Are Mental Health Issues “Contagious”?

June 19, 2015

mental illness health contagiousOne of the most common concerns I hear from family members calling to get information about residential care for loved ones is “I don’t want my loved one ( son/daughter/niece/nephew) to spiral further in the mental illness because of other participants.” When I hear this, I often reassure the family member that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and that their loved one can offer certain strengths and gain certain strengths from other participants in the program.

What I actually hear is, “Is someone else’s mental health condition contagious?” That’s a really blunt way of putting it, but I believe that is the true concern. When we look at this question rationally, we know instinctively that mental health conditions are not contagious. But, in the midst of crisis or when we’re asked to make a financial commitment to healthcare, we have to ask, because what if there actually is a minute possibility that someone else’s depression can make a potential participant more depressed than before they admitted?

While mental illnesses are not contagious in the same sense as the flu or a cold, a person’s environment and experience can surely shape and/or influence their mental state, which can in turn trigger symptoms such as anxiety or depression. Your loved one will not develop depression just because they are roommates with someone working through Major Depressive Disorder, however, if they stop receiving love and support and/or they don’t feel safe, depression could very well be a side effect.

It’s important to keep in mind, when looking into residential treatment, that everyone is working their own program. Everyone has their own treatment plan, and no two plans will look the same. Regardless if your loved one is living with other participants working through Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or a host of other diagnoses, your loved one will be working their own program. And OPI sees to it that we’re treating each of our participants as a whole, unique person – not just their diagnosis.

With a strong emphasis on community involvement, our participants are able to successfully work through their conditions without picking up on “bad habits” for which others may be seeking treatment. Our diverse therapeutic team tackles mental health conditions with a variety of treatment modalities including, but not limited to, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure and Response Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Art Therapy just to name a few. With careful attention to each individual’s needs, OPI staff are very aware of the natural enmeshment that might occur with folks living in close quarters for a significant period of time.

Your loved one’s treatment is their own. Rest assured, your loved one will not “catch” any other mental disorders while in residential treatment. They will be provided with a safe, loving, and nurturing environment and will be given the skills to learn how to live with their mental health condition, while being a successful part of our society.

For more information on OPI’s residential and intensive outpatient (IOP Day Treatment) programs and our measures to help young adults overcome anxiety related Failure to Launch issues, call us at (888)-814-5985 or click HERE to submit an online form. We want to help and will be in touch promptly.