While everyone occasionally struggles to cope with life, mental illnesses are ongoing conditions that cause many women to suffer in silence. Sometimes, there’s an obvious difference between neurotypical behavior and mental illness, but in other cases, the distinction isn’t as clear. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Mental Health?

Keeping tabs on your mental well-being involves observing patterns in your thoughts, moods, emotions and behaviors. You may have a mental illness if changes in the way you think and feel are significant enough to disrupt your daily life.

A mental illness may affect how well you can:

  • Maintain relationships with friends, family and colleagues
  • Behave in social situations
  • Perform at work or school
  • Respond to challenges in a mature, emotionally healthy way
  • Keep a realistic, positive self-image
  • Find meaning, purpose and joy in your life

How Do Professionals Diagnose Mental Illnesses?

Doctors, psychiatrists, clinical social workers and other experts use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to identify several hundred mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.

The most current edition, the DSM-5-TR, provides criteria for providing an accurate diagnosis based on the nature, duration and impact of signs and symptoms. It also describes the typical progression of the disorder, risk factors and common co-occurring conditions.

What Causes Mental Illness?

No single contributing factor explains why some people struggle with their mental well-being and others do not. Mental illnesses are complex, and usually, several intersecting variables are involved.

  • Genetics: If you have a family history of mental health disorders, you may be more likely to develop one yourself.
  • Recent events or changes in your life: Some stressful or frightening experiences can trigger conditions like trauma and situational depression.
  • Physical illnesses: Receiving a diagnosis of a chronic condition like cancer or diabetes can be scary and make your future feel uncertain.
  • Adverse childhood events: A history of abuse, neglect, family crises or other major life events in childhood can follow you through to your adult years.
  • Loneliness: Studies on social engagement and mental health show an obvious connection between isolation and mental illnesses.
  • Substance use: Many times, mental health disorders and addiction are a chicken-and-egg situation. Each part of a dual diagnosis will fuel the other as they increase in severity side by side.

You Are Never Alone

Many women with mental illness have learned various ways to mask their symptoms, including unhealthy coping mechanisms intended to sweep complex emotions under the rug. You might avoid asking for help because you fear the stigma you might face. However, if you have any cause for concern about your well-being, don’t hesitate to reach out for advice.

Consult your primary care doctor or make an appointment with a mental health specialist such as a therapist. You might want to prioritize finding a professional who specializes in treating women or focuses on your specific issues, like trauma or anxiety. Working with a provider who understands the social context that’s relevant to your life can help you find personalized solutions.

In Rising Roads Recovery’s women’s-only environment, you can get the support, care and compassion necessary to start recovering from a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness. Reach out to us today to learn more.