Mental Illness is an Isolating and Lonely Disease
Mental illness is an isolating and lonely disease. This is not to say that everyone diagnosed with a mental illness feels alone in their struggle, but many of us do, most of us do at some point in our recovery. Because I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of twelve, I have often felt lonely and as if very few people could really understand me. And now, twelve years later, I still struggle with a feeling that I am alone in my illness, that despite a concerted effort on the behalf of those who love me, they cannot really understand the struggle. These thoughts, these feelings, are normal in connection to mental illness, because by nature, mental illness is a lonely and isolating disease.
Mental Illness as a Lonely Disease
The word lonely is defined as a feeling of being alone, of feeling separated from others, being unsure how to connect to those we feel are on the outside of our experience, our world. If a person has been diagnosed with a mental illness later in their lives, perhaps in their twenties or thirties, years when one is expected to thrive, the illness can abruptly sever relationships.
Mental illness lends itself to isolation, instills a fear that we are different than others. Sometimes, it feels like we are wearing a sign that states we have a mental illness. It can seem easier to separate ourselves from the world, to believe that we are different. Feeling alone, segregating ourselves, spurs a state of isolation.
Mental Illness is an Isolating Disease
Isolation is a feeling of chronic emptiness. A belief that one does not belong. A fear of life and of others: isolation, anxiety and depression. It can define mental illness and negatively effect recovery and the sense of self. When a person is diagnosed with a mental illness their perception of themselves changes. Life can seem divided: before the diagnosis and after. It can be hard to separate and integrate the person you are now from the person you believe you were before.
Reclaiming Your Life From the Isolation and Loneliness of Mental Illness
This is not easy, but it is possible, and the process is rewarding. First, work to understand that you are more than your mental illness: you are the same person you were before the diagnosis, maybe you are functioning better, and your life is manageable. Recovery has become a state of being and not just a pursuit to achieve it.
It can be beneficial to seek therapy. Talking about how isolated you feel, how you feel you are different from others is helpful. A competent therapist, a therapist that you can feel comfortable with (this is very important), can help you understand that you are not different than others (Six Tips on How to Find a Great Mental Health Counselor).
It helps to remember that people are simply different from each other and this is what makes us unique. This is what makes the world an interesting and accomplished place. You are unique, but you are not exclusively unique. Try to think of what makes you special: the things you do for fun, painting or running for example, traits that define you as a person. Remind yourself that you are you; you are never defined by mental illness alone.
You cannot ignore the fact that you have a mental illness, you need to treat mental illness effectively, and work to become or stay recovered, but your life, your personality, is much more than the diagnosis that your psychiatrist has written beside your name. If you can do this, then it is possible to connect with others, and not just those who have a mental illness, people that were your friends before the diagnosis, and the new ones you will meet after.
Jeanne, N. (2011, October 6). Mental Illness is an Isolating and Lonely Disease, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2011/10/mental-illness-is-an-isolating-and-lonely-disease
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
"Mental illness"? "Disease"? These are medical terms. What's the physiological cause-effect model substantial evidence supports leads to the specific illness? What are the internationally medically agreed upon clinical physiological diagnostic criteria for each disease? Are there social components of the so-called disease? If so, precisely how do social and verifiable physiological causes lead to specific conditions?
Social psychologists and other scholars around the world are beginning to seriously question the prevailing Western "mental illness" model. Good thing, too, since despite all the supposedly expert publications about "mental illness," rates of many so-called diseases keep increasing. And year over year, suicide rates (in the US...) have been increasing, too. These strike me as counterintuitive if the professional mental health community both understands the causes of what they've named "mental illness" and has effective treatments for it.
Thank you for this information thank you for caring...passing this on to my family..
Thank you for writing this. I have isolated and been lonely for a long time. For the past 6 years I barely leave my house. My wife supports us and I watch my baby girl. She saved my life. But sometimes I ask myself "Why?" The only answer I have is to be her daddy. So I make sure I do everything right I possibly can for her. Then I fear she will struggle with my loneliness when im gone. That terrifies me, I have no counselors in my area so it is up to me. I have had lets say MANY suicides within my family. My family has had nothing to do with me for years. Im a quiet and polite person but I have forces working against me. I just started stop driving. Im a 42 year old man who use to ride bulls. But for the past 6 years I have put myself in a box. I fear I may never get out of it. I honestly do not remember my last friend? I live a very lonely isolated life. I see no way out but I refuse to give up.
This is so great to read..it really helps to know I'm not the only one who feels this way
I am just coming out of a 2 year depressive period. My diagnosis is MDD, PTSD and severe anxiety. I had to break up with my finance and loose my job to finally start to feel better (along with different med mixtures). It's horrible that one has to keep going to a job each day in which they are treated like a looser just to keep their health insurance. A job that feels like it is slowly killing you.
On top of this my best friend of 20 years dumps me because she thinks the psych meds I take are additive and I am a drug addict. A second good friend decided I was not giving her enough time and attention and decide to dump me. In this age people can just delete you from their life so easily. Ive never been this low before. Everyday I drove home from work I tried to figure out a way to kill myself. For me depression feels like I am in quick sand all alone struggling and struggling to get out, but nothing works and I want to just stop struggling and lay back and die. I am so scared this depression will come back. I'm not sure I can get through a period like that again. I'm so afraid they will run out of drugs that work for me. I am 51 years old and know that quite a few of the current meds can't be taken by the elderly. When am I "the elderly"? I would love to find a partner in life, however, I feel like I am so damaged, it wouldn't be fair to subject anyone else to my disease. Besides, how many people would put up with this? How many people can handle this? Very few. I would have been better off with a brain tumor. The chances of being cured or going into remission is far greater than living a life with severe depression. Friends wouldn't leave me. My employer would be more sympathetic, people would bring be casseroles. Yes, mental illness is a very lonely life long disease. What is so great about living to 80? Just prolonged pain.
I want to help people struggling with mental illness. I'm not sure where to start. I feel that my strength is coming back finally after my last hospitalization. I have been living with being bi-polar since I was 17. I am now 38 and have been married to an amazing guy for 13 years. I had my son 4 years ago. I was hospitalized for 4 months of my pregnancy and I am still recovering from that. Medication has helped me greatly. I had to go off Lithium when I was 36 due to kidney dysfunction. I am on Zeldox now and I have been stable for 4 years. Thank you Natalie for putting into words the support we need.
Hi Ms. Natalie,
im trying to figure out which mental illness do i have, ever since when i was a child, i face always a family problem,i grew up with my grandparents, when my grandfather died,all of the sudden i get angry,desperate and lonely,he is the only one who is showing me the true care, and love of a parent,even a single bad word i never heard from him,it takes years for me to recover,i heal myself alone with nobody,but through prayers i make it.when everything is fine, i get close to my mother, i try to understand everything,my mom died, this is the worse ever feelings that i encounter,my dad, is abusing me through bad words,my younger brother and sister they use too,and bugs me without reason,i decided to go abroad, i try to understand everything that happened for a reason,i help my brother to work in the company where i am working now,but still he is verbal abusive and he is trying to bugs me..my uncle ask me for a help,his daughter whose life is more on cruelty,i help to find job here in the company all i thought they will change,but sad to say..its terrible hurting me,he is trying to destroy my reputation,and this what makes me feel sad,now i decided to go out from the house where we are staying i will live alone,where i know i can live peacefully,i want to cure my illness,of being abuse and sad..they always use to judge of the things that i never done,and i become too much sensitive becuase of them..i hope i am doing the right decision..instinct talk.
I know a lot of people who struggle with mental illness find solace in prayers and faith--it can be an important part of self-care. Sounds tough trying to recover on your own; recovering from mental illness is difficult when you have many people supporting you, let alone few. Support groups can be very helpful. I agree: things do happen for a reason. In regards to "curing" mental illness, that's a tough one. I try to live day by day and focus more on recovery than a cure. Stay strong and thank you for the comment.
i do think this is a good article but suffers from one thing that i have noticed.Most of the people who articulate in the blogsphere from a patient perspective are exclusively Bi-polar.The weakness of this is that Bi-polar has a wholly physical component and therapy is to deal with the consequences of that.Depression and anxiety and agrophobia can be cured by therapy alone
This leads me to my real point i lost trust in my parents at a very early age,i never fullfilled my academic potential due to not learning to read till age seven,dispite having no physical or mental reason,very poor social skills which meant i was bullied and then becoming imensely unpopular at work.However i did not suffer any mental illness till i had a complete meltdown at age thirty.I read about people saying their partner/wife husband not understanding them what if you have never had that kind of relationship and are now incapable of it.Its not because i am ill i don't understand being normal but because i have never experienced it mentally ill or not.
Coping with lonliness and isolation is a good thing because it is normal,move from a small town to a large city use that as an example and people will be able to relate to mental illness.
I agree on many points. I also lost trust in my parents but they lost trust in me as well. Nasty cycle. Relationships can improve if both sides are willing. That's a hard part. Thanks for the great comment.
I was very depressed for 2 years and was prescribed medication. I had counselling and found work very difficult. Part of the problem was my working environment and family bereavement and when I got the chance I took voluntary redundancy.
I am over it now but looking back there were some very dark days. It takes time and it seems like there is no way out of the dark cloud but it is possible. I now have a 3 year old son and enjoy most days of the week and Im back to playing sport and socialising. I will never forget that dark period in my life though.
I agree that our environment can positively or negatively influence our mental health as well as stress---often stress contributes to my illness. I applaud you for putting your health first and taking time to get well. Congratulations on your son!
Thank you for the comment,
In 1981 I was diagnose with Bi Polar. I was put on Lithium my life change. The missing piece was connected. I have been able to accomplished a lot. I'm a creative writer. The Sherlock family Recovery story is publish at www.12stepplanet.com and www. intherooms I have a blog monica sherlock. I have had my Sculptures in Galleries and my Prints in Mental Health Art Show. I was a florist for many years and now hairdresser. Monica Sherlock
Lithium can change lives. It has change mine but, as you mention, it cannot cure our illness only control the chemical part of it. I look forward to your blog and hope others will read it as well! Congratulations on your recovery--that is what this blog is about.
I was just diagnosed with major depressive disorder.have suffered since I was 10. 30 years later I still struggle every day and I find it so very hard to accept. No one else does. I go to therapy and still havent found my way. I dont know who I am anymore. I find I am alone alot more now since. It is a scary place to be.
Depression lingers in my life to. You sort of get used to it, well, you try. Acceptance is a long road but finding it makes living with a mental illness easier. You are not alone. There are thousands of people on this website alone who share your struggle and I am one of them. Hang in there.
OMG! I only recently, in the last 5 months that I have been depressed realized that since I was a teenager I've suffered from these extreme highs and lows. Only since this current episode of depression have I felt that I really want to die. I am 32 years old and get really bad anxiety attacks or panic attacks, that start with horrendous fear of I-dont-know-what! :( I only started to realize this now that I am an adult and feel that I need to take care of this or else I will not live to 35. This past holiday, as I laid in bed, after sleeping for 12 hours and refusing to get up or take the covers off over my head, I had the scary realization that I would rather die than spend another year with this terrible fear and the feeling that even if God put me in this earth for a reason, I will not fulfill it because I am incapable of doing so. I have called my doctor and will talk to her about being referred to someone. I fear that any given moment I might hurt myself and I would hate to put my family through such pain. Hopefully I can see the light before I become totally dark...
I'm sorry for such a negative post. But this is the first time I ever posted anything like this. I feel that I need to get it out.
Thank you so much for reaching out.
These initial feelings of coming to grips with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety are not unusual. It can be overwhelming. I’ve felt that way myself and, at times, still do. I’m glad to hear that you have contacted your doctor and getting a referral to a psychiatrist and/or psychologist. Getting a reliable diagnosis is an important first step. Be sure to mention all of your symptoms to the doctor, including that you have very depressing thoughts about suicide and not going on living like this. The doctor needs to know this to help make a proper diagnosis as well as putting together a treatment plan.
One thing I want to leave you with for now – with proper treatment and support, people with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or other mental illnesses DO live better lives. It takes dedication to treatment, having a support team and some other things, but feeling significantly better and living a better life is worth it.
In the meantime, if you are feeling suicidal, here is trustworthy information on suicide along with a toll-free suicide hotline number:
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
I find that it is hard to tell the difference between what is my illness and what is normal situations in life that one responds too. Personally, I have always hated my life. Thrice I became homeless when sick and this last time I was totally without a desire to get back on my feet. I am still struggling!
I didn't have any highs just debilitating depression. Everything hits me hard. I feel like normal life events take me to a place that I find difficult to understand. My stress is trying to ignore that I am sick and act like I am not sick.
I think that the illness forces us to think about alternative ways of being and living. Work is the hardest thing to manage. Concentrating on tasks and dealing with people for 8 hours is challenging. I come home completely drained and I don't want to leave my house.
I take 12 pills a day and I am still in a depression. I don't want to do anything, or see anyone. I am tired of trying to be a way I cannot be. I won't be normal and I don't even know what that would be like. I have always been sick, so this is my only gage.
Being sick is multi-layered, such as, issues with family disconnect. Not understanding my situation - after all in some way I have chosen this problem and I need to try harder to get better. I am so tired of carrying the guilt.
My sweetheart tries to accept the illness, my limitations and celebrate my strengths.
This year I am going to adjust my life to truly accommodate who I am with this illness and everything else. No more trying to be normal; instead, I am going to live as me.
Thank you for sharing your thoguhts/experience with the healthy place community. I know many of us can relate to this topic. It is still hard for me to seperate life stress causing mood changes and relapse. It is frankly terrifying. Right now I am feeling a little down, maybe a lot if I am to be honest, and I am able to recognize that this stress im feeling, depression, is probably associated to major life changes. But it hurts and scares me anyway. I also do not have any huge highs, I have bipolar type II, so hypo-mania and mixed episodes if my meds go out of whack. I havent had a hypo-manic episode since I was on the right meds but the depression gets me every year. It's tough. I take many pills as well--two little handfulls twice a day. They cannot always make you 100% better---but they make the ride easier and life possible.
Thank you for your coment,
we all need to support each other!
Natalie,your article gives very potent insights into a mental illness,to those who are outside.More people should read it to understand why mental patients complain of having no friends.I really wish i could help whomsoever i can but this requires face to face counseling.
However i write my blog posts for this very purpose.I hope i am of some benefit to the suffers.my blog is http://jeeteraho.blogspot.com
Thank you you for the positive feedback. Your blog is excellent and I hope people do take a look!
I am feeling really bad the last few nights and reading this has helped. The older i get the less i am around anyone unless i have to be. I know why i am this way but i am currently on the second antideppressent i have tried in a year on a high dose. Because i dont have insurance i have never really had a proper diagnosses but its complicated, as i have suffered all forms of abuse, had two addict parents, and i am recovering from addiction myself. I hope people read this and try and get help. I just need more help.
Thank you for your comment and for relating to my blog. Your situation sounds really difficult, but having a chronic mental illness is difficult, on its own and often lends itself to other issue as you are experiencing. Growing up in a dysfunction family, I did as well, is confusing. Their is a lot of new research indicating that a second anti-depressant can be helpful. If I start to stuffer with seasonal affective disorder, my doctor and I have a plan to use a low dose of Wellbutrin with my Prozac.
Thank you for commenting as I know what a terribly lonely disease this is. But just knowing there are people who suffer with it and are recovering can help the process immensely. Stay strong.
Thank you for writing this because I am feeling very lonely and isolated right now. I haven't been stable for three years and it is very difficult. I've lost friends due to my bipolar and it hurts. I don't think people understand me , not even my husband. But things can get better.
Thank you for your comment:) It is a very difficult and isolating disease: it's so hard to reach out. My partner also does not understand completely. People can't unless they live it. Stay strong!