When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, he may experience feelings similar to those when grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one. Depending on the severity of the illness, some people have likened their initial shock to being thrown against a wall or receiving a severe blow to the head. Anger, denial, fear, sadness, nervousness, and helplessness are other common reactions. Grief is normal, and is usually most intense when first diagnosed.

The severity of the illness will affect the way in which people cope with their diagnosis. For some, the chances for full recovery are very positive. For others, the condition may be more severe and/or chronic.

Each person’s way of coping with a diagnosis is unique. What is important is how people choose to define their mental illness and the place they give it in their lives.

Some experts suggest that the process of recovery includes learning to accept the illness, developing an appropriate sense of control and responsibility, and creating an adequate identity and new purposes in life.