On average, it takes many years for an individual to experience emotional symptoms that affect his/her functionality. Once functionality is affected, it takes, on average, additional 5 to 8 years for the individual to seek help and receive appropriate treatment.
Most symptoms usually begin in the early years of life but some may develop later after different life events such as divorce, loss of job, death of a loved one, etc. On the psychological level, the symptoms usually form as a way for the mind to cope with a dire situation or a difficult relationship. These mental symptoms are usually soothing as they help the individual avoid their emotional pain. As a result, recognizing that these symptoms are problematic and are as a result of some deeper issue is often delayed.
I will categorize struggles of the mind in to two categories, psychological and biological. On a biological level, brain like any other organ can be affected by organic and structural problems which manifest themselves in neurodevelopmental delays and lead to disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
As an example, the loss of a parent of a child at an early age can impact his/her mental life in multiple ways. One could become emotionally distant in order to attempt their mind to become emotionally less vulnerable. Being emotionally distant would protect and sooth the mind and avoid another painful experience. It is less painful to place emotions in a mental box and not deal with them. As the child grows, their personal relationships stay at a functional, but not growing level. As he/she grows up and seeks to find a romantic partner, he/she realize their multiple failed relationships or lack of any real intimate relationship may be a sign of what their mind is doing to them.
From a biological perspective, this child might have had variations in his or her cerebral and cerebellar neuronal pathways which manifested themselves in Autism symptoms such as speech delays, limited ability in imitation, understanding social cues, and odd social skills.
He/she will have difficulty finding friends and maintaining relationships.
Let us compare a child suffering with Autism symptoms with one suffering from asthma or a lung infection. Parents would not think twice about taking their child to the pediatrician. Seeking mental help is completely different entangled with many emotional issues. Parents will have doubts and anxieties about taking their child to a psychiatrist. They may feel guilty of their failure as parents. Or they may devalue the benefits of psychiatric care, questioning its efficacy and bringing up philosophical arguments of what is normal and what is not.
It is only when they are faced with severe deterioration of their child’s mental health resulting in school refusals, panic attacks, or suicidal attempts that parents decide to seek help.
Unfortunately limited psychiatric care and challenge of finding the right provider, add to this delay months if not years.
Once parents get their child to the doctor’s office, the hard task of treatment and recovery should begin with controlling damages and undoing the existing emotional system which has been working for years. This too may take years to achieve yet parents expect their child to get cured in a matter of few weeks.
The aforementioned factors complicate receiving psychiatric care in a timely manner. There is a strong need for early intervention, effective treatment and preventative care of emotional and psychiatric disorders.
For additional information, contact McLean Counseling Center in McLean, VA.