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Guest Blogger: Mental Illness Can Happen to Anyone (even you!) November 6, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Stress, Trauma.
Tags: ,

People often think of mental illness as a black or white, yes or no question.  But in reality, to be human is to have issues.  And the cold, hard, truth is that mental illness can happen to anyone.  Yes, absolutely anyone – including you.

Mental illness occurs when certain characteristics line up in what becomes the proverbial “perfect storm.”  Many factors combine to create chaos in the life of a person to the extent that they go over the edge unless some preventative measures are taken.  While there are characteristics and environmental factors that play starring roles, usually one of the superstars of the charade of mental illness is stress.  This is why, for example, many people snap during wars.  The monumental weight of the stress is the equivalent of carrying a huge load of bricks on your back.  The weight starts out to be a bit heavy, then as more and more bricks are added, the person crumbles to the ground in a heap due to the stress. The same happens with our mental states.

You can think of life stress as bricks.  Some of the bricks are heavier and larger than others, just like in real life.  And of course a certain degree of stress is good, just like weight lifting which makes you stronger if done properly.   But eventually you become overloaded, and begin to tell people you are “stressed out.”  Your relationship, job, health, and/or financial situation is getting more and more bleak, and you begin to crack.

This is where other parts of the equation of mental illness come into play.   A major one is trauma – especially major types like child abuse.  Some psychiatrists believe that with each incident of trauma, the brain and body chemistry changes.  Of course there is no such thing as a perfect parent, but the more yelling, screaming, controlling, and/or physical violence that occurs (or witnessed by the child these even if he or she child is not the target), the greater the degree of trauma.  Of course sexual abuse also takes an especially enormous toll.

Another starring role in the complex equation of the development of a mental illness is that of genetics.  Just as many physical illnesses can be inherited, so can mental illnesses.  Some examples of this are depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, as well as many others.

Social support strength is another major role in the spectrum of mental illness.  In other words, a solid foundation of friends and family can insulate the person from the effects of stress.  If a person has a deficit in this area, he is more likely to develop a mental illness.

These are some of the key characters in the onset of mental illness, and why we are all vulnerable.  No one is immune.  For these reasons, maybe it is time to stop the jokes about “crazy people.”  Maybe it is time to carefully analyze our lives to see if we are under too much stress.  And in our busy, fast-paced society, maybe it is time to carefully re-evaluate our priorites.   After all, it could happen to anyone – yes, even you.

Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC, is a mental health counselor practicing in Woodinville, WA.  She has walked alongside a close family member who was diagnosed with a chronic mental illness.  Visit her web site at www.notjustsymptoms.com or her blog at http://cherriemac.wordpress.com.



1. J. - November 9, 2009

So insightful.

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