How to Help Someone Who Is in Denial of Their Mental Illness
How to Help Someone Who Is in Denial of Their Mental Illness
While most of us think of the mentally ill as being hyper-aware of their problems, this often isn’t the case. Millions of Americans live unaware that they struggle with anxiety or depression. Others are in denial, actively refuting claims that they have problems. While it’s normal to deny or ignore mental illness in a society that actively stigmatizes mental illness (especially in men), failing to seek out help exacerbates the problem.
The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests that 20.6% or 51 million Americans struggle with a mental illness. Yet just 16.1% of Americans seek out mental health treatment in any form. Millions of us struggle with mental health problems, yet getting treatment means acknowledging those problems. That can be difficult in a society that demands people to be strong, productive, and capable.
If your loved one is in denial, The Gooden Center suggests the following ideas to help.
Whether your loved one has a diagnosis or is in denial of their need to even see a doctor, offering support is important. You should do this in a way that sets boundaries for yourself, protecting your own mental health. Why? Investing too much into someone else is exhausting and might take a long time to offer any reward. Set boundaries at the start, decide what you are and are not willing to invest in, and move forward from there.
For example, if your loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder, dealing with them in a manic episode may be difficult and even dangerous. If your loved one has anxiety, they might be emotionally draining to constantly manage. Set limits, decide how to take breaks, and take care of yourself.
Once you’ve figured out how to set those boundaries, you can offer emotional and mental support. How? People often feel very alone, excluded, and unwanted. Mental illnesses already make people feel like outsiders. Simply listening, being present, and offering your presence might be enough. You might also have to talk your loved one through feelings of pain and discomfort. No one wants to admit that they have a problem. Even if they cannot control that problem.
Stigma can be one of the greatest barriers to admitting to a mental illness. Your loved one might be:
Afraid of not being enough
Afraid of how society will see them
Afraid of their own feelings about mentally ill people
Afraid that a mental illness will make them unlovable
Insecure as their ability to provide or care for their family
Stigma can greatly differ for men and women. For example, women often feel as though they still have to do everything and are still loaded with caring for family. Men feel their masculinity and their status as caretaker challenged. Both require a different approach. For example, men have a significantly harder time admitting to many mental illnesses, simply because they are raised to be “tough” “strong”, and “uncompromising”. In fact, most readers will associate those traits with “manly”.
Tackling stigma can be difficult without first tackling your own perceptions of the mentally ill. It’s important to review how you feel, to tackle those ideas, and then to discuss them with your loved one. You can’t talk someone out of not seeking out treatment because it means they are a failure if you still see other mentally ill people as a failure. Unfortunately, most people are raised with this stigma and getting out of it can be difficult.
Mental illness is complex. Millions of Americans struggle with it. Most of us struggle with some form of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or similar. Yet, many disorders overlap, many have different “levels”, and many affect people in different ways. Understanding how a mental health disorder affects your loved one will help you to better understand their actions and reactions. For example, if you don’t know that anxiety causes someone to dismiss their own self-worth, you might take a scenario in which someone dismisses your ability to care for them as an attack on you. But, if you know that they don’t see themselves as worthy, you know this dismissal is about them and not you.
Books like “I am Not Sick: I Don’t Need Help”, “It Didn’t Start with You”, and “Codependent No More” can be excellent resources to start. You might also want to start attending therapy yourself. This can offer a great example to your loved one that getting help and going to therapy isn’t a bad thing.
If you can understand even the basics of how mental illness affects your loved one, you can put yourself in a position to understand where they are coming from and why.
Offer Family Therapy
Many of us are afraid to go to therapy alone. We’re afraid to admit to having problems. But offering to go with them can be a powerful first step. Family therapy allows you to examine hierarchy and how mental illness, drug use, or other problems affect relationships. You can move through this together, rebuilding your relationship, learning how to manage and cope with mental illness on their part, and hopefully helping them to do the same.
Mental health treatment is eventually the best option for anyone with a mental illness. While some mental illnesses are chronic and lifelong, many can be actively improved with treatment. For many people, 2 months of treatment followed by a year of aftercare and mindful living can be life changing. For others, this treatment will only help with symptom management, giving them a basis with which to live a happier and healthier life. In either case, treatment is a positive improvement.
Mental health disorders affect 1 in 5 U.S. adults. If your loved one is struggling, they aren’t alone. Getting help is a natural step for a mental health disorder, just like it would be for a broken bone or a toothache. If something isn’t right, modern medicine can and will help. Hopefully, you can help your loved one to move past the stigma and into treatment.
At The Gooden Center we offer care in a home-like environment, where individuals can seek out treatment from a caring and empathetic staff, surrounded by a few of their peers. Our one-on-one approach means we tackle the root or underlying causes of mental illness, while teaching coping mechanisms and helping individuals undo negative behavior patterns. We also offer motivational therapy for those who aren’t quite ready to immerse themselves in treatment, with the intent of speeding up the process of recovery.
If you’re ready, reach out today for a free consultation. The Gooden Center is here to offer a personalized mental health treatment program designed around your needs. We focus on offering individualized plans, delivered by an experienced and professional mental health treatment team ready to help you get your life back.