No One Is Normal: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness
Normal is all a matter of perception; everybody’s view of what is “normal” differs depending on experience and circumstance. Though there is still a lot of work to be done, society has come a long way in terms of realizing that there is no one-size-fits-all normal. As we become more transparent, emotionally supportive, and lift misconceptions, it becomes easier to open up about our struggles. Thus, we learn that all experiences are valid, and there is no need for shame. These new messages will go a long way to erase the stigma of mental illness in families.
Though “mental illness” can mean any number of things, there are several common types that spring to mind whenever we hear that phrase. They include:
According to Psychiatry.org (1), depression, or major depressive disorder, is a common medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. Depression causes feelings of sadness, a loss of interest in activities, and can affect a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life successfully. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable.
Depression symptoms can include:
- Feelings of sadness; a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Changed appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Irregularities in sleep
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Thoughts of suicide
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Anxiety is the body’s normal reaction to stress. It alerts us to dangers and helps us pay attention. However, some people have excessive fear beyond what is considered normal, and this is an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is the most common of mental disorders; at some point in their lives, almost 30 percent of adults will deal with some form of anxiety disorder. Just like depression, anxiety disorders are treatable with several effective treatments. Most people who seek help for an anxiety disorder can indeed lead to healthy, productive lives.
For most people, their personality will stay the same over time. A personality disorder is a way of thinking or behaving that deviates from rational expectations. This behavior or thinking can cause problems functioning in everyday life, and the displays of the personality disorder last over time. Though there are several, a few examples of a personality disorder are:
Antisocial Personality Disorder
A person with antisocial personality disorder doesn’t conform to social norms, repeatedly lies or deceives others, or acts impulsively.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
People with paranoid personality disorder often assume people will harm them, and so they don’t confide in others or become close to them.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
People with schizoid personality disorder won’t seek close relationships, chooses to be alone, and don’t care about praise from others.
Mental Illness Affects Everybody
In this new drive towards transparency, everyone from celebrities to social media influencers have opened up about their struggles with mental health and lends to the idea that most people deal with some form of mental illness. It doesn’t only affect “civilians” or working-class people. It can affect people who make millions, people who are creative powerhouses, and people who seem to live enviable lives.
Actress Kristen Bell opens up quite frequently about her battles with depression and panic attacks. (2) She is a notable example because her public persona is one of bubbly goodness and positive thinking. Bell talks about her struggles a lot in hopes of breaking down the stereotype that to struggle with a mental illness, you need to look or act mopey all the time. She penned an essay for Time magazine, which included this quote:
“Anxiety and depression are impervious to accolades or achievements. Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who is struggling with it since 20% of American adults face some form of mental illness in their lifetime. So why aren’t we talking about it?”
Other notable celebrities or people with a large social media following who have struggled with mental illness include wrestler/actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Comedians Neal Brennan, and Trevor Noah and acclaimed actor Jon Hamm.
Outside of any clinically diagnosed disorders, there is also a base level of ordinary life sadness that affects all of us as situations and problems arise or losses are suffered. All humans travel through all colors of the emotional wheel, and knowing this should be something that unites us. The more we acknowledge this commonality, the easier it becomes to lift the stigma of mental illness within families and among friends.
Reaching Out & Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness
If you or someone you know would like help or information regarding mental illness and addiction, contact us today for help. We offer a variety of options and work closely with our patients to tailor a treatment plan specific to their needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.