sufferers feel more at ease when talking about them. We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about depression and anxiety more, but we need to speak more about mental illness as a whole. We can’t keep leaving certain issues out because we’re afraid of the unknown.

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What It’s Like To Have body Dysmorphic Disorder: Sean’s Story

I hate myself. There, I’ve said it. No matter how much anybody admires me or cares for me in any way, I will continue to stare at myself in the mirror with a passionate loathing of my reflection for countless amounts of time.

No matter how great the aspects of your life are, if you suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, it’s almost impossible to relax and enjoy anything. Even when you’re surrounded by the most amazing people and the most comfortable lifestyle, if you hate yourself, life becomes a struggle. You are the most central part of your life, and if you hate the most central part of your life, it becomes insanely difficult to be happy.

I was recently diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (also known as BDD or Body Dysmorphia). This is a mental health disorder in which the person has no control over their negative thoughts about their own appearance, and won’t believe anybody who tells them that they look fine. People with this disorder often find or imagine faults in their appearance and become obsessed with them. I constantly find myself preoccupied with my appearance, for hours at a time.

My obsession with my appearance causes me huge distress every day, and it completely interferes with my ability to function. As a child/teenager, I had a very unhealthy lifestyle. I did little to no exercise and had a very poor diet. As a result, I became overweight. I’ve been overweight for so long that I can’t imagine what it feels like to not have man boobs. Every summer for the past few years, I’ve told myself “This is it, this is the summer you’re going to lose weight”. It still hasn’t happened yet.

When I transitioned from being self-conscious to becoming self-loathing, my whole life began to fall apart. I’ve made huge progress with my weight loss through diet and exercise but I haven’t made it all the way yet – which makes me constantly question whether or not the Body Dysmorphic Disorder will still affect me once I’ve lost the weight and gotten into shape. I changed my diet completely. I went from eating multiple bags of crisps, bars of chocolate and sugary drinks every day to eating bowls of dry cabbage, peas, or even just an apple. It feels great to be eating healthier and making progress, but the more I lose weight, the more I feel like a thin man trapped inside a fat man’s body. I’m suffering the consequences of the unhealthy lifestyle choices I made as a teenager. I am repulsed by my appearance, but for some strange reason, that’s what keeps me motivated to make progress and better myself.

One day, things got out of hand. I hit rock bottom. While out with a friend for dinner, I finished my meal and began to stare at the empty plate. I was disgusted at myself for eating a meal that didn’t solely consist of a small portion of vegetables. I became unable to eat anything that wasn’t a vegetable without feeling guilty, even eating a single slice of brown bread would make me feel angry at myself. I went to the bathroom, stuck my fingers down my throat and made myself get sick. Luckily I had the sense to realise that it wasn’t a healthy thing to do and immediately stopped myself from doing it again.

However, in recent weeks it’s been something I’ve started considering again from time to time. One night, while having a few drinks at a friend’s house, we decided to order pizza. After eating only two slices, I went to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror for a while. I was outraged. I stared at my fat face and overweight body and then I proceeded to make myself throw up. This time it was different though – the food I had eaten hadn’t gone through my system yet. The two slices of pizza came right back up and got stuck in my throat, causing me to start choking. I was choking for at least 20 to 30 seconds until I finally managed to cough out the food. I turned to face the mirror and my face was covered in burst blood vessels, which remained on my face for a few days afterwards. I stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes, realising that I had nearly killed myself over two slices of pizza.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never reach my target weight, which makes me feel like I’ll never be happy. I’m so scared of my progress going backwards – the thought terrifies me. As time passes, instead of losing weight I become less accepting of myself. I’m terrified that even when I become the right weight, I might have a distorted view of myself and still perceive myself as fat. I spend hours and hours looking up before and after photos of people who have lost weight and become more attractive, hoping that someday I can be one of those people. I even spend a lot of time looking up things like plastic surgery and anorexia.

On many occasions I break down crying because this disorder isn’t something that I want to cope with anymore. I loathe myself. I don’t want to be fat anymore, I don’t want to be ugly anymore. I just want to be happy.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SeanThomasTV