Mental Ill Health, Anxiety, Depression
What do we consider mental ill health to look like?
The broad term ‘mental ill-health’ is often used as an umbrella term that includes both mental illness and mental health problems. So what’s the difference?
We can simplify it so that mental health refers to anyone’s state of mental and emotional well-being, whereas mental illnesses are diagnosed conditions that affect thoughts and behaviours.
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Our mental health plays out as emotions, feelings, thoughts and moods that can all influence our mental health, and that is perfectly normal.
The NHS describes a mental illness or mental health disorder as “an illness that affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others.” Thinking about this description then, leads us to think about schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and depression, addictive behaviours, eating disorders and personality disorders too.
Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. It is a problem when it becomes overwhelming or unmanageable and it comes up unexpectedly. It can have a big impact on your life, but anxiety disorders are treatable and there are a number of effective treatments available which can help most people to lead a normal productive lives.
The term “Depression” is widely used but sometimes incorrectly. It is not just feeling fed up or down for a few days, and it is not something that you can just snap out of or get a “grip of”. It is a real illness with real symptoms, such as feeling unhappy and hopeless to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have physical symptoms such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains. Many people with depression also have anxiety symptoms too and depression can be mild to severe, leading to suicidal tendencies.
Treatment can be with CBT, support through self help groups, talking therapies, exercise and medication. Referral to specialist teams can be beneficial in accessing the right help too.
Let’s start to reduce the stigma about mental health by discussing it, starting a conversation with family and friends and supporting each other when we recognise a decline in ourselves or those we are close to or work with.
Women’s mental health can often be mis-interpreted as just “hormones” and vice versa! Women going through the menopausal journey, so peri-menopause through to post menopause, can often be prescribed anti depressants when the symptoms could actually be menopause and hormone related.
Symptom trackers or diaries to report symptoms in relation to cycles or in general, can be a useful tool for women to take to their GPs for correct diagnosis. It is also important for women to be open minded but knowledgable in the different types and availability of medications, how they could affect them and their options for alternative therapies too.
Empowerment through education and self care along with the right support can make the difference between managing the condition and struggling to live a normal life. Mental illness doesn’t have to define you, it can be manageable with the right support.