There are no "dumb" questions when it comes to mental illness, said Dr. Joe Parks, senior medical advisor to the National Council for Behavioral Health. Here, he addresses WH readers' concerns.
Q: Can I pass my mental illness on to my kids?
A: Mental disorders are a complex combination of nature and nurture. Genes play a role, but children can also pick up behaviors from you that may increase their risk. The best way to protect your family is to get treatment for yourself.
Q: Will I get progressively worse or, if I get better, relapse?
A: Untreated, people do tend to get worse. But with the right care, full recovery is possible—even in severe cases. You might hit bumps along the way (about half of people diagnosed with depression will relapse, for example), so call your doctor the second you're worried. The sooner you get help, the more effective it will be.
Q: Is medication really just masking my symptoms?
A: Medications for mental illness function the same way as, say, blood pressure meds do: by stopping symptoms. And you wouldn't necessarily say those drugs are "masking" hypertension. For unknown reasons, some people's mental disorders will come back after tapering off drugs, while others may never appear again.
Q: Insurance doesn't cover my meds. What can I do?
A: Visit needymeds.org for a list of programs that help patients pay for medications. Similarly, many drug companies are now partnering with charities to help people cover Rx costs; find a list at pparx.org.
This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Women's Health, on newsstands now. Go to our Mental Health Awareness center for more content like this and to find out how you can help break the stigma surrounding mental illness.