Did you know that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? This is the 28th year that the US has recognized this national holiday as a way to bring understanding, encouragement, and opportunities to people living with developmental disabilities.

According to the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention, developmental disabilities are “a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas.” These disabilities cut across racial, socioeconomic, and ethnic lines and can affect anyone. Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six of children from 3 through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities, such as hearing loss, ADHD, or vision impairment.

One way we can mark the occasion this year is to educate ourselves on the mental and emotional impact of living with a disability. Adults with disabilities report experiencing depression and mental distress almost five times more often than adults without disabilities. Frequent mental stress is often linked with poor health habits that can lead to chronic disease and other poor health outcomes.

The mind-body connection

For an individual living with a disability, it can be easy to focus on the physical challenges they face, resulting in mental and emotional needs falling by the wayside. If you or a loved one live with a disability, it’s important to prioritize your mental and emotional health alongside your physical well-being. And for caretakers, valuing your mental and emotional health can keep you going and better able to care for your loved one.

It’s important to remember the power of the mind-body connection and that disabilities can directly affect your mental health, including:

  • Toxic stress from discrimination. Unfortunately, discrimination against people with disabilities is still pervasive and can have a profoundly negative impact on mental health.
  • Self-esteem issues. Society often holds up a narrow definition of beauty that people with disabilities may not fit into. This can result in feelings of unworthiness, low-self esteem or not being “enough.” A lowered self-image can lead to feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, and more.
  • Medical stress. Living with a developmental disability often comes with many trips to doctors and hospitals, worries around prognoses, and an uncertain future, all of which can be extremely stressful and demoralizing.
  • Relationship challenges. Navigating relationships – whether it’s with work colleagues or a significant other – can be especially challenging for someone living with a disability. Discussing their particular needs or experiences and dealing with discrimination may require extra support.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

While asking for extra support can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re navigating a disability, you are not alone. If you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, there are professional counselors who can help you navigate these uncomfortable feelings and offer coping strategies for moving forward. You can think of counseling as an additional layer of medical support to help you live even better with your disability.

In addition to helping you hone your skills to thrive and shine in your life, a therapist can also help you learn how to better communicate your needs and feelings with the important people in your life. Building or strengthening support systems can help you proactively address stressors in your life before they become unmanageable and soften your landing if you do struggle.

Sunstone is here for you

If you’re ready to get the support you deserve, but aren’t sure where to start, reach out to us. We make it easy for you to find the right counselor to walk with you on the journey to a brighter tomorrow.