Don’t ignore the signs, seek help for mental illnesses



In one moment everything about your life can change. My moment was this summer in a doctor’s office when I was diagnosed with adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a number of other mental illnesses.

ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in children, with 6.4 million American children from 4 to 17 having this illness. Watching my younger brother live with ADHD, I’ve learned that it is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact our differences are what make us unique.

I never understood why I never excelled in school, or why I could never pay attention to conversations. Before learning I had the disorder, I perceived those with ADHD as hyper, lazy or annoying. The disorder is quickly judged and stereotyped by teenagers and parents alike, but few acknowledge how this can affect people who struggle from the illness.

My mother has said since my diagnosing that she believed I always had ADHD, though I never thought of my behavior as similar to my little brother’s, who is extremely smart and struggled to pay attention. I never wanted to think about myself as being “crazy,” and I certainly don’t like the idea of society persecuting my little brother.

Less than 1 in 3 children with ADHD receive both medication and behavioral therapy, according to data from the CDC on the illness. A crucial factor of having a mental illness is whether one can adjust to living with it, and many people with mental illnesses do not get the help or education on their illness needed to live a well-adjusted life.

Reasons mental illnesses often go untreated include: not understanding the signs, not wanting to be, or for your child to be, on medication, or one medication did not have the desire effect, so the process was stopped.

Adults can have ADHD; it does not just stop in childhood. About 4 to 5 percent of U.S. adults also have the disorder — but few adults get diagnosed or treated for it. Adults with ADHD may find it hard to follow directions, remember information, concentrate, organize tasks and finish work on time. If anyone has any slight thought that they have ADHD, or any mental disorder, they should schedule a doctor’s appointment. Mental health is very serious and should not be overlooked, like I did for many years.

Society claims to understand ADHD and many more mental disorders. ADHD does not mean that my mother did a bad job raising me. It doesn’t mean that she never punished me or that I lacked love and affection. Mental disorders do not mean there is something “wrong with you,” and mental disorders certainly do not mean one is crazy.

Disorders like ADHD are not something to be ashamed of, but the negative connotations society associates with them make it hard not to be.

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