by: Ryan Brady and Sejal Sangani
Trigger warning: This article focuses on subjects that may be triggering to those who have suffered from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
DISCLAIMER: This is the first of a series of articles regarding mental health. This issue focuses on raising awareness about common mental illnesses. We recognize that the following illnesses are not the only ones, but we want to give information about some of the most common. We are not illegitimizing any other mental illness by not featuring it, and we will try to cover others in future articles. Please remember: we are not experts! We are doing our best to find credible sources and spread helpful information. If you have any tips, concerns, or topics for future issues, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We hope that our series helps you learn more about mental health!
Mental illnesses are caused by a combination of hereditary circumstances and one’s environment. Mental illnesses are not something that makes someone crazy or bad, and it’s not something a person can help.
Anxiety is a very common mental illness that has many different forms. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, affects 3 million people every year. GAD is characterized by inability to let go of worry, constant worrying, indecisiveness, and many other symptoms. Physical symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, sweating, irritability, and more. Please note that symptoms can look different for every person. Some other common anxiety disorders are social anxiety and PTSD (which is also classified as its own mental illness). Social anxiety involves extreme feelings of nervousness when in the social setting, or hesitancy to reach out of one’s comfort zone. PTSD develops after a traumatic incident, and patients experience flashbacks, mistrust, or severe anxiety in addition to nightmares or inability to fall asleep.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, abbreviated as OCD, is a type of anxiety but is also classified as its own illness. OCD is mainly an illness that compels people to perform a certain action. It causes “uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over” (National Institute of Mental Health). Some common topics that people with OCD struggle with are religion (morality, disbelief, offending God), cleanliness (contamination), unwanted sexual thoughts, losing control (acting on impulse to harm oneself or others, blurting obscenities, stealing), and harm (causing harm to oneself or others). Common compulsions are praying, washing hands, repeating things, organizing things, confessing, and checking things. While some may think that being careful about disease and mortality is important, and it is, OCD brings INTRUSIVE and UNWANTED thoughts to people, and compels them to perform certain things to allow relief from those thoughts.
Depression is another common mental illness with over 3 million cases per year. While it is often perceived that depression in itself is the only form, there are multiple branches of this disorder. The most common is major depressive disorder (MDD), characterized by feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest, weight loss or gain, trouble concentrating, and most severely, suicidal ideation for periods of 2 weeks or longer. If symptoms recur for over 2 years, they are classified as persistent depressive disorder. Recurrent brief depression is another form of depressive illness in which patients experience episodes lasting from hours to a few days. Manic depression is also classified as its own mental illness, known more commonly as bipolar disorder. It is characterized by swings between manic (high-energy, less need for sleep) periods and depressive episodes. These are not all of the forms of depression, but they highlight a few aspects of the mental disorder.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness or suicidal ideation and needs help, call one of hotlines below or reach out to a trusted adult:
216-623-6888: ADAMHS suicide crisis hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Suicide prevention telephone hotline funded by the U.S. government. Provides free, 24-hour assistance. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
National Hopeline Network – Toll-free telephone number offering 24-hour suicide crisis support. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). (National Hopeline Network)
The Trevor Project – Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Includes a 24/7 hotline: 1-866-488-7386.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – Free, confidential 24/7 helpline information service for substance abuse and mental health treatment referral. 1-800-662-HELP (4357). (SAHMSA)