THIS IS A REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT POST ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS. PLEASE READ. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ, THEN AT LEAST RE-POST SO THAT SOMEBODY ELSE CAN READ IT.
Depression is NOT: feeling sad, or being upset because your mom wouldn’t buy you that thing you really, really wanted.
Depression IS: a disorder characterized by mood symptoms such as persistent low mood, a lack of ability to experience pleasure, low motivation, feelings of worthless and helplessness, suicidal thoughts, and physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, appetite decrease, and either insomnia or hypersomnia.
Bipolar disorder is NOT: feeling happy one minute, and then being angry or sad the next. That is called MOODINESS.
Bipolar disorder IS: a psychiatric illness characterized by shifts between days or weeks of severe depression (see symptoms of depression above) and days or weeks of mania or hypomania. Symptoms of hypomania include pressured speech (a tendency to speak in a rapid and frenzied way), grandiosity (such as feeling that they are important or have a “special purpose”), inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep (NOT the same as insomnia, an inability to sleep), racing thoughts and flight of ideas (looks to us like being unable to stay on the same topic for very long and making tenuous connections between ideas that seem unrelated), being easily distractable, hypersexuality, psychomotor agitation (ex. not being able to stand still, constantly fidgeting), impulsivity, and an increase in pleasurable activities as a result of this impulsivity (such as wreckless driving, shopping sprees, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, gambling, and donating, giving away, or poorly investing money). Mania includes all of these symptoms, and also includes the additional symptoms of psychosis and auditory or visual hallucinations.
ADD and ADHD are NOT: being hyper and talkative.
ADD and ADHD ARE: a neurological disorder whose symptoms include being easily distracted, difficulty concentrating or focusing on one thing for too long, becoming bored easily and needing constant stimulation, blurting out inappropriate things and acting without regard for consequences, becoming confused easily and seems to not be listening when spoken to, struggling to follow instructions, talking nonstop, and having difficulty with doing things like homework completion, doing tasks quietly or that require quiet, sitting still, or completing tasks.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is NOT: liking things done in a specific way, being annoyed when things are out of place, or doing things like not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk or liking things to be paired evenly.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder IS: a neurological disorder which causes intrusive thoughts that cause severe anxiety, uneasiness, and fear; repetitive behaviors, such as repeated hand-washing, are aimed at reducing this anxiety. The intrusive thoughts are commonly centered around ideas such as a fear of contamination, sickness/injury/death of self or loved ones, being “unsafe”, questioning their sexual identity, etc. Common compulsions aimed at reducing the anxiety caused by these thoughts include hand-washing, checking lights, locks, ovens, and windows, only eating certain foods (and sometimes only certain numbers of foods), completing certain tasks that will “prevent” bad things from happening (such as rubbing their hands across the door a certain number of times to prevent their mother from dying, or until it “feels right”), or obsessively staying away from dangerous objects like knives to “prevent” themselves from hurting the people they love (even though they would never actually do such a thing).
Anxiety disorders are NOT: worrying about a test at school, being scared that your boyfriend/girlfriend is going to leave you, or getting nervous before an oral presentation.
Anxiety disorders ARE: a category of neurological and psychological disorders characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, and constant worry. Mental symptoms include severe anxiety related to concerns about everyday matters, such as health issues, money, family problems, friendship and relationship problems, sickness, and school or work difficulties that interfere with the person’s daily functioning. Physical symptoms include irritability, agitation, shortness of breath/hyperventilating, feeling of choking, chest pain, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, nausea, headaches, insomnia, hot or cold flashes, heart palpitations, difficulty swallowing, inability to concentrate, trembling, twitching, muscle tension, fainting, fatigue, fear of losing control or going insane, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, a desire to escape or get away, panic attacks, paranoia, and a sudden feeling that one is going to die. Some people with severe anxiety also experience derealization or depersonalization, which is a perception disorder characterized by symptoms such as feeling that one is outside of their body (as though they are watching their life like a movie), feeling like they or their environment aren’t “real”, having difficulty being aware of the emotions of themselves or others, or a feeling that they’re “living in a dream”. While this symptom is relatively rare, it can happen to anybody who is prone to severe anxiety; it has also been seen it people with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, OCD, migraine headaches, sleep deprivation, and epilepsy.
Body dysmorphic disorder is NOT: being self-conscious about the way your body looks. It is also not simply being “vain” or “self-centered”, as many people believe. (Note: BDD is often a precursor to anorexia and bulimia. Many of the people who have anorexia and bulimia also suffer from this disorder.)
Body dysmorphic disorder IS: a somatoform disorder which manifests as an excessive concern and preoccupation with a perceived defect in their physical appearance. Body dysmorphia causes sufferers to believe that they are so disgustingly hideous that they are often partially or completely unable to perform basic tasks such as interact with others socially, go to school/work, do the groceries or other errands, or even hang out with friends out of humiliation and fear of ridicule. Often, the sufferer does not understand that they are sick, and believe that fixing the “deformity” will solve all their problems. Many people with BDD eventually do go on to have plastic surgery - however, even after the surgery, they often feel that their “flaw” continues to be hideously disfiguring, leading many sufferers to continue having operations on this same physical aspect over and over and over again.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. DO NOT SELF-DIAGNOSE BASED ON YOUR OWN INCOMPLETE KNOWLEDGE AND OPINION OF MENTAL ILLNESS. THAT IS WHAT DOCTORS, PSYCHOLOGISTS, PSYCHIATRISTS, AND OTHER MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ARE FOR. You are contributing to the widely believed cultural stigmas held about mental illnesses in our society.