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Your Mental Health Affects the Whole Family

[11 Aug 2009 | One Comment | 20 views | Author: Dee Braun, DrR, CA, CCT]
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We often treat mental disorders as a personal issue.  They involve personal thoughts, many are caused by personal experiences, and they are often treated by talking in a one on one therapy session.  However, mental illnesses are something that affects your family, friends, and everyone else around you. 

In traditional psychology, mental illness was often blamed on the actions of the parents and other loved ones.  While we now know that mental illness is often a result of brain chemistry or traumatic experiences, friends and family still tend to blame themselves when someone they love has a mental crisis.  They often try to figure out what they could have done or said differently.

If you are not mentally healthy, your work performance is likely to suffer.  You may have trouble getting yourself motivated or meeting deadlines.  If a mental illness is severe, often the person suffering can’t work or has to cut back on hours.

If they require additional care, often their loved ones may cut back at work to help provide this care.  Combined with medical bills, this can put a large financial burden on your family.  If you are still able to go to work, your family will often experience your stress and frustration from not being able to function well at work. 

Besides not being able to make it to work, people with depression may have trouble getting out of bed or doing normal tasks during the day like make lunches for the kids or run errands.  If you aren’t doing these things, someone else has to pick up the chores – usually your spouse or even your kids.  This can not only stress them out, it can also leave them pressed for time getting both your chores and theirs done. 

Many people who suffer from depression or other mental health issues tend to withdraw from the rest of the world.  They will stop going out as much, stop talking to friends, and often cut off most or all of their social interaction.

If you aren’t spending time with your friends, there’s a good chance your family isn’t either.  Whether it’s a missed couples’ night at a friend’s house, or a skipped play date, your family may miss out because you are.  They may also cancel plans to stay home and take care of you if you’re not doing well. 

Many times family members of someone with a mental health issue often develop problems of their own.  While some of this may be attributed to the same genetic factors, often it is simply depression due to the added stress and a combination of the above factors. 

While there is no real way to prevent many of these problems when you have a mental illness, you can often reduce the effects.  The earlier your problem is detected and treated, the less damage is likely to be caused to your family and friends.  Never ignore the symptoms of a mental illness, whether they are in yourself or a loved one.

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