In the world of mental illness activism, there are questions that have a way of coming up more often than others. The most common question, by a landslide, is, “How do I know if I am crazy?” I know what they‘re asking is how to tell if they’re experiencing the symptoms of a mental illness. I do take a quick second to correct the word choice. After all, I don’t like to be called crazy and I don’t like it when other people are called crazy, even if it’s self-referential. Although poorly worded, the question is valid: “How does a person know if they are in need of psychiatric intervention?”
Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, award-winning writer, and activist who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness. He is the recipient of the 2014 Mental Health America Norman Guitry Award, placed second in HealthCentral’s LiveBold competition, was a 2015 WEGO Health Awards Finalist in the Health Activist Category, as well as received a Best of the Web – Blog award.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
Crazy (Mental Illness) Exists on a Spectrum
First, we need to discuss that mental illness – or “crazy” – exists on a spectrum, just as physical illness does. A person with stage four cancer and a person with a headache can both be described as physically ill, but there is a world of difference between the two.
As advocacy groups continue to throw out the statistic that one in four will experience mental illness in a given year, the truth is that everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health. So it is certainly possible to experience a mental health issue without having a chronic life-long illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar and anxiety, etc.
Am I Crazy (Mentally Ill)?
As a mental illness activist, I look forward to the day when, if someone believes they might be experiencing symptoms of mental illness, they just call their local doctor and make an appointment. We are currently pretty far removed from that reality for a number of reasons, not least of which is because many people don’t know that a general practitioner or family doctor is a good place to start.
The standard rule of thumb is that, if you are experiencing symptoms that interfere with the activities of daily living for more than two weeks, you might have a mental health issue. So if you have been unusually sad for two weeks and it has prevented you from going to work or enjoying your hobbies, you might need some help.
If you are experiencing any suicidal thoughts, or otherwise thinking of harming yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to a local emergency room and seek medical care immediately. Mental Illness, even if you call it “crazy,” is an illness and illnesses are treated by medical professionals. Don’t be afraid to seek help — it’ll make a world of difference.