According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Social and financial circumstances, biological factors, and lifestyle choices can all shape a person’s mental health. This means it impacts how we feel, think, and behave each day. Our mental health also contributes to our decision-making process, how we cope with stress, and how we relate to others in our lives.
Some of the main groups of mental disorders are:
- Mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)
- Eating disorders
- Trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Substance abuse disorders
- Depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide and is one of the most significant contributors to the global burden of disease, greatly impacting individuals and their families mentally, physically, socially, and financially.
Signs and Symptoms
Mental health is a vital concern for healthcare professionals. Most people know the signs and symptoms of physical illnesses, like a heart attack or stroke. But, they may not be able to pinpoint the physical effects of anxiety, PTSD, or panic. Even though each illness has its own set of signs and symptoms and no two experiences with a mental illness can/will be the same, there are some common signs and symptoms people should look out for:
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and colleagues
- Avoiding activities that they would normally enjoy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating too much or too little
- Feeling hopeless
- Having consistently low energy
- Using mood-altering substances, including alcohol and nicotine, more frequently
- Displaying negative emotions
- Being confused
- Being unable to complete daily tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal
- Having persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly
- Thinking of causing physical harm to themselves or others
- Hearing voices
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia, or hallucinations
- Suicidal thinking
Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:
- Inherited traits: Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
- Environmental exposures before birth: Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol, or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
- Brain chemistry: Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression and other emotional disorders.
- Stress and periods of emotional distress can lead to an episode of symptoms. That may make it difficult for you to maintain normal behavior and activities. This period is sometimes called a nervous or mental breakdown.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no physical test or scan that reliably indicates whether a person has developed a mental illness. Also, because mental health can be complex and symptoms may vary from person to person, it may take a few appointments for you to get a full diagnosis.
Treatment for mental health disorders is not one size fits all, and it does not offer a cure. Instead, treatment aims to reduce symptoms, address underlying causes, and make the condition manageable. You and your doctor will work together to find a plan. It may be a combination of treatments because some people have better results with a multi-angle approach.
Many people who have a mental illness do not want to talk about it. But mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of! It is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes. And mental health conditions are treatable. We are continually expanding our understanding of how the human brain works, and treatments are available to help people successfully manage mental health conditions. People with conditions such as anxiety or depressive disorder may benefit from relaxation techniques, which include deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness. Having a support network, whether via self-help groups or close friends and family, can also be essential to recovery from mental illness.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please seek professional help at Regency Hospital. We have an expert team that can help those dealing with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship, and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, or loneliness.