Denial. Everyone goes through it to some degree in any illness. But in mental illness, it is especially a factor. It’s quite hard to deny an x-ray showing someone they have a lung tumor. But it is not difficult at all to deny that you have a mental illness. First of all mental illness affects the very organ you use to discern what is real and what is not, namely your brain. Also, sometimes being out of touch with reality (as in mania, schizophrenia, deep depression) is something you don’t remember. So while in the throes of the worst stages of mental illness, you don’t remember those periods. When you come out of those phases where you’ve lost touch with reality, the memory of that is not there. In which case it’s easy to deny that you have mental illness. Also, mental illness is experiencing extreme moods, extreme sensitivity, sometimes it’s normal to experience extreme moods. So mentally ill people, sometimes don’t realize they have a mental illness. They do not have insight (see the following post on INSIGHT I posted on 2/3/2015: https://wordpress.com/post/72261148/792/) Insight is the ability to realize that the things you’ve been thinking, doing, aren’t the real YOU. It’s the mental illness that is making you feel and do these things. For example, you are having wild moods, angry, weepy, depressed, belligerent, you are even picking up objects and throwing them at people you are angry at. This is not normal behavior for you. When your dose of medicine has been adjusted, you look back and think “Wow, who was that in my body? Why was I doing all those insane things?” THIS is insight. And that is the end of denial. And until you stop denying that you have a mental illness and start going to see your doctor, start taking your medication, MOST IMPORTANT is the medication, you will not be free of your mental illness. Just like an alcoholic has to stop denying that they are an alcohol addict, and admit that alcohol is in fact a big problem in their life, once they stop denying that and accepting it, then they can start treatment and take steps to be free of their illness. Just like that, a mentally ill person, after they stop denying that they have a mental illness and start going to see a psychiatrist and taking their medication, after this step, they can get counseling on how to deal with a mental illness, they can exercise, meditate, do yoga, anything that will relieve stress and for people with bipolar d/o, keep their mood in the normal range, this is absolutely, positively grand!
When I first became sick, went into a suicidal depression, at first I had no idea what was happening to me. But when the doctor told me I had major depression, I accepted it. And yes, there were times, in the midst of manic phases, when I didn’t know I was sick, but there would always come a time, even in the most lalaland phases, I would realize that I was very sick. And so this insight has helped me cope with my illness much better than if I didn’t possess it. In that sense, I count myself lucky, that I have this insight.
So no denial and lots of insight are the prescription for a better outcome for people who have mental illnesses.