How do we define the difference between the two, and is there really a difference?

We seem to label everything these days as a mental illness.

The definition of a mental illness is a serious disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking. An emotional disorder affects a person’s daily functioning.

The Mayo Clinic defines mental illness as disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. It indicates many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

When people present with issues relating to depression, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, trauma either past or present, relationship issues, problems with children; are all these categorised as mental illness?

Under our current legislation, they seem to be. This I find completely inappropriate and damaging. The number of people experiencing issues that can be managed with direct guidance and education are labelled as having a mental illness. People experiencing depression, sadness, confusion, frustration are labeled as having a mental illness. Parents struggling to manage their children’s behaviour, recovering from a relationship breakdown or experiencing workplace issues, yep, all regarded as having a mental illness.

Once we are labelled, it can then become our inbuilt identity. It can manifest itself into our subconscious making us believe we are ‘mental,’ unable to cope, powerless to fix the issue or problem we currently face. This label often disempowers us, and this is dangerous.

While mental illness is experienced by many, it is certainly not by the majority, as these feelings and emotions many go through often pass with time and we return to ‘normal’.

Why then do we label everyone as having a mental illness. I think much of this is to do with the free or cheap Psychology visits available to everyone with a ‘mental illness.’ Once labelled you can access this. I ask, though, should people experiencing parental issues, relationship problems, workplace frustrations, be labeled with mental illness and treated to receive this therapy?

I am forever getting people into my Counselling rooms telling me they have had this mental illness for some time. They have their trusty prescription of anti-depressants and are now fed up with taking this band-aid pill, which often makes little difference before they decide to come to therapy to remove or manage this issue. This allows them to deal with their feelings and emotions correctly.
It is gratifying to hear so many people thank me for assisting them to manage and deal with their feelings and how they wish to stop these debilitating band-aid anti-depressants. And most seem to.

The difference therefore between mental illness and emotional disorder is emotions can escalate then subside, they pass after a time and can pass quickly with good therapy in a safe non-judgmental environment. This is something many patients do not feel they have available to them. This safety to disclose. They are not in fact ‘mental’.

Then, of course, there are others who have a mental illness. Sometimes from a severe or serious past trauma or event, perhaps from a physiological origin. These people require ongoing care and support as they often struggle with day to day living. Their issues are on-going, deeply embedded and debilitating.

There is a difference. We rely on the doctor to determine what category we fall into, but I am suggesting you the person make that assumption. You know yourself better than anyone. You know the depth of emotion or despair you feel. You understand if this is something recent or something that has been escalating for some time and has now erupted within you. You know if it is an emotion that you just want to pass, to be able to breathe again, to have your mind clear. This is often an emotional disorder that can be treated and corrected with therapy and some time.

I implore everyone to make an effort to seek counselling, take control of your own emotions and health. Strive to define the basis if it is an emotional disorder or mental health illness. Perhaps start with therapy as an emotional disorder before jumping into the mental health category.

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