Comorbidity, simply put, is the simultaneous existence of one or more additional disorders co-occurring with a main one. This can be applied to both physical and mental health, but I’ll be focusing on the mental health aspect today. Living with one disorder can be difficult, let alone several. Many disorders can be comorbid with each other, anxiety and depression being some well-known ones. As I’ve talked about previously, I was diagnosed with anxiety, dysthymia, and body dysmorphic disorder, which falls in the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. I have a real triple-threat going! I’d like to highlight some of these struggles, as I deal with them on a daily basis.
Having multiple mental illnesses becomes a fun, daily game of, “What combination of mental illnesses are going to hinder me today?”. For example, you could wake up and discover that your depression isn’t as bad as it normally is. Hooray! But then when you think you’re hunky-dory, your anxiety kicks in worse than it has all month. Or your OCD presents itself in such a way that you spend the next hour in front of the mirror examining every single pore on your face. Just as one or two are looking up, at least one is there to drag you back down again. It’s hard to be stable, and frankly, it’s exhausting. A good day for all three is about as rare as a blue moon.
Another fun thing about comorbidity, and I use the word fun very loosely, is that medication can be a nightmare. I’ve only tried medication for my mental illnesses several years ago, for my depression. It made my anxiety skyrocket, and eventually caused me to become more depressed than before I had taken it. Medication is a delicate balance that is time-consuming, and often will take several tries to get it right. This could even involve multiple medications. It’s a tedious and potentially emotional process. Just trying to take medication once scared me off of the idea for years. I’m lucky enough that I can function fairly well without any pills, but others may not be as fortunate as me.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about comorbidity is that mental illness likes to work together. For example, on days that my depression is particularly bad, it’s hard to do things. I’m extremely low on energy. Yet during this time, my anxiety will run free, constantly reminding me of blown out of proportion consequences, making me even more tired. This seemingly never-ending cycle is hard to deal with, and even harder to break free of.
In all, comorbidity is frustrating to say the least. I’ve developed a sort of humour around it as a sort of coping mechanism, as people often do. I see my mental disorders as small, tiny nuisances that are frequently trying to ruin my day, and with a swift, cartoon-style drop kick, I’ve silenced them for at least a while. I’d also like to reiterate how fortunate I am I have the option to choose whether or not to take medication. For many, meds are not a choice, but rather a necessity, and that there is nothing wrong with that. To me, mental illness is all about coping and learning to live with it, and there’s never a right or wrong way in how to do so.
About Maddie Katz
Maddie Katz is a recent college graduate. Her interest in mental health started when she was diagnosed in high school. Her other interests lie in writing, music, theatre, and cats.