Mental health is defined as a state of well-being 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.
A range of factors can impact our emotional well-being. These include genetics, prolonged stress, physical illness and traumatic events. Environmental issues such as the economic, political and social climate can also have an impact.
General signs and symptoms of mental health disorders:
- Withdrawing from society – Feeling the need to hide away by avoiding social contact, Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Extreme Dirty or untidy – Spending a lot of time in your ‘comfy clothes’, or failing to keep on top of your hygiene.
- Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
- Feeling sad or down, Crying a lot or constantly feeling like you’re about to cry.
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
- Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling
- Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thinking
- Social and environmental.
A ‘psychological cause’ is something that affects the mind or emotional state. Traumatic experiences such as the loss of a loved one or a serious road accident can trigger mental health issues. When something traumatic occurs, it can completely change a person’s perception of the world. This can result in feelings of anger, helplessness, fear and guilt. These may persist long after the event has happened. As a person tries to deal with and contain their negative feelings, unhealthy behaviors can emerge. Examples include self-harm, drug abuse, bulimia and suicidal thoughts.
A ‘physical cause’ is something that affects the body on a biological level.
Physical causes of some mental health issues include:
- Genetics – Experts believe some people are more at risk than others. They have a genetic ‘predisposition’ because of genes passed down from parents.
- Early development – Some studies suggest a baby is at greater risk if his or her mother takes drugs or contracts a virus while she’s pregnant.
- Head injuries – In some cases, people develop psychotic symptoms after a serious head injury.
- Nutrition – Links have been found between certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies (e.g. Vitamin D, zinc and fatty acids) and our emotional well-being.
Social and environmental causes
- The things that happen around us can have a big impact on mental health.
- Social and environmental causes include:
- Living environment
- Working environment
- Familial relationships and friends
Types of mental health issues
According to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), there are two main types of mental health problems.
It is a functional mental disorder that causes a sense of distress and deficit in functioning.
Individuals that have ‘common mental health issues’ are very likely to have neurotic symptoms. These are severe versions of ‘normal’ emotions, such as stress, sadness, and anxiety.
All individuals feel down or worried every now and then, but if those emotions start impacting daily life, it may be a sign of a mental health problem.
If mental health issues are ignored or dismissed as character traits it can lead to further problems.
For example, some people may no longer feel able to lead an enjoyable and productive life. This is why it is so important to seek support as soon as your problems overcome your ability to cope.
Mental health issues with neurotic symptoms include:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorders.
Psychotic disorders are a group of serious illnesses that affect the mind. These illnesses alter a person’s ability to think clearly, make good judgments, respond emotionally, communicate effectively, understand reality, and behave appropriately.
Psychotic symptoms interfere with a person’s perception of reality and may include hallucinations. These include seeing, smelling, hearing or feeling things that no one else can.
People experiencing psychosis may also form unrealistic views about themselves, other people and the world around them.
Mental health issues with psychotic symptoms include:
- eating disorders
- bipolar disorder
- personality disorder
- Delusional disorder
- Substance-induced psychotic disorder
Counseling and Psychotherapy are considered effective forms of mental health support.
The Difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy
Although the terms counseling and Psychotherapy are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between each other. Counseling on specific issues and is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management.
The focus may be on problem solving or on learning specific techniques for coping with or avoiding problem areas. Counseling is usually more short-term than therapy.
Psychotherapy is more long-term than counseling and focuses on a broader range of issues. The underlying principle is that a person’s patterns of thinking and behavior affect the way that person interacts with the world.
Depending on the specific type of psychotherapy that is being used, the goal is to help people feel better equipped to manage stresses, understand patterns in their behavior that may interfere with reaching personal goals, have more satisfying relationships, and better regulate their thinking and emotional responses to stressful situations.