Mental illness is challenging.
Most people with mental illness, or their loved ones, want to have a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to come by accurate information, or at least to know where to look.
There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding out there about mental illnesses, and many, even those diagnosed with one disorder or another, don’t know that what they believe may be wrong.
Knowing the individual is not knowing the disorder.
Our best resource sometimes becomes the individuals we know who’ve been diagnosed, and that can be a double-edged sword. While first-hand understanding of how a person with mental illness reacts and responds is invaluable, it’s important to be clear that knowing the individual is not knowing the disorder.
Mental illness will affect how you handle your emotions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every emotional response is due to one’s diagnosis. It’s best not to conclude any action or reaction is a result of mental illness until you have the facts. That thinking is no more fair than assuming any time a woman is angry it’s hormonal.
That’s particularly true once someone has begun taking medication, since that will have a significant impact on one’s mental health. However, everyone’s response to treatment is different.
When it isn’t possible to have complete information, fill in the blanks with questions and educational material
It’s important, whenever possible, to know the actual diagnosis, and the symptoms and behaviors associated with that level of the mental illness. People with these illnesses often are happy, even eager, to share their own diagnosis. When it isn’t possible to have complete information, and at times it isn’t, fill in the blanks with questions and educational material instead of assumptions and anecdotal information from others.
In fact, that’s a good idea regardless of how much information you already have obtained. At the very least, verify what non-professionals tell you. It isn’t always easy to know.
There are resources on the Internet and in your library, to start, and your doctor may have some information as well. Avoid forums on the Internet, however, as these frequently have no expert oversight.
On behalf of those who must learn how to live with their illness,
just as anyone with any disease or disability must do, listen, learn, seek answers, and especially, ignore anything you see or hear on your favorite television drama or sitcom. TV writers are first and foremost concerned about the story line, not the truth, and they’ll mix & match the real with the perceived to suit their purposes.
Love requires an open mind and open heart, qualities treasured by those who deal with one or more often misunderstood disorders. Those qualities bring us close. A heartfelt thank you for all you do for your loved ones with mental illness.
For information about mental illnesses, explore these web sites:
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