The True Cost of Neglecting Your Mental Health
You’re spending time with friends, and everyone is sharing how things have been in their life. Some express their highs, some give their lows, and when it’s your turn, your only response is, “Everything’s been good.”
But you know that’s not true. You’ve been eating more because of stress. Crying yourself to sleep. You notice you’re easily irritated by the smallest things. All signs that something is wrong, but you don’t have time to do anything about it. So, you keep pushing forward, hoping things will eventually get better.
Not addressing or neglecting mental health is common, despite mental health problems being among the most common health conditions in the United States. According to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
Why Do People Neglect Their Mental Health?
Although mental health problems are common, people don’t always take care of their mental health. There are several reasons why this happens:
Despite mental health issues being so common, there’s still a significant stigma surrounding mental health. No one wants to be labeled as “crazy” or be judged because of a diagnosis, so they don’t seek help for fear o fhow they will be perceived after being diagnosed.
The stigma also pushes people to seek alternative resources to address their mental health, such as relying on their faith, herbal remedies, etc. While these options can be helpful, they don’t always address the person’s needs.
Therapy is becoming less stigmatized, but mental health diagnoses still have a large stigma attached to them.
Being “Too Busy”
In today’s fast-paced society, slowing down enough to address our needs can feel impossible. Many people may use this as a reason to neglect their mental health and instead focus on other needs in their life. Rather than focusing on their mental health, they may focus on relationships, or their career, for instance. How can they have time to address their mental health if they’re so busy doing other things?
Previous Attempts Were Unsuccessful
Sometimes, people make an effort to address their mental health, but the attempts don’t produce the results they are looking for. These attempts could be therapy, medications, or holistic methods. Due to these unsuccessful attempts, the person may find it easier to ignore the mental health problems rather than continue to explore options.
Not Being Ready to Address Their Mental Health
Just because we know a problem exists doesn’t mean we’re prepared to face it. It can feel easier to ignore the problem rather than address it. Although there are negative impacts to neglecting your mental health, sometimes it can take years for people to address it.
What Neglecting Your Mental Health Looks Like
The ways people neglect their mental health don’t just look like not going to therapy. It could also look like this:
- Ignoring or suppressing feelings/emotions
- Focusing on others instead of self
- Not taking mental health medication as prescribed
All these avoid the problem, and avoidance only puts off the inevitable. As people neglect their mental health, they can start experiencing issues in other aspects of their life, such as their physical health and relationships.
High blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, and a weakened immune system are just a few of the physical issues that can happen when ignoring mental health problems. As physical issues start to happen, this can cause additional stress. As additional stress occurs, it can cause an increase in physical issues. And the cycle can continue until the mental health problems are addressed.
People’s relationships can also be affected. It is common for people struggling with mental health problems to isolate themselves from others, which can cause close relationships to drift apart.
Even if the person doesn’t isolate, there are other ways neglecting mental health can impact their relationships. Anxiety can look like irritability. That irritability can cause strain in their relationships. Hiding their feelings from friends can also cause tension. When we don’t share what’s happening in our lives, people will try to fill in those missing gaps. “The person hasn’t called, so they must be mad at me.” That isn’t true, and those fill-ins are not always accurate.
If a person’s physical and mental health are affected by neglecting their mental health, plus their relationships, their overall quality of life decreases.
Taking Steps To Care For Your Mental Health
Mental health affects your overall quality of life, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. When you are ready, there are things you can do to start taking care of your mental health.
The first step to taking care of your mental health is acknowledging there is a problem.
Once you acknowledge there is a problem, you can start assessing what your needs are.
- Do you need a therapist?
- A break from work?
- Mental health medication?
- Support from your partner, family, or friends?
These are questions you can ask as you start planning the next steps after acknowledging a problem.
Managing mental health can take work. Although neglecting mental health may seem like the best option, when looking at the consequences of doing so, it seems better to address it rather than ignore it.
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