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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18.3% of adults in America experienced a mental illness in the year 2016. The prevalence of mental illness among adults is the highest among those who reported being multicultural. Alarmingly, 20% of teens in the United States suffer from mental illnesses (“Mental Disorders”). Mental illnesses run through my family, and I myself have been diagnosed, so I have seen first hand how differently people react and treat those with these illnesses. Society has written off people with mental illnesses because they seem peculiar, but with knowledge of how these illnesses work, society would work to improve the lives of mentally ill people.
When it comes to diagnosing someone with a mental illness, it is important to understand what factors contributed to the development of that disorder. As noted by Durand and Barlow, to say that psychopathology is caused by a single cause is to accept a linear to one-dimensional model (Durand and Barlow, 29-31). There are few scientists and clinicians who accept this linear approach to psychopathology. This means that they explain the development of mental illnesses in terms of a single cause. In using the one-dimensional model, it also means that these scientists and clinicians do not take into consideration any information about their patient that does not pertain to what is believed to have caused their illness. Alternatively, most scientists and clinicians believe in a multidimensional approach to psychopathology. This model is systemic, and implies that multiple influences interact with each other to cause mental illnesses. When clinicians consider causality of mental illnesses using this model, they inevitably find that each component of the patients system affects the other components. In addition to there being multiple ways for someone to develop a mental illness, there are also multiple ways to treat many of the illnesses.
The first line of defense when treating a mental illness, is therapy. There are different types of therapy that can be utilized to treat mental illnesses. To receive treatment in the form of therapy, people can get a referral from their primary care physician or speak with a therapist about which therapy would be most beneficial for them (“Types of Therapy”). People who want to gain a better understanding of themselves by looking at how their past experiences affected them should look into psychodynamic therapy. As the goal of this therapy is to uncover negative behavior patterns and feelings that stem from past experiences and resolve them, these sessions are lead by the therapist (“Psychotherapy”). The conversation is usually composed of open-ended questions and free associations so the patient will be able to discuss what is on their mind. Through these exchanges, the therapist is able to help the patient identify unconscious negative behavioral patterns or feelings. Additionally, the therapist is able to help the patient to overcome these unhelpful feelings and behaviors that were caused. Psychodynamic therapy is most useful in treating depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorders, as well as other mental illnesses.
The exploration between a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors is cognitive behavioral therapy. During this therapy, a therapist works with their patient to discover unhealthy patterns of thought and how it might be causing self-destructive behaviors or beliefs. Addressing the destructive patterns gives the patient and therapist the opportunity to change the thoughts and behaviors, so they are constructive and healthier behaviors and beliefs. The main goal of CBT is to identify negative beliefs and restructure them, so people that are treated with CBT are given homework to either practice replacing their negative thoughts with realistic one based on previous experiences, or keep a record of their negative thoughts in a journal. Studies suggest that this therapy improves brain functioning, as individuals who have undergone CBT have shown changes in brain activity. Like psychodynamic therapy, studies have also shown that CBT is an effective treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and even schizophrenia.
While psychodynamic therapy can be used to treat people with borderline personality disorder, there are some cases in which it is not helpful. For the individuals with BPD that are chronically suicidal, dialectical behavior therapy is used to treat them. DBT is primarily based on CBT, although emphasize is put on the individual validating or accepting their uncomfortable feelings, behaviors, or thoughts rather than being conflicted by them. As a result of these validations, the individual will no longer feel that change is impossible, and they can create a plan for gradual recovery with their therapist. As a part of the plan for recovery, the therapist will help the person balance acceptance and change, and create coping mechanisms and mindfulness practices so they are able to improve their unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. Another similarity DBT shares with CBT, is having homework between sessions, and practicing their new thinking and behaving methods. DBT has been shown to produce significantly effective, and long-lasting improvements for people with borderline personality disorder. The improvements include using of positive reinforcement that motivates change, emphasizing the person’s strength, decreasing the frequency and severity of their dangerous behaviors, and taking what they learn in therapy and applying it to their everyday life.
Different illnesses require different types of medications, some of which overlap in use for other disorders (“Mental Health Medications”). Antipsychotics reduce or eliminate symptoms of psychosis, like delusions or hallucinations, in people who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder. These medications can also be combined with others to treat conditions, such as delirium, dementia, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, and eating disorders. Antidepressants inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, allowing more to flow throughout the brain. Though they are primarily used to improve symptoms of depression and keep them from relapsing, they have also been used for insomnia, GAD, and PTSD. It is important to note that taking antidepressants can lead to thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts in previously suicidal individuals. Mood stabilizers are used to treat mood swings associated with bipolar disorder. People using lithium should regularly visit their doctor to check the levels in their blood to ensure that their kidneys and thyroid are working properly. Individuals who are unresponsive to therapy or medication can be treated with electroconvulsive therapy (“Stimulation Therapies”). The patient is asleep and under general anesthesia while controlled electric currents are passed through their brains. ECT is used most for severe depression, and for some cases of bipolar disorder. Many people begin to see a change after four treatments, and may receive less frequent treatments. While treatment is the best opportunity to help people manage their symptoms, societal stigma can effect how these individuals live their lives.
Negative beliefs and attitudes towards mental illnesses are common in society. These beliefs about mental illnesses often lead to the mistreatment of people who have them (“Overcoming the Stigma”). People with mental illnesses may have negative remarks about their illness said to them, or find that people might avoid them because they could think the persons illness makes them a danger. This stigma can be harmful to these individuals, as they could decide not to seek treatment, be bullied or harassed, or believe that they will not be able to change their situation. They may also find that their health insurance does not cover all of the costs for their treatments, or that they miss out on opportunities for school, work, or even social events. Stigma cannot be overcome overnight, but there are ways to cope with it. Despite negative attitudes being a deterrent to getting treatment, pushing past it to actually get help can actually provide relief. Reaching out to loved ones, or joining a support group gives people with mental illnesses people they can go to for understanding or compassion. If the individual is uncomfortable speaking with a loved one about what they are going through, speaking with a teacher or school administrator about their struggles can be beneficial. Educating oneself about the condition can prevent self-doubt or shame, as well as allow the person to use their voice to speak out against stigma. Another way to cope with stigma is by not identifying as an illness, but as a person who has that illness.
Society tends to dismiss people with mental illnesses because they seem abnormal, but with knowledge on the way mental illnesses work, society would improve the lives of those with mental illnesses. The development of mental illnesses can be cause by different factors. When treating these illnesses, there are several options available, and with the help of a therapist, people can choose which option they feel will work best for them. People with mental illnesses will be met with adversity, but they can find ways to cope with it. 18.3% of American adults suffer from mental illnesses, but they do not have to go through it alone.

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