The Costs Of Avoiding Therapy

Mental illness is an incredibly common malady – more than 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some form of it at some point in their life – and yet it remains under a black cloud of cultural stigma.  Many people don’t seek help for illnesses like depression, anxiety and those that arise after traumatic events because they are embarrassed to do so, or they perceive it as a weakness in themselves.

The old songs are true:  Everybody gets the blues sometimes.  And it’s perfectly normal to feel jittery or anxious about uncontrollable life events, especially if they are right around the corner.  Yet, since the symptoms of the chronic forms of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses so closely mirror the normal transient psychological experiences we all experience in life, too many people are suffering needlessly, assuming that their problem is temporary.  They think they can “suck it up,” or “just get over it” and worse, there are voices in society that tell them to do just that.

It will take a lot of work to erase the cultural stigma on seeking help for mental illness, and until we do, millions of people will continue to suffer needlessly.  Chronic mental illness – whether it’s a mild affliction on the bipolar scale, an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, obsessive compulsive disorder or major depression – depletes our human potential and prevents us from achieving the spiritual and emotional well-being we deserve.

People who suffer from mental illnesses who do not seek proper treatment – including therapy and counseling where it is appropriate – pay a heavy cost.  Here are some of the health effects that come from failing to deal with various mental illnesses:


Feeling sad when it is appropriate to feel sad is not an illness.  However, people suffering from chronic depression experience much more:  A lasting melancholy, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, hopelessness and a loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities.  Depression has physical effects as well – it can cause unwanted weight fluctuations, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances and more.  If depression is not treated, it can have major negative effects on a person’s relationships with loved ones, it can hold them back from earning professional success and from achieving personal goals.  All of these can contribute further to the disease, worsening it in a vicious cycle.  People who are depressed suffer from a much higher suicide rate than people who are not.


People who suffer from anxiety worry much more than average people about events outside of their control.  They obsess over potential adverse outcomes to situations and relationships in their lives, and may suffer from panic attacks or an extreme aversion to social situations.  If untreated, anxiety can cause very serious physical problems, including suppressed immune system function, disorders of the digestive system, short-term memory loss, premature coronary disease and even heart attacks.

Eating Disorder

If an eating disorder is not detected and properly treated, a person can die within a short time of developing it.  For those struggling with anorexia – an aversion to eating – failure to seek help can result in heart failure, osteoporosis, muscle loss, kidney failure, hair loss and more.  Those that struggle with untreated bulimia may experience tooth decay, stomach and esophageal ulcers, heart failure, chronic sore throat and heartburn, bowel problems and a potential rupture in their stomach.

Bipolar Disorder.

Untreated bipolar disorder can have a harmful effect on every facet of a person’s life.  People suffering from bipolar disorder have serious shifts in their mood, thinking and behavior – sometimes they feel as though they are on top of the world, and sometimes they struggle to get out of bed in the morning.  Bipolar disorder sufferers have more difficulty maintaining personal and professional relationships, and are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse, cigarette smoking and risky sexual activity.  They are also much more prone to making huge life decisions impulsively, such as quitting a job or making huge, unwise purchases.

If you think you might be suffering from any of these diseases – or any mental illness – there is no need to prolong your suffering.  If you do, you are putting yourself at great risk for long-term physical health effects.  With both secular and Christian therapists available in every state and nearly any locality, you have a wide variety of treatment options.  Talk to a doctor or health care professional right away if you think you have a mental illness – it’s never too late to seek help.

Gabe Coeli has studied psychology and mental illness over the past few years, and is an advocate of therapy.