Mental health affects your ability to think clearly, cope with stress, and bounce back from life’s challenges. It also influences your emotions and how you relate to others.
No blood tests or brain scans can show whether you have a mental illness. But you can learn to recognize the signs and symptoms. Read on New Self Improvement Podcast to learn more.
Everyone feels sad or anxious from time to time, but serious mental illnesses cause symptoms that last longer and interfere with a person’s daily life. These include extreme sadness, hopelessness, anxiety or pessimism, trouble sleeping, or a loss of interest in hobbies and other activities. People may also have a change in eating habits or feelings of worthlessness, or lose their ability to think clearly or make decisions. They might feel irritable or hostile, or be prone to anger outbursts. They may have physical complaints such as headaches, body aches, or changes in digestion. They could have thoughts of suicide or a desire to hurt themselves or others.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes mental illness, but it can be influenced by your genes and social learning. It can also be affected by the way your brain works, and how it interacts with your environment. Your culture, life experiences and the ways you cope with stress all play a role. If you have a close family member who has a mental health condition, it can increase the chance that you might develop one, too.
The good news is that most people with mental health problems can get better with treatment and lead full, productive lives. Serious disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. They can also cause other health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes.
It’s important to talk about mental health, and know the warning signs. It’s not always easy to recognize symptoms, and they can be hard to describe. But you should watch for changes in your friends and loved ones. They might seem more irritable or angry, sleep less or more than usual, or stop going out and spending time with other people. You should also pay attention if someone seems to be tired all the time, as this can be a sign of depression or an eating disorder.
If you are worried that you or a friend might have a mental health problem, check out the free online mental health screening tests available on this site and speak to your doctor. Getting help early is the best way to manage your illness, and it can prevent more severe symptoms.
A mental health problem is not always easy to recognize or explain. Sometimes the signs and symptoms may be confused with normal feelings or events, such as stress, anger, or fatigue. In addition, people with mental illness often find it difficult to seek help. They may assume their condition is a sign of weakness or they might fear the stigma associated with mental illness. Nevertheless, the majority of mental health problems are treatable and most people recover.
Symptoms of mental illness can be severe and can affect all aspects of life, including work, relationships and daily functioning. They can appear suddenly or develop slowly over time. Some mental illnesses last a short time, while others are long-term or cause permanent disability.
Most mental illnesses are diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. They use diagnostic tools, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) from the American Psychiatric Association, or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) from the World Health Organization, to determine the nature, severity and duration of the symptoms and identify whether they meet criteria for the specific disorder. These diagnostic guidelines are also used by health insurance companies to assess coverage and make reimbursement decisions.
Researchers are still trying to understand what causes mental illness. However, it is known that genes and the environment both play a role. The risk of mental illness increases if someone has a family history of the disorder. It is also believed that traumatic experiences can trigger the development of some disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you notice drastic changes in your thinking, mood or behavior, it’s important to seek help. Talk to your primary care doctor or call the health direct helpline (known as ‘NURSE-ON-CALL’ in Victoria) on 1800 022 222. It’s free and available 24/7. A registered nurse can provide advice and connect you to local services. You can also contact SANE Australia on 1300 22 4636 or Beyond Blue on 1800 18 7263 for support. They can help you find a therapist and make an appointment with them.
Many people with mental health problems have a hard time functioning in their daily lives. They may have trouble with work, school and relationships. The good news is that most of these problems can be treated.
The first step in treatment is getting a diagnosis. Your doctor will ask you questions and do a physical exam to rule out other causes of your symptoms. He or she will then refer you to a mental health professional for tests and counseling.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the most important part of treatment for most people with mental illness. It can be done one-to-one with a therapist or in group sessions. Psychotherapy can help you learn to manage your symptoms and develop new skills for coping with life’s challenges. There are different kinds of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Medications are another important part of treatment for some people with mental illnesses. Medicines change the chemical balance in your brain to ease your symptoms. They include antidepressants, mood stabilisers and drugs for psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Medicines don’t cure mental illnesses, but they can improve your quality of life and make other treatments more effective.
There are also some new forms of psychotherapy that are available over the telephone or Internet. These new technologies allow people to get treatment without having to travel or go to a clinic. These therapies use written materials, computer programs or mobile apps to communicate with a therapist and provide feedback on your progress.
It is important to stick with your treatment plan. If you stop going to therapy or taking medication, your symptoms may return. It’s best to work with your psychiatrist or psychologist and primary care physician to find a long-term management plan that works for you.
Sometimes your mental health condition is so severe that you need to be in a hospital or residential treatment program for a short period of time. This usually happens when you can’t take care of yourself or are in danger of harming yourself or others.
Mental health problems can make it difficult to work, interact with family and fulfill other important life activities. Prevention strategies work to keep people from developing a mental illness or substance use disorder. They can also help people recover from a mental illness or substance use disorder once they have it.
Researchers are working hard to understand what causes mental illness. We know that genes, life experiences and brain chemistry are involved. Some people are more likely to have a mental illness because of their family history. Negative childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect, can increase the risk of mental illness later in life. So can stressful or traumatic events, such as a car accident or living in a war zone. It’s also possible that some medical conditions and medications can cause mental illness.
Psychosis is a state of mind in which people lose touch with reality and experience delusions or hallucinations. It can lead to feelings of terror or hopelessness and may cause someone to become violent or hurt others. It is important to get treatment for psychosis as soon as possible. If the symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
The National Suicide Prevention Resource Center provides resources, programs and training on suicide prevention best practices. SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) leads federal efforts to promote the development of comprehensive systems of prevention for substance abuse and mental disorders.
Talking openly and honestly with family members and friends is one of the most important things you can do to prevent mental health problems. You can offer support and encouragement, and maybe even encourage them to see a health care professional. You can’t force them to seek treatment, but you can ask them questions and offer to go with them to their appointments. If you notice signs of depression in a loved one, talk to them about it. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day.
Education, early identification and treatment, and social support are the most effective ways to prevent mental health problems. Many communities are implementing programs to address these issues.