Too many of us take our mental health for granted without realizing how many people we know actually suffer on a regular basis. Sure, we may have time in our lives when we slip into brief bouts of depression or have passing anxiety or even experience panic attacks during especially difficult times. But unless you live with a mental illness every day, you may not realize what a struggle it can be.
The simplest of tasks may take longer, feel harder or even impossible sometimes. Getting out of bed, if accomplished, can feel like climbing a mountain. Having compassion for people, especially those you don’t know but encounter during the course of your day, can help. Keep in mind that it’s not their fault.
But more common than people losing patience with other people is someone with a mental illness losing patience with herself. Can you imagine feeling that your issues are too much to deal with that you completely give up on finding a solution? Of all the people who commit suicide, more than 90 percent of them have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.
Since 1949, Mental Health America and their affiliates all over the U.S. have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month to increase awareness through the media, events and screenings. Now is the time to spread the word. This year’s theme is “Life with a Mental Illness.” People are being called upon to share their experiences about what living with mental issues feels like for them. On social media sites, you can tag your posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike and help people understand what you’re going through.
Education is one way to bump up the compassion level amongst those who are not aware of how widespread mental illness is. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, which is about one in four adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. In other words, 57.7 million people have mental disorders. About 1 in 17 suffers from a serious mental illness, and sometimes more than one illness at a time. Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), the following information provides a clearer view, and may make you more aware and grateful if you are mentally healthy.
Mood Disorders, including major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder:
- Affects about 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older.
- Median age of onset is 30 years old.
- Sometimes coupled with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.
- Affects about 2.4 million American adults, or about 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in a given year, both men and women with equal frequency.
- Onset in men in their late teens or early twenties, while women are often affected in their twenties or early thirties.
Anxiety Disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia):
- Affects about 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year.
- Commonly co-occurs with depressive disorders or substance abuse.
- Most people who have one anxiety disorder also have another.
- Onset for about three-quarters of those affected is age 21.5.
- Affects about 6 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 2.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year.
- Onset is often early adulthood (median age of onset is 24), but can extend throughout adulthood.
- About one in three people develops agoraphobia, a condition in which the individual becomes afraid of being in any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of a panic attack.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
- Affects about 2.2 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 1.0 percent of people in this age group in a given year.
- Onset is often during childhood or adolescence, with the median age of 19.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
- Affects about 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5 percent of people in this age group in a given year.
- Onset is any age, including childhood, but the median age is 23.
- About 19 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after the war. The disorder also frequently occurs after violent personal assaults such as rape, mugging, or domestic violence; terrorism; natural or human-caused disasters; and accidents.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
- Affects about 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and older, have GAD in a given year.
- Onset is about 31 years, but can begin anytime.
- Affects about 15 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 6.8 percent of people in this age group in a given year.
- Onset is childhood or adolescence, typically around 13 years of age.
Eating Disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder:
- Females are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder.
- Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male.
- About 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia, and an estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffers from bulimia.
- Community surveys have estimated that between 2 percent and 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.
- The mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56 percent per year, or approximately 5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
- One of the most common mental disorders in children and adolescents, and also affects an estimated 4.1 percent of adults, ages 18-44, in a given year.
- Becomes evident in preschool or early elementary years. The median age of onset is age 7, but can persist into adolescence and occasionally into adulthood.
Autism, part of a group of disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), also known as pervasive developmental disorders:
- ASDs range in severity, with autism being the most debilitating form while other disorders, such as Asperger syndrome, produce milder symptoms.
- Prevalence is difficult and controversial due to differences in how cases are identified and defined, differences in study methods, and changes in diagnostic criteria. But one study of 3-10 year-olds reported about 3.4 cases per 1000 children.
- Onset is childhood, generally are diagnosed by age 3.
- About four times more common in boys than girls. Girls with the disorder, however, tend to have more severe symptoms and greater cognitive impairment.
- Affects about 4.5 million Americans. The number has more than doubled since 1980.
- The most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older. Increasing age is the greatest risk factor.
- Onset is often after age 65. One in 10 people are older than 65 and nearly half of those are older than 85.
- Rare, inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease can strike as early as 30s and 40s.
- From the time of diagnosis, people survive about half as long as those of similar age without dementia.