In this life, the one before and after, as human beings, we all crave on having good mental health and physical fitness wellness. And if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, you are not alone; it’s practically a fact of life for many.
A poll conducted by mtvU and the Associated Press in the spring of 2009 reported that 85% of students say they experience stress on a daily basis.
On one hand, stress is good if it motivates you but it’s bad if it wears you down. And many factors can contribute to the stress you experience. Unfortunately, this stress can cause changes in your body that affect your overall physical, emotional, and even mental health.
On the other hand, depression is more serious and long-lasting than stress and requires a different kind of help. In a 2010 survey by the American College Health Association, 28% of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point. They had trouble functioning, and 8% sought treatment for depression.
Fortunately, the good news is that depression is a highly treatable condition. However, it’s not something you can snap out of by yourself, so it’s important to get help. How do you tell the difference between stress and depression? I’ll explain later after introducing you to mental health below.
What is Mental Health?
Do you ever feel anxiety? Does it seem like you always feel anxiety? What do you do about it? There are a number of things that you can try the next time that you feel the anxiety to see if you can’t cool down a bit. In this article, you’ll learn more about what anxiety is, why you feel it, what you can try to prevent or reverse it, and what you can do if those attempts don’t work.
That said, mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being and it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
So, in other words, our mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. And according to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as a state of well-being.
A state of wellness in which;
- every individual realizes his or her own potential,
- can cope with the normal stresses of life,
- can work productively and fruitfully,
- and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
The positive dimension of mental health is stressed in WHO’s definition of health as contained in its constitution:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
This fact highlights the important aspects of mental health and disorders. And inclusively, there various specialties that are applied during any mental health support.
Specialist areas of interest are;
- attachment disorders,
- educational and psychometric assessments,
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and
- eating disorders.
Read and learn How to access mental health services here
Referrals to the psychologists are made either through the GP or patients can self-referral. There are some mental health services that allow people to refer themselves.
This commonly includes services for drug problems and alcohol problems, as well as psychological therapies (IAPT) services. And as an example, if your mental health difficulty is related to stress at work, you can ask help from your employer. Like what occupational health services are available to you.
Self-referred patients are offered a GP to provide medication management and to address any concomitant physical health needs. And in the case of eating disorders, a referral from your GP and nutritionist may be included in the team providing comprehensive treatment in one venue.
Is it Stress, Depression, or Anxiety?
First of all, when it comes to mental health, Depression can be much more intense lasting at least two weeks. Depression causes powerful mood changes, such as painful sadness and despair. You may feel exhausted and unable to act.
Secondly, Chronic Stress, per se, is a biological response to demanding situations causing the body to release hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help prepare the body to take action, for example by increasing the heart and breath rates.
When this occurs, a doctor might describe a person as being in a state of heightened alertness or arousal. And if you are stressed out completely, there are many good ways to get relief. Drinking or taking drugs, however, won’t solve anything and can lead to more problems.
Lastly, Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, into your system. In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate, so your brain can get more oxygen. This prepares you to respond appropriately to an intense situation.
What is Mental Illness?
It is too easy to go about our busy lives and not notice the symptoms of mental illness. Our body has built-in warning systems that alert us to the signs that we need to pay attention to.
Mental Illness Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They can also vary from person to person. In many cases, it makes daily life hard to handle. But when an expert diagnoses you and helps you get treatment, you can often get your life back on track.
The mainstay of mental health treatment is usually medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression.
What causes Mental Health disorders?
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of most mental illnesses. A combination of things, including your genes, biology, and your life experiences, seems to be involved. Many mental illnesses run in families. But that doesn’t mean you will have one if your mother or father did.
Some conditions involve circuits in your brain that are used in thinking, mood, and behavior. For instance, you may have too much, or not enough, the activity of certain brain chemicals called “neurotransmitters” within those circuits. Brain injuries are also linked to some mental conditions.
Some mental illnesses may be triggered or worsened by psychological trauma that happens when you’re a child or teenager. Such as severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Or even a major loss, such as the death of a parent, early in life as well as neglect.
Major sources of stress, such as a death or divorce, problems in family relationships, job loss, school, and substance abuse, can trigger or aggravate some mental disorders in some people. But not everyone who goes through those things develops a mental illness.
- Problems with thinking (like being confused, suspicious, or unusually angry or sad)
- Keeping to themselves
- Mood swings
- Relationship problems
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Feeling low on hope and not enjoying things that they used to like
- Thoughts of suicide or harming themselves or others
- Sleep problems (too much or too little)
If you’ve had symptoms like these, talk to your doctor or a counselor to find out what’s going on and what would help you.
And since symptoms vary widely, they may affect mood, thinking, and the ability to interact with others.
Different Types of Mental Health Disorders
Generally speaking, mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 5 U.S. adults had a mental health issue in 2014. And 1 in 25 lived with someone who had a serious condition, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
These conditions can affect people of any age, income, educational level, race, and cultural background. Different types of mental health disorders include;
1. Clinical Depression
Clinical Depression is the persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression that can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.
Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests that these factors may cause changes in brain function. Including the altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.
The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.
2. Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is a normal emotion. It’s your brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you of potential danger ahead. Everyone feels anxious now and then. For example, you may worry when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.
Occasional anxiety is OK. But Anxiety Disorders are different. They’re a group of mental illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear. Excessive anxiety can make you avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms.
The main symptom of Anxiety Disorders is excessive fear or worry. Anxiety disorders can also make it hard to breathe, sleep, stay still, and concentrate. Your specific symptoms depend on the type of anxiety disorder you have. Common symptoms are Panic, fear, and uneasiness.
With treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can manage their feelings.
3. Bipolar Disorder
A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs is known as Bipolar Disorder. But, the exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known. Although a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role.
Manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.
Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.
4. Dementia and ADHD
Dementia is a collective term used to describe various symptoms of cognitive declines, such as forgetfulness. It is a symptom of several underlying diseases and brain disorders. Dementia is not a single disease in itself, but a general term to describe symptoms of impairment in memory, communication, and thinking.
Not a specific disease, dementia is a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment. Symptoms include forgetfulness, limited social skills, and thinking abilities so impaired that it interferes with daily functioning.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterized by difficulty paying attention, excessive activity, and acting without regard to consequences. Otherwise, which are not appropriate for a person’s age.
Medication and therapies may help manage symptoms. Some causes are reversible.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking. As well as a behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling. People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment.
The exact cause of schizophrenia isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain chemistry and structure may play a role. It’s characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior, and decreased participation in daily activities.
Difficulty with concentration and memory may also be present. A disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. Treatment is usually lifelong. And more often, it involves a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and coordinated specialty care services.
6. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable or reoccurring thoughts (obsessions). As well as behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors. It often centers on themes such as a fear of germs. Or the need to arrange objects in a specific manner. Symptoms usually begin gradually and vary throughout life.
Treatment includes talk therapy, medication, or both.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.
We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.
The ways in which people with autism learn, or even think and solve problems can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives. While others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Several factors may influence the development of autism. And it’s often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues. Such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, or sleep disorders. As well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and attention issues.
8. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.
Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function. Having PTSD may also increase your risk of other mental health problems. Such as depression and anxiety, issues with drugs or alcohol use, eating disorders, or even suicidal thoughts and actions.
What’s the Treatment?
With early diagnosis and treatment, many people fully recover from their mental illness or can manage their symptoms.
The treatment depends on the condition. In many cases, people get one or more of these treatments:
- Lifestyle Change
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Although some people become disabled because of chronic or severe mental illness, many others are able to live full and productive lives. The key is to get help as soon as the symptoms start and to keep up with treatment.
How can I Help on Mental Health?
One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental health disorder but may indicate a need for further evaluation. If a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, he/she should be seen by a physician or mental health professional.
People with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others, need immediate attention. Major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder rarely appear “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, teachers, or individuals themselves begin to recognize small changes.
Or a feeling that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings, or behavior before illness appears in its full-blown form. Learning about developing symptoms, or early warning signs, and taking action can help. Early intervention can help reduce the severity of illness.
It may even be possible to delay or prevent a major mental illness altogether.
After surviving a traumatic event, many people have PTSD-like symptoms at first, such as being unable to stop thinking about what’s happened. Fear, anxiety, anger, depression, guilt — all are common reactions to trauma. However, the majority of people exposed to trauma do not develop long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.
Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD. This may mean turning to family and friends who will listen and offer comfort. It may mean seeking out a mental health professional for a brief course of therapy. Some people may also find it helpful to turn to their faith community.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life ― your job, your relationships, your health, and your enjoyment of everyday activities. Support from others also may help prevent you from turning to unhealthy coping methods, such as misuse of alcohol or drugs.
At Karen Surgery, in light of the current Coronavirus epidemic, where possible, the mental health professionals are providing consultations via Skype. Or even other online platforms or by telephone, to prevent unnecessary travel to Karen Surgery.
Please contact your individual mental health professional within Kenya to discuss the details of this. And don’t forget, the situation will be reviewed regularly beginning; 16 March 2020.
And also, bearing in mind, Karen Surgery has become a center for excellence in mental health; with an emphasis on working as a multi-disciplinary team. There are several psychologists working collaboratively with the GPs. While addressing the mental health needs of children, adults, and families.
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See more details by WHO on Mental Health: strengthening our response