We have all heard the phrases – Time heals all wounds – You can overcome if you just try harder – etc., etc. These platitudes are nice to hear sometimes because they give us short term hope but can have negative affects. So, what happens if depression, grief, PTSD, anxiety or other mental health issues are left untreated?
Our physical health degrades. Our body is designed to take care of itself. When we are stressed or experience a trauma our physical body tries to sustain our emotional/mental state while it tries to heal. This puts our body on high alert to guard us from all possible dangers. To help with this our body releases chemicals in an effort to counteract the stress. These chemicals are dependent on what type of mental health issue is happening and can include an increase in cortisol, norepinephrine, catecholamines or serotonin, as well as, others. All of this combined can cause exhaustion, chronic physical pain, digestive issues, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, heart disease or other physical symptoms.
Loss of self-worth. If we are believing that we can “just get through this” or we can “overcome this if we try harder,” then when symptoms persist, we start to feel as though we are a failure. Once we start down the negative spiral of doubting ourselves and feeling as though we are not good enough to overcome a simple problem, we will start looking for proof that we are not enough, and it heads towards self-hatred.
Loss of financial security. We can hide things for a long time, but as an issue persists the symptoms start coming out. As our thoughts are taken up by thoughts of failure and guilt and trying to figure out how to make sure that no one notices. Then we start experiencing other symptoms like lack of concentration, difficulty with time management, struggling with doing daily tasks, or even difficulty getting out of bed which leads to more sick days from work. As this persists sometimes people lose their jobs because they can not juggle things the way they used to be able to and their performance suffers.
Loss of friendships. When we are suffering our emotions generally are more difficult to control. Irritability or apathy starts happening and our friends do not know what to do but they just start pulling away because it appears we don’t want to be friends any more. We get stuck in our negative self-worth and feel that we are a burden to others or that we are a bother and then pull away to protect others from who we see ourselves as. The more our mental health deteriorates, the more isolated we become which eventually leads us to a place where we are not socializing with others and we feel like we don’t have any friends.
This is a very brief list of things that can happen if mental health issues are left untreated. For everyone there are differences. If this list feels familiar to you, it is time to seek help. There is hope! It might not feel like it right now because you have not experienced the healing before. I have, not only personally, but I spent years providing therapy to others. I have countless experiences helping people heal and recover from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues so I know that it is possible.
If you are hurting, reach out, so that you can experience your own healing.
Trish Pauls, MA RP Registered Psychotherapist