While modern medicine has made great strides towards treating a wide range of illnesses and conditions, with many more new advances clearly on the horizon, the use of these modern miracles is not always without problems. While few people will fault the physically disabled from taking full advantages of modern medicine, those with mental illnesses remain stigmatized for their disorders and all too often find themselves looked down on for trying to get professional treatment for their problems. While the days of blaming mental illness on supernatural causes is supposedly long gone, the stigma that remains attached to mental illness is only a few degrees better than blaming these problems on monsters and malicious sorcery.
Many people these days remain unaware of the actual causes of mental illness, oftentimes to the detriment of the people suffering from these problems. Parents will often times deny their children mental health care, believing that their child’s mental health problems are the result of their parenting and instead try to change the way they parent or worse still ignore the problem to save face when their child is in desperate need of professional care. Others still believe that the horrifying world of film psychiatric hospitals are still the only way to treat mental illnesses and deny their loved ones treatment for fear of them suffering even worse. And, after decades of “the war on drugs”, anyone looking to use medicine, even legal medicine, that affects their minds faces an uphill battle in both acquiring that medicine and social acceptance of their usage of that medicine.
And yet, mental illnesses are not rare, with mental health treatment statistics bearing that out for all to see. While it is true some statistics can be misleading, in the case of mental illness, it is far more likely that mental health treatment statistics are they are currently understood are actually understated as people try to deny that there is a problem due to the stigma these disorders carry. With this in mind, it makes sense that the statistics reported to American surveys are actually only a portion of the problem. Some particularly pessimistic views feel that these mental health treatment statistics are actually only the tip of the iceberg and that a great many more people are also afflicted with some kind of mental illness.
Among other statistics is that mood disorders, one of the most common mental health problems known to medical science, is exceedingly prevalent in the United States population. One estimate from United States health agencies holds that taken together, the victims of major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and dysthymic disorder and the full spectrum of mood disorders afflict around 9.5 percent of the population, or over 20.9 million people in the United States over the age of 18. While the median age for the onset of mood disorders is around the age of 30, these disorders can begin in children as young as 8 years old. Many cases of mood disorders, particularly depression, can be temporary, but a significant number of depression cases can last for decades if not being lifetime hindrances. This is particularly true for mood disorders that set in early in life. Depressive disorders in particular can be crippling as they often occur right along anxiety disorders and substance abuse problems.
An even more common mental health problem in the United States is anxiety disorders. Oftentimes as debilitating as mood disorders, anxiety disorders ranging from obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorders, the spectrum of phobias, panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder afflict around 18.1 percent of the United States population, or around 40 million people over the age of 18. These disorders are, again, oftentimes combined with substance abuse problems that become the only way the afflicted can deal with daily life. Worse still, people suffering from one anxiety disorder also tend to have at least one other anxiety disorder on top of the first.
Of course, mood disorders and anxiety disorders are merely the most common mental illnesses. ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia and other, more obscure but no less painful conditions have also claimed a large number of victims. And, unfortunately, far, far too many of these victims are going without treatment, unaware that they are not alone in their suffering.