Primary Care

Struggling with mental health? You’re not alone.

November 29, 2021
Sad teenage girl looking out the window

We all feel a little down from time to time. Maybe you’re stressed about the holidays or a big work project that’s coming up. Or perhaps a lengthy to-do list is making you feel so overwhelmed you can’t concentrate on anything. 

But what if those symptoms last longer than a day or two? You may want to consider talking to someone about your mental health – and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. 

“People don’t hesitate to call the doctor if they have a fever or are hurt, but mental health can be very difficult for some individuals to talk about,” shares Dria Vernon, M.D., a family medicine provider with Riverside Commonwealth Family Medicine. “Mental health illnesses are very real and do affect many aspects of life – from your physical health to social relationships and job performance. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed to admit. In fact, it takes great strength to reach out for help.”

Here, Dr. Vernon discusses three common mental health conditions – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety – how they affect your health, and what you can do to start feeling better.

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting more than 40 million adults in the U.S. every year. Like depression, there are many different types of anxiety disorders. The most common disorders, according to the NIMH include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder can bring on excessive anxiety or worry most days for six months or more. It can affect your ability to concentrate, cause physical symptoms and significantly impact daily life.
  • Panic disorder can trigger unexpected, recurrent panic attacks that cause symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and shortness of breath. Panic attacks are sometimes mistaken for heart attacks.
  • Phobia-related disorders refer to an intense fear or aversion to a specific situation or objects. Phobias can range from fear of flying to fear of being outside the home alone. 
  • Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear or anxiety toward social interactions or performance situations. People with social anxiety try to avoid these types of circumstances.

Depression

It’s normal to feel a little ‘blue’ every once in a while. But, if you’re experiencing extreme feelings of sadness or hopelessness for two or more weeks, it might be major depressive disorder (also called clinical depression). 

You might be surprised that there is more than one type of depression. Other forms of depression can include:

  • Persistent depressive disorder –Depressive symptoms that last for two years or more. 
  • Postpartum depression – After giving birth, women may experience a serious depressive episode that includes extreme feelings of sadness, anxiety and exhaustion.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — Involves feelings of depression that occur over the winter months but improve during spring and summer. SAD typically returns every year.
  • Bipolar disorder – Bipolar disorder is not a form of depression, but periods of “lows” can bring about major depressive episodes, which is called bipolar depression.

Learn more about depression, including its symptoms.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

When most people think about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they typically think of school-age children that can’t sit still in the classroom. The reality is that ADHD is a mental health disorder that can affect adults – many times without adults realizing it’s an issue. 

The NIMH explains that adults with ADHD typically struggle with three types of behaviors:

  • Inattention – Adults with ADHD may struggle paying attention, completing tasks, staying organized or working through multistep problems. 
  • Hyperactivity – Adults with ADHD may feel restless, have too much energy or talk too much.
  • Impulsivity – Adults with ADHD may act without thinking or have little self-control.

Connect with support 

Fortunately, there are many effective ways to manage mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, ADHD and others. 

“If you think you may have anxiety, ADHD, depression or are experiencing other mental health symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor,” encourages Dr. Vernon. “We can get to the bottom of what’s happening and work together to help you feel like yourself again.”

The two most common treatments for mental health illnesses include psychotherapy and medication. During therapy, a licensed mental or behavioral health provider will discuss your thoughts, feelings and actions to improve your well-being and better manage your symptoms. 

Medication can also be prescribed to help control symptoms. Today, many different types of medicine are safe and effective at treating mental illnesses. Your doctor can discuss if medication may be right for you. 

A healthy lifestyle can also help improve your symptoms. 

“A nutritious diet, regular physical activity and managing stress can do wonders in helping you manage your mental health – whether you’re struggling with a diagnosed condition or are just experiencing a tough time,” shares Dr. Vernon.

Your doctor can help you find the right, comprehensive approach that supports your whole health – physical, mental and emotional.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. And remember, you are not alone. 

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