Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mental Illness in Young Adults

***I swear I had already posted this but found it sitting in my drafts for some reason! This post was meant to be published sometime last year but better late than never! Also I find it funny that I mentioned ReachOut in it and now I am a youth ambassador for them.

I have written about my struggles with anxiety many times but never about mental illness in general.  I had no plans to write a post on this but when the idea began to form in my head I knew I had too. I am not an expert on Mental Illness in young adults but I am a young adult who has a mental illness and knows what its like to be controlled by one. My aim of this post is to hope that people have a better understanding of mental illnesses and be more aware of them.

Every week many young adults are diagnosed with a Mental Illness, some will face up to it and fight it, while others will refuse to believe that they have one and some will hide away from the fact that they have one

There are many types of mental illness but they are linked many people have one main type then charcteristics of other types too. For example people with anxiety can have OCD tendantcies and get depressed too and the same goes for OCD people with OCD can through patches of being depressed. Everyone knows about depression and many people will know someone who haves (or has had) it, but when you talk about anxiety most people just think that you are worry wort and don't realise that is an actual mental illness, same with OCD people think you are a control freak.

Mental illness is unfortunatly getting more common in young adults 60% of uni students (this isn't including the other young adults who are doing TAFE, apprenticships or working) will be faced with some form (big or small) mental illness while they are studying some will get help, others will ignore it or find their own way around it and some will crash and drop out.When you're a young adult you are trying to form your own identity and trying new things, which all bring their own forms of stress, this included with study and life in general can cause Mental Illnesses to form.

Mental illness for a long time has been a taboo subject and though its getting more talked out many still uncomfortable disscussing it. Many young adults decide to keep and hide their feelings to themselves rather than telling someone and if they do decide to wear their feelings not many notice and when someone does its often too late to help them. I find that being a young adult it can be hard to ask for help and that is the same with alot of the people I know, society sees us as being independant and with the world at our feet, so why do we need to help?!

There are many types of mental illness and the table below shows the most common ones young adults may face along with the symptoms.

Type of Mental Illness
Symptoms Include
Always worrying, excessive fears, unable to relax (jumpy at times), avoiding new and/or challenging situations, shyness, poor sleep, loss of appetite, withdrawing  yourself from family and friends
Thoughts of self harm or suicide, trouble sleeping or over sleeping, loss of appetite or over eating, feeling worried or tense, having dark thoughts, feeling worthless, difficulty concentrating
Anxiety symptoms plus having obsessions such as worrying about dirt and diseases, arranging things and doing things in a certain way
Avoiding the topic of food, extreme weight loss, skipping meals, lying about how much they have eaten, counting calories, obsessive rules and thinking (only eating food of a certain colour, I have to do an hour of exercise for every 100 calories I eat), facial changes (skin appears pale and eyes look sunken)
Extreme weight loss, frequent trips to the bathroom during or after meals to throw up what they have eaten, facial changes due to vomiting (bad breath, swelling around cheeks or jaw, damage to teeth), obsessive about exercise, misusing laxatives, being secretive of what they have been eating, sudden change in appetite (goes from eating a lot one day to not a lot the next)

As I have said many of the types have links between them for example who has Anorexia may show signs of OCD or Depression or someone who has Anxiety may shows signs of Depression this is compeletly normal, as Mental Illness affects everyone differently.

Sometimes depending on how bad the illness is and the affects on the person you can get over it on your own but a lot of the time treatment needs to seeked. This is hard if the person doesn't want treatment and often they are in denile of it or claim that you are trying to ruin their life, other times they will willingly go to treatment it all depends on the person. Again the sort of treatment depends on how the illness affects the person. For Depression, Anxiety and OCD the person may be initially reffered to a pychologist or in extreme cases prescribed medication depending on how bad it is affecting them, a lot of the time a mix of seeing a pyschologist and medication may be required. With Anorexia and Bulimia assessment by a doctor is the first step then they may be referred to a nutrisionist or to a specialist whom will set up an eating and treatment plan. How well the person reacts to the treatment all depends on if they want to get better or not.

When I was first diagnosed with anxiety a lot of my friends had no idea how to act around me and I still find when I am having a hard time some of them have no idea. In situations when a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness the best thing you can do is be there for them, whether you drag them out of the house or just let them know that you are willing to listen and support them or give them a hug. There have been times when I have wanted to lock myself away and in reality I have needed to be dragged out of the house and its only when a friend has said lets go out for coffee I will be there in 30 minutes, that I have realised this. For Anorexia and Bulima its wise to avoid talking about food as it makes them awkward and can often make the situation worse, with Depression, Anxiety and OCD most times its just enough if you will sit and listen to them. As long as you tell them you are there for them you can do no wrong.

Though my Anxiety is currently under control I still use a lot of stratergies to help me get through the tough times, these include:
  • Keeping busy- I have learnt that if I stay busy my anxiety doesn't have a chance to set in. This is why Work Experience has been good for me. I find that planning something every few days always gives me something to look forward to.
  • Journalling- this is a big one for me, I find that if I write situations or things down on paper it doesn't look so bad. On days that I am depressed about being unemployed I will often write a list of things I am doing about getting employment and by the end of the list I realise that I'm not useless. 
  • Listing to music- sometimes all it takes to lift my mood is to blast music. It doesn't matter what type you like, but music has a way of lifting your mood.
  • Walking or exercise- this releases serotonin (the happy hormone that people with mental illness often lack) and has been proven to up your mood.
  • Breathing- when I was diagnosed with anxiety attacks last year the first stratergy I learnt was how to breath to calm my self down and stock the attack in its tracks. You do this by taking a deep breath through your nose holding it for a few seconds then releasing through your mouth. This lowers your heart rate making your relaxed, I do this whenever I find myself getting anxious about something and 9 times out of 10 it works.
The above stratergies can be used for most mental illness's and many professionals whom you go to seek help from, may reccomend these.

The following websites are great resources and are a great place to start if you think you or someone you know needs help:
  • Headspace - this is a great website for mental illness in young adults and has lots of resources about getting help and supporting people.
  • The Butterfly Foundation - this a website for eating disorders and body image issues. 
  • Reach Out - this is a great website for all mental illnesses in young adults and covers pretty much everything. Its easy to use and the information is easy to read and understand.
  • Beyond Blue - this website is for mental illness in general and has a lot of information on diagnosing mental illness and treatment. Mostly its for a all ages but there are some good resources for young adults on it.
Gone are the days when Mental Illnesses are considered crazy, yet people who have them are still looked down upon at times, our attitude instead should be to support them and realise that the illness will never ever define them. Being a person in todays world is stressful and one of the many conquences we have to face is that some of us will be diagnosed as having a Mental Illness, where it be because a chemical inbalance in the brain or a life style choice. Having a Mental Illness should never be looked at as a death sentence but instead a small challenge that needs to be faced and with the right help and people it will be conquered.

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