Mental health is described as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” [World Health Organisation].
The definition of mental health will differ between individuals as variables such as cultural differences, age, gender and more will play an associate as to how one reacts in a given situation. Therefore, it is important to stress that an individual’s own issues are looked at, as opposed to comparing them with others in similar situations.
Mental health issues are often looked upon in a negative light; however many issues can be brought to control with support and medication.
There are numerous signs to show an onset of a mental illness. Mental health problems arise from a number experiences and the signs vary on a large scale; therefore it can be quite difficult to spot them. Furthermore, these signs will differ amongst individuals, adding to the difficulty of identification – and often the person themselves choose to hide these symptoms in fear of being judged by others.
In general, early signs which illustrate the onset of a mental illness are:
These signs will vary in number and severity amongst individuals. However, if you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, we urge that you contact us or your local GP for support.
There are many different illnesses which affect one’s mental health. We will focus on the ones below as they were the ones which were most commonly mentioned by the participants in our research. If however, you would like further details on any of the below; or any other illnesses, please do visit the NHS website (www.nhs.uk) or contact us here.
Depression is a prolonged state of sadness and low mood, which tends to develop gradually. There are many different forms of depression. Often, you would hear people say, “I feel depressed today”. This, however, isn’t the same as one day of feeling down.
Depression lies in a wide range, where some people could be severely depressed and others suffer from acute depression. Whatever the form, it is vital that help is sought. Try the short self-assessment below to see if you might be suffering from depression: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
Some symptoms include:
Someone may have one or many of these symptoms. It is often difficult for the person themselves to notice they have an illness. Family and friends are usually the first to notice that there is a change in behavior. The person themselves may in fact attempt to live with those changes, as the development of the symptoms tend to be gradual.
Other types of depression
Postnatal depression is the development of the above symptoms after having a baby.
Bipolar disorder is also known as “manic depression”. This is where the person may have periods of feeling extremely low, showing the symptoms mentioned above, but then they may also show signs of mania on other days, where they display excessively high moods. These moods are not necessarily positive behavior, such as extensive gambling, spending uncontrollably or even having multiple sexual partners.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is also known as “winter depression”. This is where the sufferer usually develops depression in the winter months.
Anxiety is the feeling of worry or fear. Everyone, at one point in their lives, have had this feeling, whether it was for a job interview, first stay at school or just before an exam. People who suffer from anxiety disorders have this feeling continuously and it begins to affect their daily lives. The extent of this feeling can vary in different people; where it may be more severe in one person than others.
Some of the symptoms are listed below. You may have a few of these, or all:
Eating disorders are shown via the abnormal relationship someone may have with food. A person with an eating disorder may be excessively focussed on their body shape and appearance.
There are three main types of eating disorders:
Anorexia nervosa is when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible. They may describe themselves as being overweight, even though evidently, they are very thin. They may skip meals, diet excessively or exercise too often.
Bulimia is when someone binge eats (eats excessively) followed by deliberately making themselves sick. they may also use laxatives to get rid of the excessive food they have eaten.
Binge eating is when someone feels compelled to overeat uncontrollably.
It is often claimed that both biological and social factors can influence the development of eating disorders. Doctors sometimes the following questions to check for an eating disorder.
Do you ever make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
Have you recently lost more than one stone (six kilograms) in a three-month period?
Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?
Would you say that food dominates your life?
If “yes” is answered to two or more of these questions, it may be that someone has an eating disorder.
It is often difficult to recognise someone with an eating disorder, as they hide their symptoms quite well. However, the following are some symptoms:
Missing meals often/claiming they’ve eaten
Feeling fat, though they have a normal weight or are underweight
Repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
Eating little amounts
Excessive calorie counting/eating very low calorific foods (such as salads)
Feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places, such as a restaurant
The use of “pro-anorexia” websites
Schizophrenia is a mental-health condition which has a variety of symptoms. It is often described as a psychotic illness due to the difficulty a person faces in the ability to distinguish their thoughts (due to illness) from reality. Schizophrenia is a long-term illness which causes people to hallucinate and develop muddled thoughts due to these hallucinations. They also tend to develop delusional thoughts and beliefs which contradict clear evidence. People with schizophrenia can be a challenge to live with, as their behavior changes radically.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into two forms, positive and negative. Positive symptoms include hallucinations, delusions and changes in behavior.
Hallucinations are when the person hears or sees things which do not exist. These are very real to the person who is experiencing this symptom. They can be positive, which tell the person to do good and may even praise them. But often, they are negative and are threatening or abusive. They can arise from particular areas, such as the corner of a room or from the TV.
Delusions are having the belief regarding a matter with much conviction even though it clear to other people that they are mistaken or the belief if strange or unrealistic. These can affect one’s behavior and may develop gradually or suddenly. People may interpret things differently, such as believing that a TV presenter is communicating with them though hidden messages in what is being said.
Paranoid delusions are when someone believes they are being harassed, chased, followed or would be harmed. It is often a loved one who faces these accusations.
People with schizophrenia develop behaviour which become difficult to understand by others. They tend to be disorganized, unpredictable and inappropriate in their language (such as randomly swearing or becoming agitated for no reason).
Some people describe their thoughts as being controlled by others, and believe their minds and bodies are being taken over, and controlled by other people or force.
Negative symptoms often develop prior to recognizing someone may have more severe symptoms of schizophrenia. These symptoms usually develop gradually, getting worse as time passes by. The sufferer becomes more withdrawn; showing signs of lack of interest in their personal hygiene and socializing with others.
More detailed negative symptoms include: