Mental illness affects 44 million of us in the United States.  This means that one in five adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime.  By far, the most prevalent of these are anxiety and depression, both highly treatable and with multiple options for treatment.  The biggest obstacle to that treatment right now is probably lack of education about what it is, as well as stigma.  We know that many more people suffer for treatment and these are two reasons why.

Getting a diagnosis and proper treatment

What can you do if you think you may have a mental illness? Go to a site like The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, www.adaa.org, and get informed. Learn what your symptoms could mean, and what the signs of each disorder are. There is a wealth of information out there to help you understand what your individual symptoms could mean. 

Do not wait to get a good comprehensive diagnostic evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Receiving a thorough exam and an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward getting treatment. An accurate diagnosis will then allow you and your treatment provider to come up with different options for treatment.

Both anxiety and depression have been well studied and have a lot of treatments that have been proven effective. One of the most well-studied treatments is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is a type of psychotherapy which can eliminate many, if not all, of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is short term and the focus is on teaching skills and behaviors which can change the way one feels and thinks. It is a treatment that works and should always be one of many options offered to anyone suffering from anxiety or depression.

“Receiving a thorough exam and an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward getting treatment.”

Other treatment options

Additional options include other psychotherapies such as Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depression, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Again, all of these have a lot of research behind them and the scientists studying these treatments have shown them to be effective.

Many people are aware that there are also medications that can be highly effective for mood and anxiety disorders. Once again, the medications we have do work and are usually well-tolerated by most people who take them. They are a strong option, and some studies show that combining both medication and therapy may be even more effective than one treatment alone. 

It is extremely important that multiple treatment options are offered to patients. While one person may prefer to begin with therapy, others may prefer to start with medication. The options should be fully laid out and explained, including the pros and cons of each. Things such as lifestyle (good nutrition, sleep and regular exercise) are reviewed, as they are all extremely important as well. Sometimes working on something from multiple different angles is necessary, but most people should be able to create a treatment plan that affords them significant, if not full, relief from symptoms. The first step is getting to a professional who can make the diagnosis, educate you about treatment options and then work with you to create your personalized plan. Treatment is out there and it works.