There are many people living today with what is known as a chronic mental health disorder. A chronic condition means that someone struggles with an illness lasting months to even years at a time. These conditions require someone to receive regular medical attention and can greatly impact how someone lives their daily life. Sometimes a person may live with a condition for the rest of their life. It’s no wonder that many people with diagnosed chronic mental health disorders feel frightened or hopeless about their situation.
However, someone doesn’t have to live in fear or hopelessness due to their diagnosis. It is possible with help to live a life that brings you joy and fulfillment. It’s important to understand that your life doesn’t end with a diagnosis. It just means your life will need to change. Change isn’t always bad, and by learning tools and skills to help you cope with your mental health disorder, you may find that it can change your life for the better.
Can Someone With a Chronic Mental Health Disorder Recover?
Recovery is not the same as a cure. A cure is the destruction of an illness in a person; mental health disorders cannot be cured because they fundamentally change the way someone’s brain and nervous system function. Instead, mental health focuses on recovery, which is possible to achieve.
Recovery is when you create a healthy and meaningful life for yourself despite your mental health issues. This is done through the help of mental health professionals, creating good support networks, and learning important skills to help you manage your health.
Many people have successfully achieved recovery from a chronic mental health disorder. It, however, can take a lot of time and work to get there. Some trauma-based disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), take a long time to treat. This is because treatment must be done carefully to avoid re-traumatizing the client. Sometimes a client may need time to work up the bravery to confront particularly upsetting events in their lives.
This process can take months or even years to fully treat all aspects of someone’s PTSD. Even so, there may be remnants that a person cannot forget, but by then, a person usually learns how to cope with their trauma in a way that they can live and function in normal society.
A person who has recovered from a substance use disorder (SUD) must always be aware of how addiction functions and make healthy choices to avoid a relapse. Someone with schizophrenia must be sure that they check in with their doctors often and take their medications (if prescribed) to manage their condition. Both examples of people have chronic conditions that affect their daily life but have learned ways to manage them, so they do not become the only aspect of their life. This is what recovery is.
What It Looks Like to Live With a Chronic Mental Health Disorder
To be honest, not too different than how people usually live. You could go outside and look out into the street to watch people walk by. Just by looking, you would never know that just about one in five people you see life with a mental health disorder. It’s a lot more common than people might think. People with chronic mental health disorders go to school, go to work, and participate in society like everyone else. The difference is that they need to put in some extra work to stay stable and healthy.
One way in which this is achieved is to undergo long-term treatment. Usually, this means speaking with a therapist regularly, but this can involve other forms of treatment too. It also involves being in regular contact with a doctor or psychiatrist to help manage more physical aspects of the brain and nervous system or help keep an eye on prescribed medications.
Frequency varies, with some people seeing a therapist several times a week, once a week, or just monthly visits to check in. Someone may also be a part of a support group. This is a group of individuals with similar or identical conditions that help each other cope with their condition by providing comfort and social interactions.
Someone may also practice skills they have learned in therapy, such as making daily affirmations or engaging in stress-reducing activities. It is also possible for someone to have an emotional support animal (ESA) or a psychiatric service dog (PSD) to help them manage their chronic mental health disorder symptoms.
Sometimes people are very limited in what they can do. Since people spend a lot of time managing their symptoms, they may simply lack the energy of a neurotypical person. They still can engage in activities but often need to be aware of their limitations. Those with a chronic condition need to learn how to not only manage it but work around it. Regardless, they are still people, like anyone else, and deserve the same respect.
How to Treat a Chronic Condition
It’s normal to feel a mix of feelings when getting an official diagnosis. Fear, anger, and sadness are all normal emotions to experience when receiving a diagnosis for a chronic condition. However, understand that the person who gave you the diagnosis is there to help you. They can help you find what treatment plans would work the best for you, get you in touch with support groups and networks, and help you find doctors that know how to treat the physical aspects of your condition. Allow them to help you.
If you feel like you might have a chronic condition and have not gotten a diagnosis, contact your local mental health facility and set up an appointment. It’s critical to get a diagnosis, as it allows a treatment plan to be made to help you.
It’s difficult to live with a mental health disorder, especially when it’s a chronic condition. However, anyone with a chronic mental health disorder can live fulfilling and happy lives. It comes down to learning how to best manage your disorder, so you can spend more time living than being afraid. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we help people learn how to manage their mental health as well as offer individually tailored treatment plans. We understand a person’s difficulties and vow to provide quality and compassionate care. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder, call (949) 647-4090 today to speak with one of our caring professionals.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.