Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post
While most disabilities and disorders are visible to people, there are many that are not. Most invisible disorders are mental, and the most prevalent are anxiety and depression. Whether or not someone is formally diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD) or major depressive disorder, anxiety and depression are things that impact every aspect of those affected lives.
Anxiety is something that I have battled my entire life. When I was young, I overanalyzed everything that I said and did, as well as everything that others said and did to me. I did not know that what I was experiencing was anxiety because that word or concept was never presented to me. As I got older and my life became more intricate, it got worse. It started to show more of itself in my life in the form of perfectionism, sensitivity and self-detriment.
Since I did not know what this affliction was, I tried my best to keep it in. No one, not even my parents and closest friends, truly knew what I was going through. However, this did not change when I learned what it was a few years ago.
I am now more open with how it affected and currently affects me, but to a stranger or even a close acquaintance, I am completely normal. I appear put together, responsible and confident. While these things may be true, the inside perspective is much different.
One of the main things I struggle with is social interactions. Every interaction fills me with doubt. I walk away from a pleasant conversation with a classmate or a professor and think, “Are they upset with me? Was I nice? Did I say something strange?”
Another problem is that without multiple planners and to-do lists, I would be unable to remember both the smallest and biggest things that I have to do. I would rush to every place I had to be and never feel prepared for whatever it was I was attending. The idea of behaving that way gives me nightmares, so to prevent it I plan everything. In fact, I plan so far in advance that it is near impossible for me to live in the moment. I am constantly thinking of what I have to do next hour, day, week or month.
My mind is a perpetual mess of seemingly insignificant worries, no matter how organized it seems from the outside. Its invisibility causes disbelief in some of the people whom I tell about my anxiety. It is disregarded, not taken seriously and occasionally labeled as fabricated. Therefore, according to society, anxiety and all other mental illnesses are not only invisible afflictions, but unimportant or even nonexistent ones.
While it may seem this way to those not impaired, to those who are, it is takes its toll. It results in a colossal problem: The mentally ill cannot recover. To do so, they need awareness and compassion.
Although the awareness of mental illness has been increasing recently, for the idea of an invisible illness to be real in our society, awareness must continue to increase. To do this, the psychology of mental disorders should be freely taught and talked about in schools, families and businesses. Through this education and discussion, compassion can become the societal reaction to individuals with a mental illness.
This peaked awareness and heightened compassion will help the mentally ill feel understood. It will be easier for them to see that while their disorder may be invisible, they are not. We are all human beings, mentally afflicted or not, and we all have rights to the same things, even if those things are harder to attain for some of us.
Emily Price is a first-year psychology major and staff writer for the Newswire from Miamisburg, Ohio.