Mental illness is a condition in the brain that changes thinking, emotions, behavior, or a combination of these. When a person struggles with a mental illness, they will often begin to struggle with personal relationships, work, and school. Those who struggle with mental illness have trouble with daily life and activities. No two mental health problems are alike, even when two people receive the same diagnosis – their experiences of these conditions will vary.
What Is Mental Illness?
Multiple underlying causes are associated with the development of mental illness. Genetics, environmental factors, life stress, trauma, and even certain substances can all cause or trigger a mental illness.
Although mental illness can be very disruptive to a person’s life, these brain changes are very common. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 5 US adults experiences a mental illness every year, and 1 in 17 lives with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Half of these mental conditions develop in adolescence, often around age 14, while others develop in adulthood. Around 75 percent of mental illnesses present by 24 years old.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that, in 2014, about 4.1 percent of people ages 18 and older (about 9.8 million adults), had a serious mental illness. Between 1 percent and 20 percent of children struggled with a serious emotional disturbance (SED), which may develop into a later substance abuse or mental health disorder if left untreated.
Categories of mental illnesses include:
· Anxiety disorders: General anxiety disorder, panic disorders, specific phobias, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder all fall into this category.
· Depression: Major depression, dysthymic disorder, clinical depression, postpartum depression, and unipolar depression are all forms of depressive disorders.
· Bipolar disorder: There are three primary forms of bipolar disorder – bipolar disorder I, II, and cyclothymic disorder. However, the DSM-5 also recognizes unspecified bipolar disorder, and many clinical psychologists are debating the place of seasonal affective disorder, which is a mood disorder like both depression and bipolar disorders.
· Personality disorders: These disorders involve a rigid, uncompromising view of the world and the inability to deal socially with others. These include:
· Cluster A: schizoid personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder
· Cluster B: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder
· Cluster C: avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder
· Psychotic disorders: This is a broader, vaguer category for mental health compared to other listed mental illnesses, and they are primarily characterized by psychotic episodes. Some conditions that fall under psychotic disorders include postpartum psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia.
1 in 12 people who struggle with a mental illness also struggle with a substance use disorder.
Mental Health Three Keys to Responsible Prescription Drug Use
Taking medication for a mental health issue is very common. Researchers from the Institute of Safe Medication Practices found that more than 40 million U.S. adults reported filling one or more mental health prescriptions in 2013, the most recent year of collected information. In fact, data from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that about 18 percent of U.S. adults experienced some form of mental illness in the past year. Taking a prescription medication to treat a chronic condition, like a mental health condition, requires more consideration than taking a drug for an acute condition, like an antibiotic for a sinus infection (though all drugs need to be used and stored with care). Here are three keys to taking your medication responsibly:
1. Understand your timeline and treatment plan
When your doctor prescribes a new medication for you, it is important to understand the full treatment timeline. Your treatment timeline includes:
· When you should start taking the medication, (e.g. morning or evening, when your current prescription is complete, at the start of a new week, with or without meals, etc.)
· When you can expect to see an impact, (e.g. will the drug will be effective immediately or will it take several weeks before you see a change in your symptoms)
· When or if side effects may appear and what side effects you may expect
· When or if you should call your doctor regarding specific side effects
· When or how to stop the medication
Understanding when to stop a medication is particularly important for the treatment of mental health conditions. For example, while most treatments for depression are not addictive, patients may feel withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop treatment. In some situations, it is critically important to work with your doctor to ease off of a medication over time.
Your treatment also includes other therapies that are necessary to treat your illness, such as counseling, individual or group therapy, or laboratory monitoring. Drugs are only a part of a comprehensive treatment plan for mental illness.
2. Communicate clearly
Although today’s medical record technologies are becoming increasingly comprehensive, you should never assume that the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist you are speaking with has a full understanding of your health. Clear, open communication is critical to avoid dangerous drug interactions or possible side effects that may be unique to your situation.
It is important to always provide your doctor and your pharmacist with a complete list of all the medications you are taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs (including pain pills and nutraceuticals), as well as alcohol and recreational drugs. All can potentially create serious drug interactions with mental health therapies. In that conversation, make sure to include how much you take and how often.
Always speak up if you have any questions about when or how to take a particular medication and be sure to bring up any surprising side effects. It can be helpful to keep a small notebook or file of all of your prescriptions and notes from past appointments, so that the information is safely compiled in one location. Some patients like to store this information on their smart phone so that they always have it with them. The FamilyWize website has a Medicine Cabinet feature that may be of help.
3. Store safely
Everyone who takes a prescription medication for any reason should practice safe storage and disposal habits to lower the risk of dosing errors, accidental poisoning, and abuse. Luckily, if you are already following the first two keys to responsible drug use, storing your drugs safely can be pretty straightforward.
First, follow all instructions from your pharmacist for your specific medication. Some medications need to be kept in the refrigerator, or need to be taken at a specific time of day, etc. Those instructions are to keep you safe and to ensure that the treatment is as effective as possible. In general, store medications in a cool, dry place. Bathroom medicine cabinets are not always the ideal storage spot. Humidity from showers can sometimes adversely affect the stability of a medication.
Second, keep all drugs up and away from little hands, with the child safety cap tightly closed at all times. Only take your medication in a well-lit room (e.g. not in a dark bathroom in the middle of the night), and keep all drugs in their original containers. In the rare situation that a child does accidently take your medication, please call 911 immediately.
Third, track your doses. This helps to protect you from accidentally taking an extra dose and it protects your family, in the event that a family member tries to sneak a dose or self-medicate from your medicine cabinet.
For more information about safely storing your medications, check out the our blog post about keeping your family safe from accidental poisoning. We are lucky to live in a world where there are prescription medications that can help us to manage mental health conditions. Working with your doctor and pharmacist to take your prescriptions responsibly is an essential step towards becoming your best self.
Resource content: https://familywize.org/blog/mental-health-three-keys-to-responsible-prescription-drug-use
Taking Pills For Your Mental Illness Should Not Be A Source Of Shame
Then why is it still stigmatized?
By: Bailey Calfee
Let's get this out of the way: I take prescribed medication for my diagnosed anxiety and depression. Oversharing is caring, everyone!
After the election, I was unable to do anything other than read the news out of fear that I would miss the start of nuclear warfare. Due to this month-long inability to focus on anything other than the White House, I put my academic and social responsibilities on the back burner which, in turn, caused me to have an emotional break. I went from being a person who had only cried a handful of times in my life to a person who was unable to stop crying long enough to attend her final exams.
And I cried about anything. If it was too hot in my room, if I had to pay the bills, if I couldn’t pick an outfit quickly enough, if my phone battery was draining faster than I expected... I cried. It was a tumultuous time for me, and my emotional break brought to the surface the mental illnesses that I had, apparently, been allowing to fester for quite some time. My looming problems with mental illness had previously been manageable enough to ignore or stifle with a glass of wine, but the constant threat of a missed deadline (or unread breaking news story) made it much harder to just push away. And soon after I paid a visit to my family doctor, she gave me a prescription for Zoloft. This, to me, was a cause for celebration. I was finally getting treatment for an illness I'd ignored for years.
But this feeling was not met with excitement from the people around me. Since oversharing is caring, I needed all my friends (and even some acquaintances) to know that I had truly made a breakthrough in my emotional well-being. And while the diagnosis aspect of my recent discovery was met with resounding support, my "choice" to be treated with prescription medication was shamed.
It's no secret that taking medicine for mental illnesses isn't as widely accepted as taking medicine for a more "visible" illness. The National Alliance for Mental Illness reports that one in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year, and the Scientific American reports that one in six takes a psychiatric drug. Even with these staggering numbers, it feels weird for me to talk about my appreciation of Klonopin to my friends, or take my prescribed pills in public, for fear of judgmental stares. Sure, we as a society have become more and more accepting of mental illness as a legitimate illness. But those who understand it, and even some who suffer from it, don't quite like the idea of taking medication for it. But even though mental illnesses are beginning to be more understood and embraced by most of the mainstream, many remain wary of the idea of taking a pill to better cope with it. And even though those who suffer often have chemical imbalances in our brains, taking a daily dose to try and remedy that is still considered taboo.
I see the same sort of disdain for medicinal treatment in media and society, as well. And I understand that there is a lot wrong with the pharmaceutical industry, but at the end of the day, I trust my doctor—someone much more qualified than I to diagnose medical issues—over myself to make the decision on how to treat my illness.
This point is clearly illustrated in this scene from the latest season of Broad City. After Ilana tells Abbi about her seasonal affective disorder, which sounds a bit more year-round than seasonal, Abbi makes an observant suggestion that Ilana might want to consider increasing her antidepressant dosage. That idea is quickly shut down by Ilana, and she confesses that she's been steadily decreasing her prescribed dosage for years, seemingly without consulting her doctor.
Not only is it a foolish idea to skip doses or change your intake amount, unless you've talked about it with your doctor, but on a broader note, the mere idea that someone with depression—which was later showing to majorly interfere with Ilana's ability to do her job—would be so vehemently against taking her full dosage might show that she's not totally accepting of the fact that she needs medicine in the first place.
This example and countless others prove that, for some reason, it's more acceptable to say that you drink or smoke to deal with anxiety and depression than it is to take something that a doctor prescribed. Perhaps people still feel wary because when a doctor tells us something is wrong, we don't want to face the harsh truth of our illnesses. Or maybe, people still believe that taking antidepressants will change the user's personality, which is completely false if taken correctly.
Taking medication is not the end goal for most. With therapy and other coping mechanisms, the preferred end result is to live your life free of added medication. But there is ultimately nothing wrong with taking a pill, because an invisible illness is still as worthy of treatment as a visible one.
Resource content: https://nylon.com/articles/taking-pills-for-mental-illness-is-okay?fbclid=IwAR0FQZ_tMcTZ5KnGtoBstLytmBD5m1Wq2KaZLheLJYOLKMvGzm45uNkuFF0
Medical Marijuana for Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety & Mental Illness: Can It Help?
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
The usefulness of medical marijuana for the treatment of mental illness and disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia is an open question today. There have been only a few really good studies on this issue, and their findings are decidedly mixed.
So let’s dive into the question and see if medical marijuana can help the symptoms of mental illness, or is it more likely to cause harm?
The reason this is a very complex issue is because, unlike medical marijuana for chronic, debilitating pain, there’s a lot of additional factors that must be taken into account when studying mental illness and a psychoactive substance like marijuana. We’re just going to examine marijuana for the use of depression, anxiety, and bipolar symptoms in this article, because those are the populations that have had the greatest number of research studies done.
Marijuana for Depression & Anxiety
Here’s what one recent study found when combing the recent research literature to better understand it:
Results from studies that have focused on recreational users and/or young adults are quite variable; some show a negative association between marijuana use and anxiety/depression (e.g., Denson & Earleywine, 2006; Sethi et al., 1986; Stewart, Karp, Pihl, & Peterson, 1997), others a positive association (e.g., Bonn-Miller, Zvolensky, Leen-Feldner, Feldner, & Yartz, 2005; Hayatbakhsh et al., 2007; Scholes-Balog, Hemphill, Patton, & Toumbourou, 2013), and still others no association (e.g., Green & Ritter, 2000; Musty & Kaback, 1995). Such a diverse pattern of results suggests that other factors may also interact with mariana use to affect anxiety and depression. (Grunberg et al., 2015).
That’s a fair amount of research — but none of it really conclusive, and much of it contradictory.
That is characteristic of this area of research — complicated, with results often at odds with other research.
These researchers examined 375 University of Colorado students over a 3-year period to track their marijuana use, as well as depression and anxiety symptoms. They also understood that the complexity of human behavior requires a more nuanced approached to an analysis of marijuana use. “The temperament dimension of harm avoidance (HA) is particularly relevant for understanding anxiety and depression as it is characterized by heightened apprehension, shyness, pessimism, and inhibition of behaviors. Given these biases, it is not surprising that HA is positively associated with both anxiety and depression.” So the researchers ensured they also measured temperament.1
It is also important to consider that the simple relations we observed between marijuana use and depression symptoms differed from those obtained in the more complex models. That is, when only marijuana use was considered, results suggest a positive association between marijuana use and depression. […] [Ed. – This means that greater marijuana use was correlated with greater depressive symptoms.]
However, in the regression models that prospectively predict anxiety/depression and also include [multiple personality factors and temperament] interactions, and baseline anxiety or depression, marijuana use was not an independent predictor of depression symptoms. Moreover, in the models involving [novelty seeking], marijuana use negatively predicted depression symptoms (and anxiety).
These differing patterns of results first demonstrate the importance of measuring the effects of marijuana within the context of other factors known to affect anxiety and depression, as well as prior symptoms of anxiety and depression. The results might also indicate a complex causal relation between marijuana use and depression in which initial symptoms of depression facilitate marijuana use, which subsequently decreases depression (Grunberg et al., 2015).
As you can see, if you simply measure marijuana use and depressive or anxiety symptoms, you might walk away from your study believing that the two share some sort of causal relationship. But as Grunberg et al. found, when you dive deeper into patient histories and personality factors — especially temperament — that relationship goes away. And, in fact, marijuana use might actually help improve depressive symptoms.
What Happens When You Don’t Take the Complexity of These Disorders into Account?
One such study that didn’t look into personality factors or temperament was conducted more recently by Bahorik et al. (2017). As they note, “Marijuana is frequently used by those with depression, yet whether its use contributes to significant barriers to recovery in this population has been understudied.” That’s very true.
So the researchers examined the marijuana use and depression and anxiety symptoms of 307 psychiatry outpatients with depression; assessed at baseline, 3-, and 6-months on symptom (PHQ-9 and GAD-7), functioning (SF-12) and past-month marijuana use for a substance use intervention trial.
What they found was that a considerable number of patients used marijuana within 30-days of baseline — just slightly over 40%. What else did they find? “Depression symptoms contributed to increased marijuana use over the follow-up, and those aged 50+ increased their marijuana use compared to the youngest age group. Marijuana use worsened depression and anxiety symptoms; marijuana use led to poorer mental health functioning.” In addition, they found — surprisingly — that medical marijuana was associated with poorer physical health functioning.2
The researchers concluded that, “marijuana use is common and associated with poor recovery among psychiatry outpatients with depression. Assessing for marijuana use and considering its use in light of its impact on depression recovery may help improve outcomes (Bahorik et al., 2017).”
What about Marijuana for Bipolar Disorder?
Another study looked at the benefits and drawbacks of marijuana for bipolar disorder, because it is the most widely used illicit substance by people with this disorder. Does it help (or hurt) not only symptoms associated with bipolar I disorder, but also cognitive functioning?
The study consisted of 74 adults: 12 with bipolar disorder who smoke marijuana (MJBP), 18 bipolar patients who do not smoke (BP), 23 marijuana smokers without other Axis 1 pathology (MJ), and 21 healthy controls (HC), all of whom completed a neuropsychological battery. Participants also rated their mood 3 times daily, as well as after each instance of marijuana use over a 4 week period.
The researchers found that although the three groups each exhibited some degree of cognitive impairment relative to healthy controls, no significant differences between the two bipolar disorder-diagnosed groups were apparent, providing no evidence of an additive negative impact of bipolar disorder and marijuana use on one’s thinking abilities.
Additionally, the mood ratings indicated alleviation of mood symptoms in the MJBP group after marijuana use; MJBP participants experienced a substantial decrease in a composite measure of mood symptoms. As the researchers note, “Findings suggest that for some bipolar patients, marijuana may result in partial alleviation of clinical symptoms. Moreover, this improvement is not at the expense of additional cognitive impairment” (Sagar et al., 2016).
This research actually helps support previous research conducted by Gruber et al. in 2012. In their study of 43 adults, they found “Significant mood improvement was observed in the MJBP group on a range of clinical scales after smoking MJ […] Notably, total mood disturbance, a composite of the Profile of Mood States, was significantly reduced in the MJBP group” (Gruber et al., 2012).
Further, while the MJBP group reported generally worse mood ratings than the bipolar group prior to smoking marijuana, they demonstrated improvement on several scales post-marijuana use as compared to bipolar, non-marijuana participants. These data provide empirical support for anecdotal reports that marijuana acts to alleviate mood-related symptoms in at least a subset of bipolar patients and underscore the importance of examining marijuana use in this population. (Gruber et al., 2012).
So Does Marijuana Help with Depression, Anxiety, & Bipolar Disorder?
The data is decidedly mixed, and it’s not at all clear whether marijuana would help someone with a mental health condition or not. I suspect that, in the end, it would come down to an individual’s unique reaction, similar to how each individual reacts differently to different psychiatric medications. Well-done research studies seem to indicate that marijuana would help certain people, while it may not help others. But how to determine which group you fall into remains an exercise for future research.
It may be a few more years before we have a more concrete understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of medical marijuana for mental disorders. Until then, you could try it if you feel comfortable doing so, but as always, you should consult your medical or mental health professional before trying any treatment.
Resource content: https://psychcentral.com/blog/medical-marijuana-for-depression-bipolar-disorder-anxiety-mental-illness-can-it-help/