Your mental health fundamentally refers to the state of your emotional and psychological wellbeing. This includes your mood, hormones, neural pathways, behaviour, thinking, feelings, etc. The state of your mental health furthermore determines the way you handle fear, anxiousness, stress, anger, joy, and other such emotions.
When an imbalance occurs in any of these functions, your well-oiled psychological machine can start to freeze or shut down. That’s when mental health illnesses or disorders arise. These disorders could affect your mood, behaviour, emotional range, and a number of physiological actions.
Mental health concerns are normal. This includes feeling stressed, sad, angry, having minor fears towards specific stimuli, etc. However, when the concern escalates to stay for a prolonged period of time, that’s when the possibility of a mental health illness comes to the surface.
A Few Mental Health Problems and Their Symptoms
Here are a few disorders that are commonly seen among people of various age groups and backgrounds. If you identify with any of the following, please do consider approaching a mental health professional to get the right diagnosis, treatment, and help.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Your anxiety disorder could be a major mental illness in itself or it could accompany other disorders such as depression, phobias, schizophrenia, etc. Here, certain objects, events, memories, or behaviour can trigger your anxiety.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can cause you severe fear or paranoia. A disorder like this can disrupt your day to day life significantly.
Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder include:
- Muscle tension
- Detachment from surroundings
- Lack of concentration
- Sleeplessness, etc.
In many cases, generalised anxiety disorder does not require a specific trigger to cause you with anxiety. A sudden shift in hormones or even a thought can have all alarms blaring in your head. This can lead to anxiety attacks which are subjective to different people. Sometimes, getting a doctor’s appointment could trigger your anxiety while at times, certain traumatic events of the past could resurface in any form and set your anxiety off.
Therapy usually works for generalised anxiety disorder and various insurance plans, despite the waiting period in health insurance for mental health disorders, can offer you coverage to help you afford the right help.
Common signs of anxiety are shaking and trembling, bouncing your legs, skin peeling, hair picking, chewing down on the lips or inner cheeks, spacing out, lack of focus, etc.
Phobias are often considered irrational fears. Usually the anxiety and fear caused by phobias don’t have a particular trigger event in the past. These are certain objects, stimuli, individuals, ideas, etc. that you are innately afraid of.
There are three kinds of phobias and they are explained below.
- Simple Phobias: These include irrational fears of specific objects, events, situations, people/animals or characteristics. A good example of a simple phobia could be cynophobia (a fear of dogs).
- Social Phobia: This is a fear of being subject to social judgement, and hence, it is also known as social anxiety disorder. Those who have severe social anxiety often avoid putting themselves in social situations unless absolutely necessary.
- Agoraphobia: This is a fear that is directly associated with one’s lack of ability to escape from a certain circumstance or situation. For instance, getting stuck in an elevator or travelling in an aeroplane could cause you intense feelings of fear since there is no way out in case of a crisis or emergency.
PTSD stands for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. A disorder like this one is a direct result of a traumatic event or time in your life that could impact your mental health over a prolonged period of time even after the event occurs.
This disorder could be accompanied by severe depression, anxiety, panic, anger, frustration, or paranoia. You may feel an alarming sense of losing control over your life which could be a direct result of a traumatic event. PTSD is most commonly seen in accident, abuse, war, bullying, or suicide survivors.
Schizophrenia is one of the most serious mental health illnesses one could suffer from. Signs of schizophrenia usually escalate or develop between the ages of 16 years to 30 years of age.
It is accompanied by highly complex symptoms such as psychotic episodes, paranoia, depression, delusions, etc. You could also experience difficulty with processing information and carrying out basic cognitive functions. Other symptoms could include hallucinations, withdrawal, mood disorders, no motivation, etc.
Panic disorders are very closely associated with anxiety disorders. You could consider a panic disorder to be a highly intensified feeling of anxiousness and paranoia.
A person with a panic disorder could experience a horrifying sense of terror and overwhelming paranoia due to the anticipation of imminent disasters or death. A panic attack could make one feel like they’re about to die and that sense of impending doom further intensifies the panic.
Here is what a panic attack could look like.
- Feeling of disorientation
- Erratic heartbeat
- Profuse sweating
- Drying mouth
- Trembling or shaking
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A disorder like this one brings a host of unwanted thoughts, sensations or urges that would otherwise be classified as abnormal behaviour. The obsessions and compulsions when it comes to OCD could project in one’s behaviour or through one’s thoughts.
People often throw this term around casually while emphasising on how important hygiene or neatness is to them. However, it is important to understand that OCD is a very sensitive condition for many and respecting their sentiments by giving the term its due seriousness is imperative.
OCD isn’t about maintaining good hygiene or order in your life. Nor is it about biting your nails or thinking bad thoughts. It is about experiencing the compulsion of certain acts like washing your hands a set number of times after touching something dirty because your brain will not allow you peace until you do so. It is about the intense obsession of symmetry or discipline in one’s surroundings.
With the intensity of such compulsions and obsessions increasing tenfold in one’s mind, their brain can be a battleground. There’s a fight put up against these compulsions but also a fight put up to give into the obsession for momentary contentedness. This can bring feelings of fierce anxiety, paranoia, fear, terror, frustration, etc.
Depression is a feeling of sadness and sorrow that never really goes away. Clinical depression affects how you feel, act and think, even through fundamental acts of human survival. Survival for such individuals becomes unimportant, and life seems not worth living.
Depression can pass you in waves which are called depressive episodes. During such episodes the following emotions or behaviours could impact your day-to-day life.
- Hopelessness or emptiness
- Anger in outbursts
- Loss in interest for basic pleasures such as indulging in hobbies, sex, sports, etc.
- Lack of energy
- Sleep disturbances (Insomnia or too much sleep)
- Loss in appetite
- Food bingeing
- Slowed bodily functions
- Cognitive difficulties
- Recurring thoughts of death or self harm
- Back ache
- Tiredness, etc.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is one such form of depression that visits you in episodes during certain seasons. The episodes begin and end around the same time every year. Usually, for children living in troubled homes, summer commonly triggers seasonal depression while many adults experience seasonal affective disorder during winters or monsoon.
What Could be the Causes of Mental Health Issues?
What makes mental health illnesses and disorders a serious problem is that anyone could develop a mental health disorder regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, economic background, etc. For some, socio-economic pressures could cause such issues or a difficult childhood could contribute to bad mental health. Here are a few risk factors that could lead to mental health illnesses.
- Constant social pressure
- Prevalence of financial problems
- Work pressure
- Quality of living
- Child abuse
- Living in a dysfunctional family
- Parental separation or loss
- Genetic history of mental health illnesses in the family
- Health problems such as chronic illnesses, etc.
How Does Diagnosis Work?
The diagnosis of mental health disorders consists of many stages. They are stated as follows.
- Medical Examination: A doctor will carry out a thorough medical examination and analysis of your medical history
- Testing: Laboratory testing, scanning, imaging and blood work could be the next step
- Psychological Evaluation: A psychological evaluation for the diagnosis will be carried out by a psychological and psychiatric professional
To understand the nature of diagnosis a little deeper, you can refer to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
How Can Mental Health Issues be Treated?
Mental health disorders can primarily be treated through therapy, medication and self help. Here’s how you can manage, if not cure, your mental health issues.
For the treatment of mental illnesses, numerous types of therapies can be used. This includes psychological/psychiatric therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, and exposure therapy.
When you approach psychiatric or neurological professionals for help, your psychological disorder could require medication for treatment. You can be prescribed antipsychotics, antidepressants, or anxiolytic medicines.
You could make certain lifestyle changes to harbour better mental health. You could work on fixing your sleep schedule, eating habits, exercising regime, meditation, breathing techniques, etc.
Mental Health Maintenance
Here’s all that you can do to maintain mental health wellbeing.
- At least 30 minutes of exercise 3 to 5 days a week
- Eat in balanced proportions and keep yourself hydrated
- Fix your sleep schedule
- Practice meditation, mindfulness, journaling, etc.
- Maintain meaningful relationships and walk away from connections that hurt you
Prevention of Suicide
You can contact the Suicide Prevention Helpline in India through the following points of contacts should you experience suicidal thoughts or urges.
Telephone number: 9152987821
To Tie It Up…
Mental health is part of an individual’s well-oiled existence, and disorder in this sense can disrupt your regular life significantly. It can impact your emotions, behaviour, physiological health and other aspects of your life. This is why mental health should be taken very seriously.
Right from exercising daily to practising mindfulness for at least 10 minutes a day, every little act made towards better mental health can make all the difference in the world for you. Hence, to be aware, to spread awareness, and to take all the precautionary measures against mental health disorders is an absolute necessity.