Talking about our mental health can be difficult. Sometimes it is hard to admit that we are hurt or sick. Many people are afraid of being judged and keep problems to themselves, even when they need help.

For many people, seeking help for a behavioral problem is hard. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed admitting to being sad or anxious. This often comes from stigmas, myths, and misunderstandings of mental health. For example:

Rumor: People with mental health issues are weak or lazy. Their problems are not real.

Fact: Mental health issues are real medical issues and require treatment like other illnesses. They can have a number of causes, but are not the result of weakness or laziness.

Rumor: Mental health issues are rare.

Fact: Mental health problems affect many people. About 1 in 5 adults in the United States will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.

Rumor: Other people will judge me for having mental health issues.

Fact: A majority of U.S. adults care about mental health issues and want to help.

Not knowing the truth about mental health can make people feel alone. It can also keep them from seeking help. But help is available. Learn the real story about these conditions and know that you are not alone.

Anxiety disorders

Everyone feels anxious from time to time. Anxiety is a normal reaction to certain situations in life. But for some people, those feelings of fear and stress may not go away and can get stronger over time. Long-term anxiety can be a sign of an anxiety disorder such as:

Generalized anxiety disorder: Constant feelings of stress and worry that can last for months

Panic disorder: Sudden and uncontrolled panic attacks

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Repeated thoughts or actions outside of a person’s control

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Feelings of fear that can occur after experiencing a scary or stressful event

There are several treatment options for anxiety. Therapy helps many people understand and confront their fears. Stress-management techniques help some sufferers to remain calm when they experience anxiety. Medicines are also available that can relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Ask your health care provider about the options available for you.

Mood disorders

Mood disorders are mental health issues that affect your feelings. These conditions can cause strong emotions, such as sadness, anger, mania, or thoughts of death or suicide. Some of the most common mood disorders are:

Depression (clinical or major depression): Strong feelings of sadness or emptiness that can last for weeks, months, or years

Bipolar disorder (manic depression): Mood swings of extended periods of intense joy to intense sadness

Seasonal affective disorder: A form of depression that comes during winter

Feelings of joy and sadness are normal, but for people with mood disorders, the feelings may not go away over time. One way to help control these disorders is to stay active. Being alone can make the symptoms worse, so spend time with people doing things you enjoy. Your provider also can suggest treatments or medicines that may help.

Eating disorders

People who have unhealthy relationships with food or body weight may suffer from eating disorders. The most common eating disorders include:

Anorexia (an-oh-rex-e-ah): A person’s belief that he or she is overweight even if he or she is not

Bulimia (bu-lee-me-ah): Regular forced vomiting or the use of laxatives after eating to avoid gaining weight

Binge eating: Eating much more food than is necessary or healthy in a single sitting, including eating while not hungry or eating until it causes pain

Eating disorders are not a choice. They are real and serious illnesses that require treatment. These disorders can cause other health issues for the body. An anorexic person may not eat enough food and can die of starvation. Someone who binge eats can suffer from obesity, which can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Treating an eating disorder means controlling the behavior. Eating healthy amounts of food and stopping harmful actions is important. Your provider can help you to create good eating habits and manage your condition.

Ease your mind

Mental health issues are serious, but help is available. With the right treatment plan, you can be happier and healthier.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you are having a crisis, call 911 right away.

If you are an AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia member and want to be paired with a Care Coach, call Member Services at 1-800-408-7511.

Sources: National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

All images are used under license for illustrative purposes only. Any individual depicted is a model.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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