In the United States, mental health issues affect a significant number of people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 5 Americans is affected by a mental health condition. This is a staggering number and only covers those who honestly admit that they have a problem or seek help. This infers that the number could be even higher. This post examines what mental health issues are and how they may affect your ability to drive. It also explains how you can seek help if you believe you need it.
How Do You Define Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a broad term that includes many different types of mental health problems. It is the most commonly used term for describing mental, psychological, or emotional conditions that impair a person’s ability to function day to day. A few common mental health conditions include:
- Anxiety: Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry, and tension, often accompanied by physical symptoms. It is difficult to determine the exact cause of anxiety disorders, but they are thought to be triggered by genetic and environmental factors.
- Depression: Depression is a mental illness that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by persistent sadness and despair, and can be challenging to shake these feelings off. This can be especially dangerous when driving, as there is a correlation between depression and DUI rates.
- Personality disorders: Personality disorders are a set of mental disorders that make it difficult for an individual to relate to other people. They are characterized by abnormal patterns of behavior, thoughts, and emotions.
- Eating disorders: An eating disorder is an abnormal eating behavior or a disturbance in how someone’s body weight or shape is managed. People with an eating disorder may restrict food intake, binge eat, or exercise excessively to overcompensate. It is often connected with other illnesses like anxiety and depression.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: OCD manifests as recurrent and intrusive thoughts, impulses, or images that make an individual feel driven to perform a particular behavior repeatedly.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD is a mental health condition caused by exposure to or experiencing a traumatic event. A person with PTSD may experience flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and other forms of emotional distress.
Mental illness can be a complicated condition to deal with. Mental health experts recommend getting help from professionals who can provide you with the right treatment plan to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Mental illness can have an enormous impact on a person’s quality of life. However, most mental health issues are difficult to define because they are hard to measure, and may trigger different symptoms in different people.
There is also a close correlation between mental health issues and substance abuse. People who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other substances are at higher risk of developing mental and emotional conditions. However, people who have mental health issues may start taking addictive substances as a coping mechanism, which may eventually lead to substance addiction.
Mental illnesses are diagnosed by a qualified professional. Many mental health experts agree that a chemical imbalance in the brain may contribute to the development of a mental health issue. Some mental health conditions may affect a person’s cognitive function, concentration and decision making. These and other concerns can drastically reduce an individual’s ability to drive safely, as highlighted below.
How Can Mental Illness Affect Your Driving Ability?
Regardless of where you live, mental illness can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. However, the negative impact of mental illness on safe driving tends to be more prevalent in certain areas. This is especially evident in large cities such as San Diego. In fact, one of the most common types of San Diego personal injury accidents is a car crash where one or more driver’s is experiencing intense mental or emotional distress.
Some of the ways mental health issues may affect a driver include:
- Increased instances of reckless driving: Depending on the issue, many people suffering from mental illness have a higher propensity towards reckless driving. This could be due to feelings of low self worth, suicidal ideation, or other factors.
- Reduced motor function: People who are overwhelmed by emotions may exhibit reduced motor function on occasion. For example, a person with PTSD who experiences an emotional flashback may freeze up for a moment or two. Such a pause when driving can lead to devastating and potentially fatal car accidents.
- Increased instances of road rage: Increased irritability is a common symptom of prevalent mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. This means individuals with these conditions may become upset more quickly and are more likely to have road rage than someone who is able to regulate his or her emotions well.
- Distracted driving: Individuals who are experiencing anxiety or depression may allow their minds to wander into the past or the future. While almost everyone is susceptible to this, it can be more pronounced in people with a mental health diagnosis.
- Impaired driving due to substance abuse: As mentioned earlier, people with mental health issues are at higher risk of substance abuse. Substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs can reduce a driver’s ability to see, stay awake, process information from his or her environment, and react appropriately. Individuals with mental health concerns who use these substances to cope are at extremely high risk of experiencing a car accident.
Do these facts suggest that people who are diagnosed with a mental health condition should not be allowed to drive. No. Many common mental health issues are highly treatable. In fact, there are a variety of effective therapeutic approaches that are available today.
How You Can Treat A Mental Illness
Mental illnesses are treatable, but it’s essential that you find the treatment that is right for you. In many cases, the type of treatment you pursue may depend on factors such as your diagnosis, the severity of your symptoms, and the cost of treatment. However, there are steps that most people can take to improve their mental health. One of these steps is having regular conversations with friends and family members about their feelings. This will allow them to get support from trusted individuals who care about them and can help them feel supported during moments of distress. This doesn’t mean that you should talk about your feelings 24/7, but it’s crucial to ask for support when you need it most.
Another important step to boost your mental health is avoiding alcohol and drugs. These substances can trigger mental health issues or make them worse. If someone you know has mental health concerns and comorbid addiction, it is important that he or she seeks professional help. This may involve enrolling into a rehab program, taking medication, and working with a trained therapist on healthy coping strategies.
Many people have been able to overcome their mental concerns after seeking treatment. This has allowed them to go back to school, work, or carry out routine daily functions such as driving. With their thoughts and emotions under control, these individuals are able to live happy and fulfilling lives. If you are struggling with a mental health concern right now, talking to a licensed therapist may help.