Introduction: In this article will be talking about mental health and how it is affecting our every day life. The first part talks about what is mental health and types of it and where as the second part talks about what causes mental illnesses, common signs of mental illnesses and ways to look after our mental health.
What is mental health?
‘Mental health’ refers to our state of mind and our ability to cope with the everyday events that happen around us. Someone who is mentally healthy usually feels capable of dealing with the normal, everyday situations that we all experience.
For someone with a mental illness, managing day-to-day life is often a lot more difficult. Mental illnesses are fairly common in Australia, with about one in four people between the ages of14 and 25 experiencing mental illness at some point.
Keep in mind that this is a simplified definition of mental health and that it’s totally normal for most people to go through ups and downs in life. When these difficulties hang around for longer than usual, and it feels like nothing will make them go away, they may be considered a mental illness. It could also include situations such as bereavement/loss and psychotic episodes – when it is impacting your everyday life and functioning and is upsetting to you or the people around you.
Types of mental health
There are nearly 300 mental disorders listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This is a handbook used by health professionals to help identify and diagnose mental illness.
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
The diagnosis of mental illness can be controversial. There have been many debates in the medical community about what is and isn’t a mental illness. The definition can be influenced by our society and culture, but most mental illnesses occur across all countries and cultures. This suggests that they are not just constructed by social norms and expectations, but have a biological and psychological basis too.
Common signs of mental illness
Some common symptoms of mental illness are:
- feeling more worried than usual
- constantly being in a bad mood
- having trouble sleeping, or sleeping way more than usual
- crying for no apparent reason
- struggling to concentrate
- changes in eating habits (eating more or less)
- turning to alcohol or drugs to cope
- having trouble coping with or participating in everyday activities
- isolating yourself from family or friends
- thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or others.
- feeling ‘down’, sad or unmotivated
- loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- having difficulty performing at school or at work or in other areas of your life.
What causes mental illness?
It’s not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of any particular mental illness, as mental health issues are generally believed to involve a combination of factors that might include some of the following:
- Biological factors: Someone with a history of mental illness in their family has a higher chance of developing mental health issues, which means that genetics most likely plays a role. Hormonal balance is another biological factor that is known to impact on our mental health.
- Recent life events/triggers: Current events can affect our mental health as well, such as persistent stress from study or work, or the loss of a loved one.
- Misuse of drugs and alcohol: Drugs, including alcohol, have a powerful effect on our brain and the results are often unpredictable. Heavy drug use is known to have a negative impact on mental health.
- Early life events: Traumatic events that happen at an early age, such as neglect or abuse, can have a strong influence on our mental health later in life. Early caregiving experiences that don’t match your needs may also contribute to how you respond to stress later in life.
- Psychological factors: Mental illnesses are also influenced by our thoughts and feelings, as well as our surroundings and circumstances. Examples of this include our feelings around our body image or low self-esteem.
How to look after your mental health
Although mental health issues aren’t always avoidable, there are some simple things that you can do to look after your mental health. The following suggestions can be helpful in preventing mental health problems from developing in the first place, or can help you deal with milder symptoms of some mental health issues:
- Surround yourself with supportive people.
- Set aside some time every day to relax.
- Stay in touch with your friends and family.
- Do regular exercise (to release endorphins that improve your mood).
- Make time to do things that you enjoy (such as walking on the beach or playing games).
- Take advantage of technology that aims to improve your wellbeing. You could try ReachOut WorryTime.
© COPYRIGHT: This article is the property of We Speak Science, a non-profit organization, co–founded by Dr. Detina Zalli and Dr. Argita Zalli. The article is written by Alesia Hasimllari.