World Mental Health Day 2021: Can Mental Illness Cause Physical Symptoms? Expert Explains
Mental health or psychological disorders are quite common in this day and age we are living in. Surveys suggest that around 14% of the population or 1 out of 7 individuals suffer from a psychological disorder. In India, this translates roughly to 200 million individuals. The most common mental health disorders are depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. About 50 million individuals in India suffer from depressive disorders and an equal number of people suffer from anxiety disorders. They can be seen across different stages in an individual's lifespan. However, depression, anxiety and eating disorders may be more commonly seen in women whereas substance abuse is more common in men. The elderly may be more prone to depressive disorders. It has also been seen that the underprivileged and uneducated population, may be more prone to psychological disorders. In children, an additional category of disorders such as developmental disorders may be seen. These include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.
World Mental Health Day 2021: Causes, myths and effect of mental health issues
The causes of psychological disorders can be clubbed into two main categories: Biological and Psychosocial.
Biological causes include factors such as heredity, medical conditions including neurological and endocrinological conditions and infectious diseases, instances of substance abuse in the family. Most psychological disorders run in families. If one family has a psychological disorder, the chances of other family members having psychological disorders increases. Many medical conditions are linked to mental health issues, these include Parkinson's disease, dementia, stroke, endocrinological conditions such as thyroid and diabetes, other medical conditions as well as certain infections. Substance abuse may lead to psychological problems and disorders. Certain medications are also known to cause psychological problems.
The other broad category includes Psychosocial stressors. These include stresses early on in life during childhood such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect, dysfunctional family, parents suffering from substance abuse, too frequent changes of the environment such as change of schools. All of these can attribute to psychological issues later in life. The nature of our stressors changes as we progress into the later stages in our lives. Later in life issues such as financial problems, job problems, relationship problems, health-related problems start creeping in. These may also lead to psychological problems or disorders. We have also recently witnessed how COVID-19 has become one of the most important stressors of our lives. It has led to psychological issues in a reasonable amount of people.
Despite the progress we have made, there continues to be stigma related to psychological issues. People do not recognize signs and symptoms as suggestive of a psychological disorder. They refuse to recognize these are serious illnesses just like medical disorders which can be treated by pharmacological and psychological methods. Hence, there is a delay in seeking treatment. Some attribute mental health problems to weakness of one's character.
There are also a lot of myths related to the treatment of mental health issues. Many believe these disorders do not have any treatment, while others believe medications are dangerous and can cause side effects. They think these medications are damaging to the brain or may numb the brain or be addictive.
This is when people think willpower or strength and courage will help the individual 'deal with it. This again is quite toxic and delays proper treatment and resolution. Some believe Yoga and Meditation alone can heal a mental health disorder. And while there is no doubt about the benefits of these activities, one must also understand the role that counselling, and medication cannot be replaced. They exist to help the individual in ways that cannot be substituted. Some people also believe that they will need to take the medications for the rest of their lives, which is not the case.
Mental Health can manifest themselves in these forms:
1. Sleep disturbances: Some people may have increased sleep, while some might have increased sleep
2. Appetite: Some might eat less, however, many might eat more. Stress eating is extremely common, particularly, sweets and chocolates
4. Attention deficit, confusion, inability to take the decision
7. Vague aches and pains in the body
9. Gastrointestinal problems such as acidity, burning, bloating, nausea, pain in the upper abdominal area, diarrhoea and constipation
Stress impacts us all. It is now a part of our lives. People deal with it in unique ways. However, the most impactful is timely and the right amount of sleep and nutrition. Exercise is also known as an effective stress buster. Around 30-40 minutes of exercise per day, half of it vigorous does wonders for our body and mind. Adding meditation to these routines calms down the mind. Social connectivity and interactions also help immensely. Sharing and venting can be activities that take out half the stress out of the equation. So, connect with people, learn to be firm about impossible tasks and take care of your body through regular exercise. These can help an individual to sail through. However, when needed, do not shy away from asking for help.
This is an awareness piece about common mental health issues and stress. There are many other serious mental health disorders such as psychosis disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders which require immediate medical attention. This awareness piece has touched upon some common methods by which you can keep your stress in control. This should not be seen as an exhaustive list. For more details, one should approach mental health professionals.
Never hesitate to seek help from a mental health expert. Also encourage people around you to consult an expert if required.
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