Seeking help for a mental health disorder can be a frightening prospect for someone who has never undergone therapy before. Not only is there the scary element that one might have a mental disorder, but there may also be a fear that therapy won’t help. Individuals who suffer from mental illness can feel terribly alone, as though they are the only person in the world who feels “this way” and therefore, nobody can help them to overcome it. Even worse, there is an unrealistic stigma attached to mental disorders that is not present with other chronic conditions.
When someone suffers from diabetes, they are not judged in a negative light when their blood sugar levels become dangerous. Individuals with high blood pressure are not usually blamed when their blood pressure spikes, or they suffer a stroke or heart attack because of their illness. On the contrary, it is hard for someone who does not suffer from depression, for instance, to understand that someone can’t simply tell themselves to be happier. Telling someone with a panic disorder to “calm down,” is not a viable solution to a bona-fide, but treatable, condition. Perhaps the most stigmatized disorder is one of substance abuse or dependence. Individuals who suffer from addiction are often thought of as lazy, immoral or criminal.
When someone is faced with the discrimination and lack of compassion or understanding about their mental state, they may find it is easier to hide from their problems than to face them directly as well. This can lead to co-occurring disorders, such as addiction, or a worsening of their condition because they are unwilling or unable to get the help they need.
Understand Your Disorder to Get the Most Out of Mental Health Treatment
According to an article published by the National Institute of Mental Health, this stigma fails to take into consideration that most mental illness is caused by a physical problem. An example of this comes from our understanding of drug addiction as a chronic brain disease. The human brain is made up of neurons, or brain cells. Each cell has a specific job in the operation of our bodies. The neurons send and receive chemical messages, known as neurotransmitters. Each neuron is equipped with receptors to receive the messages released by neighboring cells and transporters that recycle the brain chemicals back into the cell of origination. This process turns off the chemical reaction in the brain. In between each cell is an empty space, called a synapse.
Think of an average kitchen sink. The faucet represents one neuron, and the sink drain is another. The failsafe drain at the top of the sink is the transporter for the faucet. The space in the sink is the synapse. If we turn on the water, also known as the neurotransmitter for this example, the sink will begin to fill up. When the sink is full, the excess water goes out through the failsafe drain. Slowly, the water will drain out of the main sink drain, leaving the sink ready to receive more water.
If we turn the water on too strongly, the sink might overflow because the failsafe drain is compromised by the volume of water. If there is a blockage in the main sink drain, the sink can fill too quickly. If we place a baking sheet between the faucet and sink while the water is running, the water will splash everywhere except where it is supposed to go — into the sink.
Drugs of abuse act like a blockage in the drain, the failsafe drain or the baking sheet. They cause the brain to communicate improperly. The process doesn’t stop when a person is not actively using the drug either. As the brain gets used to having these changes in place, it learns new behaviors associated with changes. They become normalized, causing the individual to make all of their decisions based upon the new signals in their brain.
The first piece of essential information to get the most out of your mental health therapy, regardless of the type of disorder or disorders that may be present, is to understand just how powerful the human brain is — how powerful your brain is. If the brain can learn negative behaviors based upon the altered communication between cells, it an unlearn them. It is possible to change the brain into a healthier, more productive mechanism.
A few suggestions for finding the information you need to know might be:
- Visit with your primary care medical provider and honestly talk about what you are feeling and experiencing; they may have information they can share with you.
- Research on your own with a friend or family member you trust so you can share your concerns and they can give you their impressions as well.
- Discover your own family history by talking with relatives; some mental disorders run in families and a family history can increase risk.
- Contact us here at Axis and speak with an experienced, compassionate individual who can offer insight into mental health treatment for a variety of conditions.
Find the Right Therapist for You
An effective mental health treatment process is going to include one, very important element — a solid relationship between therapist and client. It is crucial that you are comfortable with your therapist because of the possibly sensitive issues that may be discussed. Some individuals who suffer from mental illness have a history of sexual or physical abuse or other trauma that is often difficult to talk about.
That said, therapy is not about making friends. Is it possible that you will have a lifelong relationship with your counselor? Certainly, but that is not the point. Therapy can be difficult and emotional, and there may be times when you simply don’t like your therapist because of how you are feeling during the recovery process. In the case of cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, a solid, trusting relationship is important to the success of the endeavor, but the real issue is to help you figure out what you want from your life and how to get it. Whether you would like to befriend your therapist is not an issue. The issue is whether you trust them.
Essential Tips for Maximizing Your Mental Health Treatment
Your mental health therapy is all about you. You need to get well, find your footing in your life, and make progress to a happier, healthier future. The experience will be different for everyone, but a few tips to making the most of it are helpful.
- Be on time for your appointments. A good therapist is dedicated and compassionate, and they want you to succeed; however, you are likely not their only client. When you are late for an appointment, you essentially rob yourself of valuable time because your therapist may not be able to push back their remaining appointments.
- Do your homework. If you are taking part in cognitive behavioral therapy, there is actual homework you should be completing between sessions. Regardless of the type of therapy you are involved in, whether group, individual or family, do your best to apply what you’ve learned in each session to your daily life. This can help you to build better habits and manage your stress in a healthy, productive way.
- Evaluate your goals. The overall goals tat you are trying to reach through your mental health treatment can change over time. Your immediate goal, at the beginning of treatment, may be to increase your overall quality of life by simply experiencing more joy. Over time, you may find that your goals become more finite and specific. A simple goal, like “I want to be happy,” may have been all you could handle in the beginning, but it might become, “I want to graduate from college,” in the long run. Take time to revisit your progress and your goals with your therapist regularly to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
Mental health disorders are nothing to be ashamed of. You are a viable and worthwhile human being with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that do not have to rule your existence. You can change them with the kind of help, and you can embark on a rich life full of blessings. Contact us here at Axis today if you are, or someone you love is, suffering from a mental disorder or addiction problem.