What is mental health?
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It is a state of well-being in which an individual thinks, feels, and behaves. Mental health is important because it’s a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Being healthy emotionally and mentally can promote productivity and effectiveness in an individual. It plays an important part in the health of your relationships, and allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity. The burden of mental disorders continues to grow with significant impacts on health and major social, human rights and economic consequences in the world. Mental health illness is a global public health problem with approx. 200 million people affected every year in India itself.
Risk factors for mental health conditions
There is a wide range of possible risk factors for mental health problems. In many individuals there is a complicated combination of factors – although different people may be more deeply affected by certain things than others. Some common risk factors are- childhood abuse/trauma, poverty/debt, social isolation or loneliness, experiencing discrimination/stigma, unemployment, bereavement, domestic violence, bullying, work related stress, substance abuse and having a long term physical health condition.
Common mental health disorders
There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others. Depression is the most common mental disorder and one of the main causes of disability worldwide. Other common mental health problems are- bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders including autism.
- Anxiety disorders: Anxiety is a normal emotion and your reaction to stress. Anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. There are several types of anxiety disorders: Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, separation anxiety, selective mutism and medication-induced anxiety disorder.
- Mood disorders: Mood disorders are characterized by a serious change in mood that cause disruption to life activities. Though there are many different subtypes, three major states of mood disorders are: depressive, manic, and bipolar. Major depressive disorder is characterized by overall depressed mood. Elevated moods are characterized by mania or hypomania. The cycling between both depressed and manic moods is characteristic of bipolar mood disorders.
- Schizophrenia disorders: Schizophrenia is a challenging brain disorder that often makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal, to think clearly, manage emotions, relate to others, and function normally. It affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world. The most common form is paranoid schizophrenia in which people have an altered perception of reality. They may see or hear things that don’t exist, speak in confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they’re being constantly watched.
Early Symptoms of Mental Health
Some early signs for mental health illness are
- confused thinking
- persistent feeling of sadness or irritability
- loss of interest
- extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- social withdrawal
- excessive fears or worries
- dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- strange thoughts and strong feelings of anger
Better Treatment for Mental Health
- talking therapies
Your treatment depends on the type of mental illness you have, its severity and what works best for you. In many cases, a combination of treatments works best.
Medication for Mental Health Problems
Although psychiatric medications don’t cure mental illness, they can often significantly improve symptoms. It can also help make other treatments, such as psychotherapy, more effective. Some of the most commonly used medications are- antidepressants, anti-anxiety, mood-stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.
Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the therapeutic treatment of mental illness provided by a trained mental health professional. Psychotherapy explores thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and seeks to improve an individual’s well-being. Psychotherapy paired with medication is the most effective way to promote recovery. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one example of psychotherapy.
Other treatment options for mental health illness are- hospitalization, peer support group, art therapy, brain stimulation therapy and psychosocial treatment.