“Serious” Mental Illness

…….as opposed to what, exactly? Mental illness that’s just for fun?

I see this term bandied about a lot in the press and on the psychological websites I visit, and I wonder sometimes exactly what it’s supposed to mean. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the various psychotic disorders are the ones most frequently included in this category. I’m not sure why anxiety disorders aren’t on the list, even though for all intents and purposes, any mental illness that substantially limits one or more life activities is considered “serious”.

For my money, they’re ALL serious. They all limit life activities. And they all suck.

They are also all potentially lethal. I have a friend diagnosed with generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder who is basically fighting for her life right now, thanks to a severe episode of depression with a generous side of anxiety. Like me, she recently found herself unemployed and is having to consider major changes in her lifestyle; unfortunately, she lives in a distant state and doesn’t have the support system I do, and she is struggling against being swept away by waves of despair. Yeah, I’d call that pretty serious.

She has previously attempted suicide, twice. However, she promised me when we were texting last night that she wouldn’t harm herself, even though she felt she wanted to. She reported that she was sitting on her bedroom floor, more or less paralyzed by her fears, unable to get up or even open the door because her arms were “too heavy”. I urged her to call her psychiatrist to adjust her meds, or simply go to the ER and be evaluated for admission. I can’t do anything for her, except for providing a crying towel. She’s sick, she obviously needs professional intervention to get better. And yet, her disorder isn’t taken as “seriously” by the establishment as mine is.

Frankly, I don’t think psychiatric illnesses should be categorized this way, especially for those which fall outside the realm of “serious”. There isn’t even a name for them (what do the people who make this stuff up call them? “Non-serious”? Or simply “other”?). Just because depression and anxiety seem comparatively uncomplicated when measured against the mysteries of bipolar or psychotic disorders doesn’t make them less difficult to treat, nor does it minimize the danger to the individual.  I know from my own experiences with severe anxiety that it’s one of the worst states I can be in, because that’s when I start feeling the need to flee, and then the suicidal thoughts come. And that is serious.

I think my friend will be OK. She texted me again a little while ago and said her p-doc is increasing her Effexor and gave her a script for PRN Klonopin, and she says she already feels better knowing she will feel better soon.  I’m glad for her, and maybe tonight I’ll be able to get to sleep before 1:30 AM. But I also know that if my husband ever has to drag me to Dr. A’s office in the kind of condition she was in last night, I probably won’t be sent home with a bottle of pills. Just saying.

OK, rant over.  Remember: all mental illness is serious. Thank you.


Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

10 thoughts on ““Serious” Mental Illness

  1. Yes, they are. No matter what their name is, its serious.
    I’m dealing with Borderline, supported kindly with Major depressive disorder, Generalized Anxiety, Depersonalization, Self harm, six suicide attempts, and yet, I still haven’t found a serious a and good psych, because when they see a BPD as a first diagnosis, they ….well either reject me from treatment, or the treatment fails.
    Currently, I’m left on my own, with the same meds that your friend is taking, and it’s not working.
    I feel for you and your friend, I really hope you will both manage it through the crisis.
    A lot of good vibes, and hang in there. You can make it.


    1. I’m sorry you’re going through all that without a good supportive doctor. I don’t know what I’d do without mine…..I don’t think I’d have made it to this point if it weren’t for his wisdom and caring, and the love of family and friends who may or may not understand what I go through, but they do the best they can.

      I hope you do have a support system, even if you don’t have a Dr. Awesomesauce in your life. Thanks for commenting!


      1. Thanks for commenting…I have nothing to say, though.

        The situation is like this, and that’s it.

        I have given up on “understanding” and “explaining” to my nearest people.

        If you couldn’t understand something what’s going on for ….five years, I think, there’s no point anymore.

        I’m glad that you have all of that: the support, the psych…it really means a lot!

        I’m happy for you and just keep going that way! 🙂


        Liked by 1 person

  2. The press only refers to bipolar and schizophrenia as “serious” because they’re the illnesses that are most stigmatized by society. People don’t realize that all mental illnesses are serious and that bipolar people are no worse acting or feeling than people with anxiety disorder. It irks me sometimes.

    Anxiety is horrible. I get to feeling like I need to flee sometimes, as well.

    Klonopin is a knockout medication. Received a prescription for it several years ago. Didn’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I fought like hell to stay out of the hospital during my last manic cycle. I started hearing voices about halfway through it but I didn’t go because my daughter was graduating from 8th grade/middle school. I only made it because of friends like your friend has in you. I did visit the Dr 2x and it did require 2 med adjustments but I did get through it. My husband was in no way supportive but my “seriously” mental ill friends were. I’ll say a prayer for your friend and I hope she feels better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you all for commenting. It looks like this post struck a nerve and I’m glad. The term “serious mental illness” really needs to be eliminated from our collective vocabulary altogether; there is no sense whatsoever in labeling only certain conditions as “serious”.

    My friend is doing better today. The Klonopin is helping and she actually got some good sleep last night. Thanks for your prayers and healing energies. 🙂


    1. I have to agree with you there. Anxiety is the worst part of all this for me as well. I’m going through a lot of it now, but it’s all situational and can’t really be medicated away.


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