Did you know that . . . .
1. Mental illnesses occupy more hospital beds than heart disease and cancer combined?
2. A recent study reports that people with bipolar disorder consulted more than 3 physicians over a period of 10 years before their illness was correctly diagnosed.
3. There can be a lag between onset diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia that can last for years.
4. The vast majority of depressed people are misdiagnosed.
5. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression can have psychotic features such as paranoia, delusions, auditory and or visual hallucinations. There was a time when these symptoms of psychosis were only associated with schizophrenia.
6. Some medical diseases, in addition to their physical symptoms, can present behavioral symptoms that mimic mental illness;
7. For many decades mental illnesses were seen as the result of character disorders or family dysfunction.
Why can’t someone just tell us what the diagnosis is?
1. There are no blood tests, x-rays, or scans that can definitively diagnose mental illness. There is exciting research being done in these areas, but there is nothing yet that can give an exact diagnosis; therefore, psychiatrists continue to include the patient’s report of symptoms based on how they feel, act, behave, and think.
2. Often a person with an untreated mental illness is not able to perceive that they have an illness.
3. Sometimes a person will present symptoms not previously manifested. For example, a person with bipolar disorder might begin exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia and subsequently be given a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.
4. It is not uncommon for a person to have several different psychiatric diagnoses at various times in their life, or simultaneously.
Rather than doubting the mental health profession because of this lack of certainty, it is important to focus on the fact that something is wrong with your family member – no matter what label is put on it. Sometimes the method of treatment is also uncertain, but there is HOPE! In most cases TREATMENT WORKS! However, it takes time, patience, and persistence.
This information comes from NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program, a course offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
For more information, call the local NAMI office, 337-433-0219.
Marion Bono, a member of NAMISWLA, facilitates a support group and teaches the Family-to-Family course, from which these articles are taken.