How to Handle New Symptoms of Mental Illness

After living with anxiety and depression for almost a decade, I’ve become used to the symptoms that occur on my mental health journey, especially since my physical symptoms manifest themselves pretty plainly. Since my mental health has a clear impact on my physical wellness, it got easier to recognize my physical symptoms and adjust. Though it’s been extremely helpful throughout my journey, it also makes things difficult when new symptoms of anxiety appear. Not only is it surprising to accept, it can be very discouraging when new symptoms arise – but there are ways to deal with it.

To me, one of the more frustrating aspects of experiencing mental illness is that certain diagnoses can have dozens of symptoms. While it makes it easier to sort certain ones out, that means new symptoms can rear their ugly heads at a moments notice.

Over the years, my symptoms of anxiety have become much more physical in nature, from sweating and shaking to rapid blinking. But the symptom that’s been hitting me more recently have been headaches. Regardless of what you call them (tension headaches, stress headaches and anxiety headaches could all be inserted here), headaches that happen as a result of anxiety are difficult to deal with. But a big part of dealing with these headaches is that I’m fighting the urge to be mad at myself for allowing another symptom to manifest itself.

I wish I could explain more about why these new symptoms occur. But to be honest, I don’t have that answer, and it would be easier to think through if it wasn’t currently happening. Luckily, I’ve been in this situation before. I’ve had new symptoms for depression and anxiety pop up over the years, and there are a number of ways that I manage those new symptoms and incorporate that into my mental health toolkit (stay tuned for Thursday’s post to learn more!).

But before I even get to that stage, I have to practice acceptance. That is, I have to accept the fact that when it comes to living with mental illness, there are some things that will be out of my control. At times, it’ll even seem like everything is out of my control. This cuts to the core of what I’m not okay, but that’s okay means. Here’s an example.

The newest recurring symptom in my life are headaches that I get on what feels like a daily basis. Is it good that I get these headaches? Absolutely not, and I actually have to fight the instinct to blame myself for getting them. But I will find a way to manage these headaches and limit their power – the same approach I have to every other symptom of my depression or anxiety. It might not be much but, like other aspects of mental health, it’ll be enough. And in those tough moments, that’s about as okay as I can ask for.


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