What is mental Illness?
Mental illness is a general term which covers a wide range of mental health conditions/disorders that affect the way one thinks, their behaviour and their mood.
Some of the conditions people with mental illnesses face are anxiety and eating disorders, schizophrenia, depression and addictive behaviours.
A high amount of people worry about their mental well-being from time to time but it becomes a concern when the symptoms and signs become ongoing and causes a persons inability to function in everyday life. However, in most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and counselling (psychotherapy).
Some common symptoms
Signs and symptoms can vary, this depends on the particular disorder, their circumstances and other varying factors. As stated above mental illness can affect a persons emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
Examples of signs and symptoms include:
• Feeling sad or down
• Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
• Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
• Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
• Withdrawal from friends and activities
• Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
• Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
• Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
• Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Major changes in eating habits
• Sex drive changes
• Excessive anger, hostility or violence
• Suicidal thinking
Sometimes symptoms appear as physical problems, for example stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains.
The general causes are believed to be a variety of genetic and environmental factors:
• These could be inherited traits. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, as people may have blood relatives who currently or may have previously suffered from a mental illness or a life situation may trigger it.
• Exposure to viruses and toxins as well as the intake of alcohol or drugs while still in the womb may well sometimes be linked to mental illness. This is also termed as environmental exposures before birth.
• The chemistry within the brain are believed to affect various aspects of mood and other areas of mental health. There are natural occurring chemicals within the brain called neurotransmitters, these can play a role in mental health. Even hormonal imbalances can play a role.
Listed below are different mental health conditions each with different symptoms:
Schizophrenia affects the way you think. The symptoms can effect how a sufferer can cope with day to day life.
About one in a hundred people will develop schizophrenia this making it a fairly common illness. The early stage (which can occur during young adulthood) is called ‘the prodromal phase’. The early signs of this may affect a persons sleep, emotions, motivation, communication and ability to think clearly.
If they start to feel panic, anger and/or depression this is referred to as ‘acute episode’ and can make a person feel unwell. This can be a stressful and shocking experience more so if the person is not expecting or prepared for it.
• Psychosis is a medical term used to describe hearing voices and/or other noises or seeing things. One of the well known examples is believing people are trying to cause harm to the sufferer.
• There are many factors involved in experiencing psychosis. Having mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be contributing factors as well as drug use, a brain injury or extreme amounts of stress.
• There is not one single cause of psychosis but evidence suggests that genes, various biological factors and environment may play a part.
What are eating disorders and what are the different types?
This section covers different eating disorders:
• Other Eating Disorders
Roughly about 1 in 250 teenage girls and young women and 1 in 2000 teenage boys and young men have anorexia. Usually this starts when the person is a teenager and they wish to keep their weight low as they have a distorted view on how they physically look thinking they are overweight, this can slowly manifest itself into an eating disorder leading to the individual becoming dangerously thin, this can make eating very stressful. There is treatment available but the individual may not want or think they need treatment.
Bulimia tends to start in a persons teenager years, although it has been known to happen later in life. This is not just a female issue men can also have bulimia but it is less common. A person can develop bulimia if you have had anorexia in the past.
Bulimia has been linked with emotional problems and how a person feels about themselves. As with anorexia if someone has bulimia, they try to keep their weight as low as possible.
Sufferers will binge eat then vomit and/or take laxatives this is commonly called purging. Sufferers can starve themselves or excessively exercise to work off the calories.
This can be a secretive health issue. Because of the nature of this illness many sufferers feel shame and disgust when they binge eat which is why they purge themselves as they feel better and relived afterwards. They may well be fascinated with food this can mask the illness to outsiders.
Most sufferers are not overweight so outsiders may not notice this illness.
Vomit causes damage to the teeth if occurred regularly. The advice given is a person should not brush their teeth after being sick, instead they should use non-acidic mouthwash.
Other eating disorders
As well as what’s been mentioned there are other eating disorders one of which may show all the symptoms of a particular eating disorder this is called ‘partial syndrome’.
A particular problem is chewing and spitting food or swallowing food then being sick a sufferer may eat inedible items such as tissue this gives them the full feeling but without the calories.
Not all eating disorders come under one specific name but a sufferer may have symptoms of different ones, a GP may diagnose the patient with an atypical disorder or ‘eating disorder not otherwise specified’ (EDNOS).
Binge eating disorder (BED)
Binge eating refers to when someone uncontrollably eats a large amount of food in small space of time this has the same binge eating symptoms as bulimia. A binge eater may be overweight for their age and height as they do not get rid of the food afterwards.
Difficult emotions for example unhappiness, guilt or low self-esteem as well as daily stresses and problems can be a trigger.
Picking at food can be a sign of compulsive overeating this may be a coping mechanism for an individual who is dealing with difficult feelings possibly similar to that of a binge eating sufferer.
This disorder very distressing and disruptive to the sufferers life and their family, friends and employers. There is no known cure it is manageable and recovery can be possible through this.
Though this can cause disruption to a persons life sufferers can have successful relationships and hold a job. Treatment for this condition consists of a combination of medications and psychotherapy these help a large number of people.
What causes bipolar disorder?
There is no specific genetic link however, studies have shown 80 to 90 percent of people who suffer have/had relatives that had a form of depression. People may inherit tendencies to develop the illness, trigger points can be distressing life events.
The presence of this disorder points to a biochemical imbalance this alters a person’s mood. This could be caused by an irregular hormone production or problems with particular chemicals within the brain, known as neurotransmitters, these are messengers to our nerve cells.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people (but not exclusively). It is a medical condition and disrupts the workings of the brain.
Dementia describes a set of symptoms this includes memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem solving or language. This can affect their mood and/or behaviour.
This is a disease that is connected with getting older however it is not a normal part of ageing but is on the increase due to people living longer than in previous decades. Sadly there is no known cure and currently there are various theories on the cause but these have yet to be conclusively proven.
Anxiety Disorders: What You Need to Know
Anxiety is a common issue and all of us experience this from time to time whether that be feeling anxious for an exam, job interview, or a meeting everyone is familiar with the feeling. Some people may experience anxiety worse than others and not know how to deal with the symptoms. This can be a person feeling frightened, distressed, being or feeling sick, breaking out in a sweat, this could be over some of the things mentioned above or for no apparent reason. If this is ignored is can drastically alter someone’s life, they may stop going out thus becoming house bound or lose their job and/or friends, it can significantly diminish a persons life.
What is Autism?
This a condition that a sufferer is born with. It is a mental, emotional and behavioural disorder. The symptoms come out during early childhood. This is a lifelong disability however, with the right kind of treatment and training a sufferer develop certain aspects of independence in their life.