What Is Mental Health?

Mental Health implies cognitive, behavioural & emotional well-being. It is all about how we feel, think and behave!!

Mental health not only impacts our physical well-being but also our living and relationships. However, it is the other way round too. Factors in one's life like relationships, interpersonal connections, upbringing etc have an impact on one's mental health and can lead to disruptions.

According to W.H.O, ''Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Maintaining mental health is the key to a happy life. It also enables striking the right chord between happiness, responsibilities and activities of life along with psychological resilience. Conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression can disrupt and adversely affect one's mental health. Hence emotional and psychological resilience are crucial to maintain "Mental Wellness".

Risk factors for mental health conditions: Everyone is prone to developing a mental health disorder irrespective of one's age, gender and income. In the U.S. and the developed countries, mental disorders are one of the leading causes of disability.

Common mental health disorders: The most common types of mental illness comprise of the below mentioned:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Schizophrenia Disorders

  1. Anxiety Disorders:

    According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent type of mental illness. People with this condition have severe fear or anxiety corresponding to certain objects or situations. Most people with an anxiety disorder will try to avoid exposure to scenarios that trigger their anxiety. Such examples comprise of the below:

    1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): The American Psychiatric Association define GAD as disproportionate worry that disrupts everyday living. People might also experience physical symptoms such as :-
      • Restlessness
      • Fatigue
      • Tense Muscles
      • Interrupted Sleep
      Trigger of anxiety symptoms in people with GAD, may not require specific situations or scenarios. They may experience excessive anxiety in everyday situations such chores, daily tasks etc without any direct danger. Sometimes, they experience anxiety without any trigger at all.
    2. Panic Disorders: A panic attack may happen when a person has high levels of anxiety. Anyone can experience a panic attack. These attacks are also a symptom of panic disorder. These attacks mostly happen in situations with specific triggers. But some people may experience it without any triggers. Such people may have a ''Panic Disorder''. For diagnosis a panic disorder, the doctor will have to utilise criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) . According to APA, American Psychological Association, approximately 1 in 75 people undergo this disorder. However, both panic attacks and panic disorder are mental health issues.
    3. Phobias: There are different types of phobia:
      • Simple Phobias: This refers to fear with specific triggers like animals, objects or scenarios e.g fear of spiders, height etc
      • Social Phobia: This is also known as Social Anxiety. This is fear of social environment and being subject to other's judgement. Such people restrict their social life.
      • Agoraphobia: This related to fear of situations in which getting away may be difficult, such as being in an elevator or being outside home or in a moving train. It is usually misunderstood as a fear of open spaces but it could also apply to being in small and confined spaces such as an elevator or a public transport. People suffering from this fear are at the risk of panic disorder.
      Phobias are subjective and deeply personal. These could run in thousands. Each individual's response is different. Something which is unusual to one person might be an extreme problem dominating daily life for another.
    4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): It is an anxiety disorder involving compulsive behaviour and obsessive thoughts. Individuals with OCD undergo a strong urge to perform repetitive actions and experience constant thoughts like washing hands etc. OCD can impact one's well-being and quality of life.
    5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This disorder normally triggers in individuals who have undergone any traumatic experience in life that caused shock, fear and helplessness. Events such as wars, accidents, crimes, fire, loss of loved one, abuse in any form lead to PTSD. It can have long term impact like anxiety, difficulty in sleeping, flashbacks etc. Individuals with PTSD undergo recurrence of thoughts and memories of the trauma even though the danger has passed. Women are more susceptible to it.

  2. Mood Disorders:

    These are also called as depressive or affective disorders. Such individuals undergo significant mood swings involving either depression (low and sad) or mania (high energy or elation). Some of the mood disorders are enclosed below:

    1. Major Depression: Such individuals tend to feel low. They undergo prolonged periods of sadness or extreme sadness, constant low feelings, loss of interest in activities that they used cherish and enjoy previously.
    2. Bipolor Disorder: Such individuals experience significantly striking changes in their mood, activity levels, energy and ability to continue their daily routine. Their manic phases are characterised by high mood and energy levels while depressive phases make them feel low in energy and mood.
    3. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): This disorder is triggered by reduced day light. It is most prevalent in countries that are far from the equator. It is commonly called as '' seasonal depression or winter depression or depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern''. This is most common in winter season and tends to sort out by spring time.

  3. Schizophrenia Disorders:

    Its a serious mental illness that impacts an individuals thought process, behaviour and feelings. It is highly complex mental condition. Such individuals seem to be far away from reality which not only has an adverse affect on them but even on their family and friends.

    Researchers are trying to figure out if Schizophrenia is a single disorder or a group of connected illnesses. According to NIMH, Schizophrenia signs normally develop between 16 to 30 years of age. It is coupled with a varied spectrum of symptoms which include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders and on the other hand symptoms like withdrawal, inappropriate mood and lack of motivation.

    The family has to prioritise the treatment of individual suffering from Schizophrenia. If left untreated, it can be disabling and persistent. Effective treatments are available. With timely, sustained and well coordinated treatment, such individuals can work, attain independence and cherish personal relationships.