What is Mental Health?
Mental Health refers to a person’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. Mental illnesses should be taken as seriously as you would a physical illness – they can massively affect how someone thinks, feels, and acts.
It is important to monitor your own Mental Health and that of those close to you throughout childhood and adulthood; despite it being thought of as something that primarily affects teens/ young adults, people of all ages are susceptible to mental illness.
There are many types of mental illnesses; the most common being depression, eating disorders, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Some of these conditions can be hereditary, while others can be caused by distressing events such as loss of a loved one, heartbreak, bullying, or losing a job.
Many worry about their mental health at some point in their lives, an indicator as to whether or not you are suffering from mental illness is if it is affecting your day-to-day life for example, fearing social interaction and finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate.
What are the signs of mental illness?
Identifying a mental health illness early on can greatly reduce the impact on an individual and make the path to recovery easier.
If you are worried about your own mental health or that of someone close to you, please speak to a professional immediately. You can book an appointment with a private psychologist through MyHealthcare Clinic or, speak to a private GP if you would prefer.
The signs of mental illness are not always obvious; for example, how do you know if you have depression or if you’re just feeling down? Here are a few of the typical signs of depression:
- Suicidal thoughts/ thinking and talking about death
- Insomnia/ irregular sleeping pattern
- Decreased energy levels and fatigue
- Loss of appetite or, eating more and putting on weight
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Reduced enjoyment in activities & social interactions
- Feeling alone and/or wanting to do nothing
- Mood swings
Eating disorders can be harder to spot in others as people with eating disorders tend to be quite secretive with their eating habits. Keep an eye out for if someone close to you is eating more or less than normal, if their diet seems to have changed, or if they are being more secretive e.g. not eating in front of others. Eating disorders can be equally as hard to spot in yourself, as many people can be in denial about having one.
This can be common in people who diet to lose weight then start to eat too little and lose too much weight – they are convinced they don’t have an eating disorder, they are just on a ‘diet’.
Here are a few signs of eating disorders:
- Obvious weight loss or gain
- Negative or obsessive thoughts about your body size and negative comments about your body e.g. ‘I’m so fat’, ‘I need to lose weight’
- Fear of public eating
- Over-feeding others – some people with anorexia like to see other people eat
- Excessively exercising – sometimes referred to as ‘exercise anorexia’ – do you panic if you miss a day of exercise or exercise to the point you feel sick?
- Dry or blotchy skin from dehydration can be a sign of anorexia or bulimia
- Fixating on ‘safe’ foods, calories and macros
- Strange food combinations – binge eaters are known to prepare odd dishes such as pasta and biscuits
- Taking laxatives (when you do not require them)
Social anxiety goes deeper than just feeling shy. It is an intense fear in social situations which for the most part are normal to others. People with social anxiety worry about everything from activities with friends to interacting with a worker at the supermarket; before, during, and after the event.
Here are some of the common signs:
- Worrying about or avoiding everyday activities such as meeting strangers, shopping, or talking on the phone
- Only feeling comfortable with a select few people
- Feeling judged by strangers whilst out in public
- Finding it hard to do things with others watching – you feel they may judge you for doing it wrong
- Worrying about doing something embarrassing in public such as getting an answer wrong in class or sweating
- Avoiding eye contact
- Having panic attacks when you feel an intense sense of fear
- Having low self-esteem
Bipolar disorder is one of the easiest mental illnesses to spot, people with the disorder experience extreme mood swings, you can go from being really happy or excited to feeling really low and depressed.
Some of these episodes can last for several weeks or even months. It is really important to seek help if you think that you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder, it can noticeably affect day to day life of the individual.
If you have experienced any of the signs/ symptoms associated with depression and have then had an episode experiencing the signs of mania in this section, you may have bipolar disorder.
Below we have listed some of the common signs:
- Feeling very happy
- Not feeling like sleeping or eating
- Having lots of energy
- Coming up with ambitious plans and ideas
- Talking quickly
- Being more frivolous with money
- Getting annoyed easily
While the episode of mania may feel like a positive experience, you may also experience some symptoms of psychosis. This is essentially where someone loses touch with reality. This can include hallucinating – hearing, seeing and feeling something that is not there.
The other symptom is delusion – having strong beliefs that are not shared by others e.g. believing that their nurses are conspiring to harm them. These symptoms can cause a lot of distress for the person experiencing them and members of their family and friends. Therefore, it is very important to seek medical advice if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of Bipolar disorder or psychosis. Talk to a private GP today.
Schizophrenia can cause an array of psychological symptoms and is often described as a type of psychosis – where an individual cannot distinguish between their thoughts and reality.
Like bipolar disorder, this mental illness is much easier to spot due to the severity of its symptoms. If you believe that you or someone you know may have schizophrenia please book an appointment with a GP today.
Here are the main signs of schizophrenia:
- Lack of emotional expression
- Muddled thoughts
- Losing interest in day-to-day activities
- Wanting to avoid people – including friends and family
- Becoming easily agitated
- Not caring about personal hygiene
- Reacting to things inappropriately
How common is mental illness?
Finally, it is important to remember that if you or anyone close to you has a mental health illness, that doesn’t make you abnormal. It is estimated that up to 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their life.
You are not alone, it is very important that you seek support if you feel something is wrong with your mental health; even though this may seem hard, it will be the start of your path to recovery.
You can speak to one of our GPs, or therapists if you or someone close to you is struggling with a mental illness. You can also reach out to a host of mental health helplines for help.