Living Successfully with Mental Illness

Employers, friends, and neighbors may be very uncomfortable about mental illness. Many people find it embarrassing and scary. Help others learn about your mental illness. Encourage family, friends, and coworkers to ask questions. Let them know that they don’t need to avoid you or ignore your illness.

Here are some facts about mental illness:

  • A mental illness is a brain disorder that affects your thinking, feeling, moods, and how you relate to others. Mental illness is real illness. Many mental illnesses have known causes and can be treated.
  • Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion, or income.
  • One in five families is affected by a severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression.

Here are some ideas that may help you to live successfully with mental illness:

  • Learn everything you can about your illness, including treatment options and what you can do for yourself. Read books, research online, talk with your therapist, family, and friends. Join a support group for people with the kind of mental illness you have. The people in these groups can provide advice, information, and support.
  • Accept the fact that you have a mental illness. Understand that it is not your fault that you have the illness. Be realistic about what you expect of yourself. Having goals that are too high sets you up for failure.
  • Take care of your physical health. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Don’t have too much alcohol or caffeine. Don’t use illegal drugs. Don’t use nicotine.
  • If your illness makes it hard to organize your thoughts, solve problems, and make decisions, ask for help. Your therapist or a friend can help you schedule your time and make lists of the things you need to do.
  • If medicine is one of the ways to keep your illness in control, take your medicine as prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you have problems or questions related to your medicine, talk it over with your healthcare provider. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Don’t make changes in your medicine by yourself. Many medicines can have serious side effects when they are stopped suddenly.
  • Help family members learn more about how to communicate with you. Criticism, even self-criticism, is not helpful.
  • Be patient with yourself. There will be ups and downs. Identify what stresses you, and find ways to manage your stress.
  • Plan what to do if symptoms of your illness get worse. Make a list of your early warning signs. If you notice feelings or actions that are unusual for you, such as losing interest in things, getting more depressed, having trouble concentrating or making decisions, withdrawing, feeling overwhelmed, or having sleep problems, call your therapist. Getting professional help early may keep your symptoms from getting worse.

You are not your illness. The fact that you have a mental illness is just one part of who you are. Mental illness, like diabetes or arthritis, can be challenging, but you can live a satisfying life in spite of it.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-01
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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