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mental illness

Mental Health

The danger of high-functioning depression as told by a college student

Overachievers can struggle with mental health issues, too.


I first saw a psychiatrist for my anxiety and depression as a junior in high school.

During her evaluation, she asked about my coursework. I told her that I had a 4.0 GPA and had filled my schedule with pre-AP and AP classes. A puzzled look crossed her face. She asked about my involvement in extracurricular activities. As I rattled off the long list of groups and organizations I was a part of, her frown creased further.


Finally, she set down her pen and looked at me, saying something along the lines of "You seem to be pretty high-functioning, but your anxiety and depression seem pretty severe. Actually, it's teens like you who scare me a lot."


Now I was confused. What was scary about my condition? From the outside, I was functioning like a perfectly "normal" teenager. In fact, I was somewhat of an overachiever.

I was working through my mental illnesses and I was succeeding, so what was the problem?

I left that appointment with a prescription for Lexapro and a question that I would continue to think about for years. The answer didn't hit me all at once.

Instead, it came to me every time I heard a suicide story on the news saying, "By all accounts, they were living the perfect life."

It came to me as I crumbled under pressure over and over again, doing the bare minimum I could to still meet my definition of success.

It came to me as I began to share my story and my illness with others, and I was met with reactions of "I had no idea" and "I never would have known." It's easy to put depression into a box of symptoms.

lighted candles on man's hand lying on the floorPhoto by Fernando @cferdophotography on Unsplash

Even though we're often told that mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, I think we're still stuck with certain "stock images" of mental health in our heads.

When we see depression and anxiety in adolescents, we see teens struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives. We see grades dropping, and we see involvement replaced by isolation. But it doesn't always look like this.

And when we limit our idea of mental illness, at-risk people slip through the cracks.

We don't see the student with the 4.0 GPA or the student who's active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society or the ambitious teen who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group.

person holding white printer paperPhoto by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn't discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.

Recognizing this danger is what helped me find the answer to my question.

Watching person after person — myself included — slip under the radar of the "depression detector" made me realize where that fear comes from. My psychiatrist knew the list of symptoms, and she knew I didn't necessarily fit them. She understood it was the reason that, though my struggles with mental illness began at age 12, I didn't come to see her until I was 16.

If we keep allowing our perception of what mental illness looks like to dictate how we go about recognizing and treating it, we will continue to overlook people who don't fit the mold.

We cannot keep forgetting that there are people out there who, though they may not be able to check off every symptom on the list, are heavily and negatively affected by their mental illness. If we forget, we allow their struggle to continue unnoticed, and that is pretty scary.


This article was written by Amanda Leventhal and originally appeared on 06.03.16













Family

Supportive husband writes a fantastic 'love list' to his depressed wife

“He knows I struggle to see good in the world, and especially the good in myself. But here it is."

Image from Imgur.

Husband shares a list of love with his wife.

Imgur user "mollywho" felt her life was falling apart. Not only was she battling clinical depression, but she had her hands full.

"I've been juggling a LOT lately," she wrote on Imgur. "Trying to do well at work. Just got married. Couldn't afford a wedding. Family is sparse. Falling out with friends, yaddadyadda.”

She was also upset about how she treated her new husband.

"I've not been the easiest person to deal with. In fact, sometimes I've lost all hope and even taken my anger out on my husband."



When she returned home from a business trip in San Francisco, mentally exhausted, she collapsed on her bed and cried. Then she noticed some writing on the bedroom mirror. It was a list that read:

Reasons I love my wife

1. She is my best friend
2. She never quits on herself or me
3. She gives me time to work on my crazy projects
4. She makes me laugh, every day
5. She is gorgeous
6. She accepts the crazy person i am
7. She's the kindest person i know
8. She's got a beautiful singing voice

9. She's gone to a strip club with me
10. She has experienced severe tragedy yet is the most optimistic person about humanity i know
11. She has been fully supportive about my career choices and followed me each time
12. Without realizing it, she makes me want to do more for her than i have ever wanted to do for anyone
13. She's done an amazing job at advancing her career path
14. Small animals make her cry
15. She snorts when she laughs

love letters, support, marriage, mental illness

The list of love.

Image from Imgur.

This amazing show of support from her husband was exactly what she needed. "I think he wanted me to remember how much he loves me," she wrote. "Because he knows how quickly I forget. He knows I struggle to see good in the world, and especially the good in myself. But here it is. A testament and gesture of his love. Damn, I needed it today…"

She ended her post with some powerful words about mental illness.

"I'm not saying mental illness is cured by nice words on a mirror. In fact, it takes professional care, love, empathy, sometimes even medication just to cope. Many people struggle with it mental illness - more than we probably even realize. And instead of showing them hate or anger when they act out. Show them kindness and remind them things can and WILL get better. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. If that person can't be you - see if you have any resources for therapy."


This article originally appeared on 12.10.15

What is Depression?

In the United States, close to 10% of the population has depression, but sometimes it can take a long time for someone to even understand that they have it.

One difficulty in diagnosis is trying to distinguish between feeling down and experiencing clinical depression. This TED-Ed video from December 2015 can help make the distinction. With simple animation, the video explains how clinical depression lasts longer than two weeks with a range of symptoms that can include changes in appetite, poor concentration, restlessness, sleep disorders (either too much or too little), and suicidal ideation. The video briefly discusses the neuroscience behind the illness, outlines treatments, and offers advice on how you can help a friend or loved one who may have depression.


Unlike the many pharmaceutical ads out there with their cute mascots and vague symptoms, the video uses animation to provide clarity about the mental disorder. It's similar in its poignant simplicity to the HBO short documentary "My Depression," based on Liz Swados' book of the same name.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.19

A father contemplates what he's going to do about his daughter.

A father with a challenging problem took to social media to anonymously hear other opinions on a bold position he had to take in his family.

“I’m the dad of a 25-year-old young woman who I love very much,” the father wrote on the Reddit AITA forum. “I’ve been able to have a good relationship with my daughter, and I enjoy my time with her, but there’s one thing about her that would give many people pause—she is a diagnosed sociopath."

People who are sociopaths have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). According to WebMD, “Those with ASPD have no regard for others’ rights or feelings, lack empathy and remorse for wrongdoings, and have the need to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain.”

It is challenging for people with ASPD to get help because they often don’t believe their behavior is a problem. However, those who do can learn that their behaviors are harmful and receive tools to improve their relationships.


However, being in a close relationship with someone diagnosed with ASPD can be a very challenging situation.

The father realized his daughter had sociopathic tendencies at a young age and was given therapy and support. “With an enormous amount of therapy & support, her bad behavior was minimized as she grew older. She received an ASPD diagnosis at 18, and I had suspected it for long prior,” he wrote.

reddit, aspd, sociopaths

A couple on their wedding day.

via Moose Photos

Even though the daughter struggles with her social life, she has had no problem with men.

“She is very, very charming and adept at attracting guys and maintaining their interest,” he continued. “She uses that old dating guide ‘The Rules’ like a Bible. She currently has a boyfriend of about a year and a half who’s crazy about her, and who I have a very strong relationship with (we live in the same area and spend time together regularly). He is a great guy, very kind, funny and intelligent.”

The boyfriend intends to propose soon, and the father fears the worst could happen to him. “While she enjoys being around her boyfriend and is sexually attracted to him, I highly doubt she feels much of anything towards him love-wise,” the father wrote.

Further, the daughter has no intention of telling the boyfriend about her diagnosis for fear that it would scare him away. But the dad doesn’t believe that it’s right for the relationship to continue without telling him the truth.

“I’ve made it clear to her that she needs to tell him the truth before they marry, that he has the right to know and consider it, or I will, to which she always responds, ‘I know you wouldn’t dare,’” the father admits. “I actually would—I really like and respect this young man and would feel awful keeping this 'secret' from him and letting him walk into a marriage without this piece of knowledge.”

So, the father asked the Reddit forum if he was right to tell the boyfriend about his daughter’s diagnosis. “I’m not trying to sabotage my daughter’s future. Maybe her boyfriend’s love of her personality and other aspects is enough that it won’t end the relationship. It’s his decision to make, but he deserves all the facts,” he wrote.

Almost all of the commenters sympathized with the father and agreed that it was best to tell the boyfriend before they were engaged.

aspd, sociopaths, reddit

A mother and her newborn child.

via Goda Morgan/Pexels

“If this guy wants kids, it’s really going to suck to find out he is co-parenting with a sociopath. Also, is ASPD genetic? If so, he definitely deserves to know,” Decemberandjuly wrote. “I’d really want to know that info before marrying,” PodcornJelly added. “That, of course, doesn’t mean you’re not at fault for ‘outing’ your daughter, but IMO, it’s for the greater good.”

However, one commenter noted that the father should stay out of it because the relationship is probably very helpful for the daughter. “I say this as someone who is qualified to make these types of diagnoses and provide appropriate treatment. She has a history of problematic behavior, but it sounds like she is well-functioning enough as an adult,” iglooboo wrote. “Maybe she loves in different ways to others, but that doesn’t exclude her from having positive relationships. In fact, it is this sense of safety in a relationship that will help her keep learning these skills.”

Upworthy contacted the father to learn the rest of the story but is still awaiting his response.