You’ve probably heard the term “suck” before, especially if you have mental health issues. If you’ve never learned how to improve your well-being and take care of your emotional struggles, you might experience mental health issues more often than not. You don’t help yourself when you delay taking steps to take care of your mental health, it only increases the levels of emotional suffering.
The prevalence of mental health problems
Our world is facing a mental health crisis of magnificent proportions.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults suffered from a mental illness in 2021, with varying degrees of severity. Mental health researchers claim that 50% of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and 75% of all mental illnesses are in place by age 24. A 2022 survey by Mental Health America found that more than half of all adults with mental illness do not receive treatment and more than 2.5 million young people in the United States suffer from severe major depression. Untreated mental illness also has major global ramifications. Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity.
What creates emotional pain?
Feeling emotions is part of being human and pain is part of life. However, without adequate emotional support, it is easy to get lost in the flood.
The number one reason people suffer from mental health issues is due to a lack of clinical or therapeutic support to get through these difficult times and experiences in life. Emotional pain without the appropriate clinical interventions leads to suffering. Painful moments in life, aided by adequate emotional support, lead to growth.
The Ripple Effect of Untreated Mental Health Issues and Emotional Suffering
Untreated mental illness has a profound impact on a person’s individual life as well as their ability to form meaningful relationships. Here are five important ways that suffering from mental health issues without proper treatment can have a profound impact on your life:
- Untreated mental health issues can lead to a higher incidence of physical illness and disability. People with serious mental illnesses have an increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and cancer.
- Protracted and untreated mental health problems are correlated with increased incidences of social isolation, poverty, homelessness and incarceration. About two in five people in prison have a history of mental illness, with women reporting twice the percentage of men in prison.
- Untreated mental health issues affect financial well-being and workplace productivity. People with mental health issues are 3.5 times more likely to have financial debt problems than those without mental health issues.
- Physiologically, an untreated mental illness means that your autonomic nervous system is primarily focused on survival mode and maintaining the status quo in order to eliminate incidences of perceived stress or threat.. The allocation of energy needed to “cope” means that there is very little energy left to thrive in life.
- Untreated mental health issues lead to higher levels of procrastination and inaction in your life. The more you avoid doing what it takes to take care of yourself, the more drained you feel in the long run, both emotionally and physically.
How to Stop Emotional Pain
You can reduce your suffering by taking intentional steps to process your emotional pain. It helps to remember that emotional pain, with the kind of clinical support needed, can actually provide teachable moments in your life.
Here are some steps to reduce the emotional pain in your life.
- Pay attention to the repeated patterns of difficulties in your life. These useless patterns that appear reflect some sort of choice you’re making that just isn’t working for you.
- Take your pain seriously. When you recognize that certain choices are no longer working for you, commit to dealing with those issues as you would if you had a serious physical illness or health crisis.
- Look into the difficult feelings that accompany emotional pain. Learning to open yourself to the lessons behind your repeated difficult experiences requires you to develop the emotional stamina to be with all of your feelings, including the unpleasant ones.
- Ask for help/support. As humans, you are inherently wired to distance yourself from all forms of pain. Without expert guidance, it will be impossible for you to get where you need to go with your feelings on your own.
When you are in pain, it can be easy to fall into inaction, to just “get through it”. Yet your emotions are part of what makes you human, and ignoring them or allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by them is neither helpful nor productive. Emotional pain will not resolve itself.
Instead of avoiding difficult emotions, learn to access them with less resistance and give yourself what you need, even if it means asking for help or making big emotional efforts. And at the end of the day, the most important thing is to feel better, not just to “get through it”. “Just getting by” leads to more suffering.
To find a therapist near you, visit Psychology Today’s Directory of Therapies.