Why is Mental Health Important?
An estimated one in four (or 450 million) people in the world meet the criteria for one or more mental health disorders. Similar to physical disorders, mental health disorders can negatively impact many aspects of an individual’s life including relationships, career, motivation, and overall well being.
In addition to a long list of symptoms that accompany each mental health disorder, ongoing psychological stressors can also impact physical health. They can lead to gastrointestinal, heart disease, a reduced immune system, and high blood pressure. Too often, mental health disorders are left untreated, either due to social stigmas or a lack of understanding of what treatments are available.
Being nervous and wondering about the potential difficulties in life is normal. Anxiety is your body’s natural response towards perceived threats, triggering a fight-or-flight reaction when your brain senses danger. Mild anxiety pushes you to do what’s best for your survival, whether it’s running for your life or staying up through the night to study
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the U.S. with an estimated 40 million adults dealing with some type of anxiety. With increasing demands and unrealistic expectations, Americans are dealing with a significant amount of stress on a daily basis. While some levels of stress are normal, failing to deal with chronic stress can lead to anxiety.
Anxiety can be triggered by things like a stressful environment, including poverty or abuse, drug and alcohol use, certain medications, chronic health concerns, relationship or marriage difficulties, an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise, certain phobias, and low self-esteem.
The symptoms of anxiety might include:
Ongoing worry or nervousness
Intense feelings of fear
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle and body aches
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling hot or sweating
- Desire to avoid triggers
Left untreated, anxiety can also lead to panic attacks. A panic attack is a rapid onset of anxiety symptoms, which can make an individual feel like they are in a dangerous situation. When stress is not dealt with in an effective manner, it can change the chemicals in the brain. Many experts also believe that there is a genetic component involved with anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is a normal response to fear. Our human bodies have developed it as a coping mechanism, referred to as fight or flight. This automatic physiological reaction encourages the body to take action following the perception of a threat. Individuals feel the need to either stick around and fight, or to take flight (flee). Many individuals with anxiety might feel like they experience these bodily reactions on a daily basis, even when there is no concern of a realistic threat present.
What are the symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression According to WHO, nearly 300 million people worldwide live with depression. Yet, a large number of these individuals do not receive treatment. 35% of adults with depression go without treatment. For adolescents with depression, the number is nearly double that. Depression is the leading cause of … Read More
What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that is marked with persistent feelings of intense sadness and a depressed mood. Depression leads to negative thoughts and can make it more difficult to find enjoyment in life. While the negative feelings associated with depression might occur following a loss or period of trauma, it can also feel like they come out of nowhere.
The symptoms of depression might include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of enjoyment of things once enjoyed
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased energy
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Thoughts of suicide
Depression can also impact physical health. The ongoing impact of negative feelings can lead to chronic headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and even an increased risk of heart disease. Many experts believe that hormonal imbalances can lead to depression. Certain chemicals, including cortisol and serotonin can lead to depression.
What Are Eating Disorders?
An eating disorder is a mental health condition that impacts an individual’s eating habits. In addition to an increase or decrease in eating habits, individuals may also have a negative self-image and desire to lose weight.
Eating disorders include:
- Anorexia Nervosa: The symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa often include irregular eating habits and frequent exercising.
- Bulimia: Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binging and purging, with the goal of losing weight.
The impact of limiting food intake or frequently purging can significantly impact the health of the body. In addition to treating distorted or irrational thought patterns, successful treatment of eating disorders also requires proper nutrition and monitoring of overall health.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that describes the anxiety that follows a traumatic event. While PTSD has commonly been used to describe soldiers returning home from war, it can also be used to describe other types of trauma including abuse, neglect, rape, or a natural disaster.
The symptoms of PTSD might include:
- Vivid memories or recollections of the traumatic event
- Physical symptoms including nausea or sweating following a trigger that reminds them of the event
- Detailed nightmares
- Ongoing flashbacks
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Diminished satisfaction with life
- Detaching emotionally
Individuals with PTSD might feel like they are forced to relive the traumatic event over and over again. Eventually, they might avoid certain events or triggers that bring on these flashbacks.
What Are Psychotic Disorders?
Psychotic disorders include a group of mental health disorders with thoughts or perceptions not based on reality. This includes disorders like Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophreniform disorder, and brief psychotic disorder.
The symptoms of psychotic disorders can include:
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Feeling suspicious
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Delusions or hallucinations
Psychotic disorders can arise from chemical imbalances, which can also have a genetic component. Others might develop symptoms following a traumatic event as they learn to cope with intense feelings.
What Are Phobias?
Phobias are intense fears. They are related to a specific event or trigger. Most individuals fear something, but phobias describe persistent, ongoing fear that often leads to avoidance. Fears are often categorized into environmental, animal, bodily, or situational phobias.
They can lead to the following symptoms:
- Intense feelings of fear
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness of the chest
- Hot flashes or sweating
While avoiding a trigger or fearful event might seem like an acceptable coping mechanism, this can become problematic. Eventually, individuals might fear certain places (agoraphobia) or social situations entirely.
What Are Personality Disorders?
Personality disorders are a group of behaviors or character traits that negatively impact an individual’s life. These behaviors are usually developed in adolescence or early adulthood.
The DSM-5 recognizes 10 types of personality disorders:
These disorders are characterized by certain behaviors that tend to be maladaptive to career and relationship success.
What is the Importance of Family in Mental Health Treatment?
While many of the mental health disorders listed benefit from individual therapy, there are many reasons to include family during treatment. Because the symptoms of mental health often impact the entire family, it can be useful to explore the family dynamics and how they have contributed to the development of the symptoms, as well as how they can be used to overcome them.
What Treatments are Available?
Fortunately, psychotherapy has proven to be effective in treating many of the most common mental health disorders. During counseling, therapists can work with clients on things like recognizing irrational thoughts, learning to recognize triggers, finding ways to cope, and evaluating how learned behaviors impact other aspects of life.
Treatment options can include:
Family and relationship therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy
Brain working recursive therapy
Therapists have many tools available to recognize and treat the symptoms of the most common mental health disorders. Working together with your therapist, you can find happiness.