For most of us, the idea of mental illness is something abstract, relegated to hoarders living with hundreds of rats amid floor-to-ceiling collections of Beanie Babies, or that unfortunate uncle who started talking to rocks in the park and had to take a trip to the looney bin.
But suffering from a mental disorder at least once in your life is the norm, not an exception, according to a new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Researchers examined psychological data that was gathered from 988 New Zealanders; each person was surveyed 13 times, from birth to age 38. Researchers found that only 17% never had any anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental impairments from age 11 to 38. In contrast, 41% had some kind of mental disorder that lasted for many years, and included serious disorders like bipolarity and psychosis, and a full 83% of those studied developed some kind of mental disorder.
“For many, an episode of mental disorder is [comparable to a physical ailment] like influenza, bronchitis, kidney stones, a broken bone, or other highly prevalent conditions,” says study co-author Jonathan Schaefer. “Sufferers experience impaired functioning, many seek medical care, but most recover.”
Even more interestingly, early life indicators that people normally connect with a lower chance of developing a mental problem—like a comfortable home life, high intelligence, and good physical health—did not predict who would struggle with mental illness later in life. The most mentally sound participants exhibited traits like low incidence of strong, negative emotions, many friends, and a high level of self-control from an early age.
Real talk, guys: Mental illness hits hard among young men, so if you think you might be dealing with something, don’t hesitate to ask your regular doctor—you do go for checkups, right?—or make an appointment with a therapist.
In the meantime, try this intense arm routine to boost brain power and mental sharpness.