When does grief over the death of a loved one or a breakup become clinical depression? Are you absentminded or do you have dementia? In a time where doctors and patients alike are quick to diagnose and prescribe pills for “psychiatric conditions” that may be no more than the ups and downs of a normal life, Allen Frances, professor emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Duke University School of Medicine and author of Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life suggests an alternative involving our own natural resilience.
For those of us not seriously ill, but rather just one of the many worried well, there are many ways to make sure we maintain our own mental well-being.
Time and resilience are almost always on your side. Symptoms that are mild and stress related are probably just part of life and will get better on their own or if you make some simple life or psychological adjustments. I can’t repeat enough times- don’t jump to the conclusion that you are sick just because you are sad or anxious. Give yourself time to sort things out and to see how nature takes its course. And do the obviously helpful things that most people know they should do, but don’t. Exercise, exercise, and exercise- it is a great healer of both mental and physical problems. Make sure you are getting enough sleep- sleep deprivation causes psychiatric symptoms. Reduce or eliminate your intake of alcohol or substances. Reach out to friends and family. Seek spiritual help. Figure out what you would most like to do and put more good minutes into your day. Identify which problems are causing you grief and then figure out solutions. Off load whatever stress you can safely off load. All this may seem trite and commonsensical, but trite commonsensical solutions really do work for everyday problems.
Natural resilience and simple solutions won’t work if your symptoms are severe and/or persistent. Real mental disorders need attention from a mental health clinician. Don’t be shy about getting professional help when you need it, but avoid it when you don’t.”
For more advice on mental well-being and an in-depth critique of the current mental health system, look for Saving Normal, available now wherever books and e-books are sold.