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How to Recover from a Mental Illness

Updated on June 9, 2013
Being Positive
Being Positive

What is a Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses can often be misunderstood or underestimated. A mental illness is something to be taken seriously without prejudice.

A mental disorder is a psychological problem caused by a disability, emotional or environmental issue or genetics.

The illness tends to affect behavior and causes emotional distress and the way the individual feels and perceives things. It can have a high impact on daily life, relationships and sometimes physical health.

Diagnosing a mental illness isn't always quick or easy, as the individual needs to be assessed over a period of time. Different people react in different ways and some may have more than one mental health disorder at one time.

The Common Types of Mental Illnesses

There are many different types and groups of mental health illness. Some of these include:


Depression affects mood and emotion and can have a negative affect on the way a person lives their life.

It can be caused by a number of things such as abuse, neglect, separation, grief, having a baby (post natal depression), shock or bullying.

Some of the symptoms may include upset, anxiety, worthlessness, low mood, fear and a change in eating and sleeping patterns.

Anxiety Disorders

These affect the way a person deals with something or a situation. The emotions tend to be irrational and more extreme than a non sufferer.

Anxiety disorders include:

Panic Disorder

Something may trigger off the feeling of panic which in some cases associates with the cause.

The symptoms may include fear, shortness of breath, sudden raised heartbeat or panic attacks.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

This is where a person's anxiety about something make them carry out routines and rituals. They tend to do it to avoid something terrible from happening to themselves or their family.

Their thoughts become obsessive and they have the compulsive desire to repeatedly carry out the routine. Examples may be excessive hand washing or checking that the doors are locked in the house.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is brought on by an incident in someone's life which was distressing to witness or be involved in. The individual may have reoccurring flashbacks and nightmares which in turn cause distress, anxiety or depression.


There are three types of phobia:

Simple Phobias

An extreme anxiety and fear of an object

Social Phobias

A worry of being around other people, fearing their thoughts or thinking they are being judgmental.


This is a worry of being in a place or situation of no escape. It may be a wide open space or shopping mall. The sufferer may fear a panic attack which may cause them embarrassment and will go out of their way to avoid being in these situations. In some cases the person with agoraphobia may restrict themselves to their own home.


Very much like depression, bipolar is also known as 'manic depression'.

The individual will go from one extreme to another, feeling low for any length of time to feeling over excitable happy and hyperactive.


Someone with schizophrenia may experience a number of symptoms. They may hallucinate, hear voices, talk to people who are not there or become socially withdrawn.

Where to go for help...

  • Your Doctor or GP
  • Mental Health Professional
  • Helplines and Organizations
  • Internet or Leaflets
  • Clinics
  • The Samaritans
  • Telephone Directories

Helping Someone with a Mental Illness

Different mental health issues are addressed in different ways, as are the individuals who live with them. Different people cope slightly differently, so while some therapies work for some, they may not be enough for others.

The recovery process will not necessarily mean the individual will get back to 'normal' but if successful will help to live a better quality of life. The idea is to deal with the problem long term, understanding it and using methods to cope with situations.


Someone with a form of depression or anxiety may be offered counselling to talk through their problems.

The counsellor will use three different approaches with clients. They are Psycho dynamic, Person entered and Cognitive.

The idea is to help the client work out where the problem lies, it's root and how to cope with it.

Sometimes seeing a counsellor on a regular basis is enough to help, but medication may also be prescribed. The counsellor may also suggest other ways to cope, such as tasks and activities and to learn new coping techniques.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

These are a series of sessions to help the client think differently about their worry or anxiety.

The therapist will try to highlight the ways in which the client perceives certain things or how they react emotionally and physically. The therapist uses scientific theories to work through the problems shared with the client to help to identify overcome problems.

Therapists work with clients and their families to work out how to address the issue, deal with anxieties, thoughts, feelings and behavior.


Psychotherapists work with their clients to get to the root of the problem and find out the causes of illness. They may look at the client's past to help them to deal with the present and future and overcome problems.

Working with a psychotherapist takes longer than CBT and the sessions are also longer. They are aimed to be helpful with dealing with life, getting back on track and dealing with long term or reoccurring problems.


Sometimes the use of prescription drugs are advised to control triggers of anxiety, steady mood or relieve symptoms of psychosis.

The groups of drugs are anti psychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines (for anxiety).

If the patient has more than one symptom, a combination of medication will be given.

The patient will be reviewed regularly by their doctor or health professional to determine whether the medication is right for them and if they need to stay on them long term.

Family Therapy

This is a group therapy where the family meet with one or two therapists to talk through or work out issues.

There may be many reasons for this type of therapy:

  • Behavioral problems with children
  • A disability or mental health problem in the family
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Domestic Violence
  • Divorce or separation

Each member of the family affected have the opportunity to discuss any issues in a calm and controlled environment.

children can also be affected
children can also be affected

Group Therapy

This is where a group of around 8 to 12 people meet together for the first time with a therapist. They will all share the same or similar problems, and each have the chance to talk about them aloud to the rest of the group.

Those who benefit feel as though they are not being judged and learn from other people's experiences. They are able to offer support to each other as they all have a similar problem.

Complimentary and Alternative Therapies

Some other ways to help and deal with depression and anxieties are to use complimentary therapies alongside prescription drugs and other therapy.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy which is used to treat numerous health problems. As well as treating physical aches and pains, it can also be used to treat addiction and emotional and psychological disorders.

The theory of acupuncture is that the body has channels of energy running in patterns called meridians. If the channels are blocked then small needles are placed in certain areas to remove the obstruction and correct problems.

The modern scientific explanation suggests that placing the needles in the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals to the spinal chord and brain and to the muscles. This is turn triggers chemicals to regulate hormones and pain.


Massage is a good way to promote healing in many ways.

As well as being good for skin, circulation and posture, it can also be useful for peace of mind.

Massage puts us in a relaxed state which is beneficial for anxiety and worry. It helps us to think more clearly and calmly which reduces stress.


Hypnotherapy can be useful to help people get through emotional problems and addictions.

A trained hypnotherapist is able to work with the client to put them in a trance state to relax them and focus their attention on the therapist. Their concentration levels are enhanced to focus on thoughts and tasks.

The client is to think about their problems in a different way and learn to cope as well as exploring issues from their past.


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    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thank you Jennifer Bart. It is an important subject matter I feel - thanks for your comment.

    • Jennifer Bart profile image

      Jennifer Bart 

      6 years ago from Texas

      I am so glad I came across this article. Very informative and well organized. Thank you so much for choosing to write on this topic.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thank you fpherj48 - what a lovely compliment! I'm glad I explained this well - thanks for voting :)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hello Emma, I'm glad I came across this hub. It is extremely educational. You did a fabulous job of describing, clearly, the types of mental illness, their symptoms and the mental health protocols available for patients. I am impressed. Whether you are in this field, or you did extensive research, your hub is definitely, page one google material..


    • faith_love_hope32 profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree. I suffered in silence for many years. I didn't start to open up about it until recently. I think that in doing so, I can help others like me. I was introduced to County Mental Health around age 10 with my brother.

      We did Group Therapy with other kids and Individual Therapy. to deal with our mothers alcohol problem and our parents not being together, etc. Then that stopped when I was about 12.

      My mother stopped it at a time when I really could have used it because that was when my severe depression began. After a hospitalization at age 13, I was back into Individual Therapy again. In my teens, the Dx. was depression. Anxiety Dx. came in my early 20's. Other stuff at age 26, when I was ready to get help.

      Therapy helped me as a child because I had a rapport with my therapist. But this new therapist, I really didn't like. His english wasn't good and he acted disinterested in me and what I had to say. He would just take notes. No feed back. Like talking to a wall. Heck, I can do that at home if I want to talk to a wall!

      After that bad experience, I wanted no part of therapy or mental health treatment. I thought that I would handle it on my own. In my early 20's I went to my primary care physician to get help with my social anxiety problems. Primary doctors are able to prescribe anti-depressants and anxiety meds. B

      ut not psychiatric meds like anti-psychotics. I went on Zoloft and it helped me a lot. I was on it for 2 years. Then took myself off. It wasn't until I was 26 years old that I realized my problems ran deeper than just the depression and not only did I NEED the help but I was finally ready to accept the help. To get help, a person with these problems has to want the help and be ready to accept it. Just like with an addiction.

      This time being ready for it, helped me when I received it. I do know people that suffer in silence and I can understand. Back in 2003 I worked for the Postal Service. If I had applied for that job just a few years later, I would have been denied the opportunity because they do not hire anyone with psychiatric problems. My Bipolar Dx. did not come until 2005. So, yes, it can definitely affect certain employment.

      There are ways to get help privately without people knowing. The important thing is for people to get the help that they need and if they are afraid of anyone finding out and judging them, then there are ways around that. Mental Health is a private matter and you have the right to share or NOT share with who you please.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      7 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi Faith love hope32, thank you for opening up about that part of your life.

      I have known many people with forms of depression and anxiety, some not even realizing there is a problem. Others just suffer in silence - the main issue being that they don't want work colleagues or their employer know, due to being judged.

      In regards to addictions, it's easier to help someone when you can 'see' the problem. I would like to think those with mental illnesses can be offered the right help as long as the help is easily accessible.

      It's not something which should be hidden away or stigmatized. If help is given, a lot of years on someone's life could be saved.

    • faith_love_hope32 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub! And you are definitely right about the misunderstood part. I struggle with many of the above issues that you mentioned and will more than likely struggle for the rest of my life. I've been dealing with my problems since ages 10, 11 and 12. It got worse with age.

      Social Anxiety kicked in, in my early teens. Along with other goodies. I've tried to share information about my illness with people that I've known my whole life and no one gets me. I think there is a stigma with mental illness.

      The funny thing is, in my town, alcohol and drug addiction are common. Recovering addicts are received better than someone with mental illness. Even though I was raised by 2 alcoholics, luckily that is one problem that I never had.

      Nor drugs. It's sad that people can't be more understanding with these things. There is a lot of judgement in the world...

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      7 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi Krsharp05 - there is a lot out there to help and support those with mental illness or having it in the family. People need to know what is available and where to go for it.

      Hi spartucusjones - thanks for your kind comment. Mental illness can be a taboo subject for some but it needs to be addressed and recognized.

      Thanks for reading.

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 

      7 years ago from Parts Unknown

      I thought I already commented, but it didn't show up. But I wanted to let you know that this was a well researched and well developed hub! As you highlighted mental illness is misunderstood, and most people don't treat it the same way as physical illness. Hopefully your hub will help remove the stigma of mental illness. I really appreciate the practical tips.

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      7 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Nicely done Emma. I like that you included non-invasive options for dealing with mental illnesses. I don't think that people recognize those options and they are beneficial. -K

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      7 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thank you so much thebookmom for your positive comment :)

    • thebookmom profile image


      7 years ago from Nebraska

      Fantastic hub! I love that it is very realistic and yet full of hope. You did a great job covering many options available to people struggling with this issue. Well done.


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