For those who have never dealt with the demon that is a mental health disorder, count yourselves lucky.
Reports from the CDC show an estimated 1 in 10 adults in the USA have been diagnosed with depression in some form or another. Another 7% of adults and children in the USA are reported to suffer from Bipolar Disorder, in one of it’s two forms. Over 3.5 million people in the USA have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. These numbers are astounding, and are growing each and every year. The reasons in which mental health disorders run so prevalent in today’s society vary greatly, from genetics, to diet, lack of exercise, job and family life, financial stress, and more.
Those who deal with mental illness of any sort may or may not need to be medicated. Depending on the severity of the disorder, managing the symptoms without medication may be feasible through cognitive therapies, counseling, diet change, and other methods of self-help. Not only can mental illness take a toll on your mind; it can also take a toll on your body.
How Mental Illness Can Affect Your Appearance
Many people suffering from different forms of mental illness tend to lose interest in keeping up on their appearance. It’s almost as if it happens subconsciously, and once they’re aware it’s usually due to a friend or family member pointing it out. Mental illness can cause one to want to sleep, not get dressed, not comb or style their hair, forgo makeup products and generally have a disinterest in looking any better than they have to. It’s part of the illness, and it can be difficult to push yourself to want to make the effort to just get dressed in the morning when all you want to do is stay in bed.
Mental illness can take a toll on your appearance when you lose sleep due to the illness, as it can cause dark circles under the eyes and an overall tired appearance. Stress caused by depression, anxiety, panic and bipolar disorder produce excess cortisol – which can not only lead to weight gain, but can also affect the aging process. It can prematurely age your skin, causing you to develop wrinkles, fine lines, and blotches. Stress can also trigger acne and other blemishes.
Depression can wreak havoc on your skin because of the hormonal imbalances that take place with the disorder. If your hormones are affected, any number of things can happen within your body. When it comes to your skin, it can lead to dullness, acne, a tired appearance and puffy eyes. It can also cause your hair to fall out in clumps, due to excess hormone production.
There are many skin conditions that can develop due to mental illness and the stress it causes on the body. Some of the most common being:
- Eczema – presents in dry, itchy patches as well as flaky, irritated patches of skin
- Psoriasis – much like eczema, however; can develop pustules or blisters as well as flaky plaques which flake off and itch uncontrollably
- Trichotillomania – a common yet mostly unheard of hair pulling condition which is affected by impulse control; also considered a mental illness; usually triggered by high levels of stress or depression. Typically develops in adolescent years.
- Itching – Can occur all over the body with no definitive cure or reason besides excess hormone production
There are various treatments for these diseases which can be implemented into your daily life to prevent them taking control of your skin’s appearance. Some of the most common and natural ways to treat these disorders without medication – or along with your prescribed medication – are as follows:
- Exercise – known to increase the production and release of serotonin, the hormone which makes you feel happy and peaceful. It also boosts self-confidence, self-worth, and overall body function as well as health.
- Vitamin Supplements – certain supplements, such as St. John’s Wart, and Vitamin B12, are known to affect the mental state in a positive way. These natural methods can be used in certain situations as a healthy alternative to medication, or in conjunction with your currently prescribed medications. Always check with your doctor before starting or stopping a new supplement or medication. If you are currently prescribed medications to alleviate the suffering from a mental disease, it is essential to health and well-being to continue on your prescribed medications unless your doctor says otherwise.
- Diet Change – Changes in your diet could mean the difference between suffering and being cured. Some people, such as those who have a gluten intolerance, develop depression and anxiety problems due to their diet alone. In certain cases, changing the diet to include more fresh, raw foods and ridding your diet of processed foods or grains will make all the difference. Again, always check with your doctor before changing your diet. Perhaps certain tests may be in order to determine the existence of an underlying condition.
- Joining a Support Group – Sometimes all a person needs is someone to relate to. Connecting with others who are going through the same thing as you are can really help make a difference in a big way – and it can also allow you to help someone else through their tough times.
- Finding a Hobby to Keep Busy – Finding something you enjoy doing and sticking with it is a surefire way to keep your mind off of the things that ail you, and can help improve your mentality. Make time every day for you, to do something you generally enjoy. Even if it’s only for 15-30 minutes a day, you know you can look forward to that time which belongs to you. If you can develop a schedule where, at the same time every day, you complete that special ‘you’ time, it can make all the difference.
- Practice Good Skin Care – Being that this article is tailored towards how mental illness can affect your skin and appearance, finding the strength and motivation to practice good skin care is essential. Even if you just cleanse your face once per day and apply a moisturizer, it will only require a few minutes of your time – and you will at least feel somewhat better knowing you are trying for something and keeping up on your appearance to the best of your ability.
- Take a Multivitamin – Taking a good multivitamin can help replenish your body with the minerals and vitamins it may be lacking in, which could also exacerbate symptoms and make you feel worse. It’s important for overall health and body to take a good multivitamin each morning to be your healthiest.
Mental illness is a disease, much like any other disease. Things like Diabetes and Cancer need treatment in order for the person suffering to thrive and live. The same goes for those afflicted with mental illness. It’s certainly a matter to be taken seriously.
The one bit of advice I can offer you on a personal level is this: never give up. Even when things are their bleakest, and it feels like darkness surrounds you, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I have suffered through depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and Trichotillomania (otherwise known as Trich) most of my life. I understand the severity of mental illness. It’s a battle I fight almost daily. It can be extremely difficult to know where to turn sometimes. If it wasn’t for my supportive husband, and mother, and the close relationship I have with God, I truly don’t know where I would be today. Every day is a new day, and life is truly beautiful. Your mental illness doesn’t define you. Seek happiness, and never allow yourself to suffer. There’s too much to look forward to in the world; too much beauty to surround yourself with.
Don’t you ever give up.