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You're not the only one feeling off balance - over 44 million Americans are living with a mental illness

We all have moments when we feel sad or disconnected, but for some people those uncomfortable emotions are more intense and last much longer.

In the United States, over 44 million Americans live with a mental illness, which includes things like anxiety disorders, addictive behaviors, eating disorders, Schizophrenia, and depression.

Of those disorders, anxiety is one of the most common, affecting approximately 40 million adults. While it may sound like anxiety means just being stressed out, there are different types of the disorder than manifest in different ways.  One example is a panic disorder where people experience panic attacks on a regular basis.

Those attacks can feel unsettling because they are often unpredictable and filled with intense fear. They can also include an accelerated heart rate, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath and sweating.  

Of course, not all mental illness symptoms are the same. In fact, they vary depending on the disorder. Overall, emotions, thoughts and behaviors can all be affected.

Some symptoms can include:

-Feeling sad or down

-Extreme mood changes of highs or lows

-Withdrawal from friends and activities

-Alcohol or drug abuse

-and suicidal thoughts

Anyone can be affected by a mental illness regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. There are also some common risk factors that can trigger symptoms. This includes genetics, stressful life situations, living with a chronic disease and impaired brain chemistry

That said, a diagnosis is typically manageable, especially when you reach out for assistance.

“A good rule of thumb is if you’re thinking about whether or not you should talk to someone, you probably should just do it,” said Psychotherapist Katherine Schafler.

To find help, the first step is to talk to your friends and family. Chances are, someone you know has already been to therapy and can offer recommendations. If you don’t know anyone personally, there are dozens of helpful resources available online.

In many cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Still, close to 60% of Americans with a mental illness don’t receive the mental health services they need.

African American and Latino communities use mental health services at about half the rate of Caucasians. The rate for Asian Americans is even lower, at around one third.

One reason for this disparity is due to the existing inequality in our healthcare system.

“Practitioners aren’t trained most of the time in multicultural awareness and people don’t want to seek help from people who don’t understand and are misinformed about where they’re coming from,” Schafler told Yahoo Lifestyle

She also adds that there are other barriers to help, including the location of a community center offering assistance, the cost, and whether it’s covered by insurance.

Ultimately, many people choose not to get help for their mental health issues because of the stigmas surrounding mental illness in America.

“We’ve come a long way, but were’ still in this place where we associate needed help with a personal weakness,” said Schafler.

“Thinking about it as emotional health and emotional wellness is a better place to start.”