Is It A Mental Health Condition… Or Something Else?
The term “mental health problem” is similar to the term “injury” in that there are multiple types, severities, and treatments for each. Just like doctors treat a sprained ankle differently than they treat a broken ankle, mental health professionals don’t treat mild depression the same way they treat severe depression.
There’s an important difference between mental and physical problems, however, and it has to do with awareness. Most people know what it feels like to injure their ankle. They’re much less certain about the experience of anxiety or depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that anxiety disorders currently affect about 40 million U.S. adults every year with only 36.9% receiving treatment.
There’s no question that there’s a stigma in our society about mental health conditions, and the good news is that it has been fading. In the U.S., we’re more open about talking about mental health than ever before. We’re also more likely to seek treatment. But there’s still a problem.
How do you know if you’re depressed… or just sad? How do you know if you’re anxious… or just stressed? Not wanting to talk about these issues with their friends or family, many people turn to Google and one of the many mental health quizzes that exist online. But there’s a much better way to understand your mental health.
For both the chemical side of depression (i.e. neurotransmitters in the brain) and the behavioral/emotional aspects of the disease, what we’re seeking to correct is an imbalance. To do that, we have to offer people the tools and skills they need to correct this imbalance.
Correcting The Imbalance
In certain cases, medication is an effective tool to treat anxiety and depression. Drugs like Zoloft, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), are prescribed to act on chemical imbalances in the brain so that help people function better and play a more active role in their healing. But medication, in itself, is only the starting point for any mental health condition.
Approximately 90% of our mental health clients come to us already working with a psychiatrist or a psychologist and have been prescribed medication for anxiety or depression. They seek us out because they’re struggling in some way or not seeing the results they want. Using our case management care model, we’re equipped to work with a client’s existing care team. But our sole commitment is to advocate for the best interest of our clients and ensure they’re receiving the highest quality of care.
When we start working with new clients, we always start with an assessment that looks into the specific challenges and their histories. What we often find is that their care has overlooked several non-medication tools that can lessen feelings of anxiety and depression.
The Value of Coaching
Our team has witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of moderate to vigorous exercise (cardiovascular exercise, yoga, pilates, weight training, etc.) in reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. We’ve also seen the important role of nutrition in helping to correct the chemical imbalances in the brain. These are common-sense changes that nearly anyone can make to maintain or improve their mental health, and they’re particularly effective when paired with therapy and/or coaching.
Contrary to what some people believe, depression is not synonymous with weakness. Anxiety is not equal to fear. It’s actually normal and natural feel depressed or anxious when the circumstances of your life aren’t matching up to what you want in life. This mental pain functions much like physical pain; it signals that there’s a problem that we need to address. Our job as therapists and coaches is to help people identify the source of their problems, and most importantly, work with them to integrate effective solutions.
Albert Einstein famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The same is true when healing from anxiety and depression. The goal is to help people develop a set of skills they can use if or when their feelings of anxiety and depression return. During the course of therapy or coaching, we are able to provide clients with objective feedback on their progress and help them follow through in using their new tools and skills.
When To Seek Help
People need to know that they don’t have to be clinically depressed or facing debilitating levels of anxiety to seek help. We believe in taking a proactive approach in addressing negative feelings.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety or you’ve recently been concerned about your mental health. The important thing is that you take action toward creating what you want in your life. When people do that, it’s amazing how quickly and effectively the symptoms of depression and anxiety can start to be resolved.
This article was written with Kristen Byrne (MA, MCAP), Vice President of Feinberg Consulting Addiction & Mental Health Services. Do you have a question for the Addiction & Mental Health team? If so, don’t hesitate to call us at 248.538.5425 or email Kristen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.