Many people feel vulnerable to mental ill health at some time in their lives. You don’t have to have a diagnosis to be experiencing feelings of low mood, anxiety or distress.
The phrase “mental health problems” covers many different conditions and levels of severity. Below is a list of the most common and what they mean.
Addiction and dependency
An addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behaviour or substance. It could manifest as a compulsion to take mood altering substances (drugs or alcohol for example) or as a particular behaviour (such as gambling or workaholism). For many, it started as a habit which provided a way of coping with unbearable feelings that couldn’t be dealt with in any other way.
People experiencing anxiety may have a sense of apprehension, tension or uneasiness which can manifest with noticeable physical symptoms such as nausea, lightheadedness, sweating, a racing heart, palpitations and rapid breathing. You may be on edge, irritable and unable to relax or concentrate, perhaps feeling weepy and seeking the reassurance of others.
Asperger’s syndrome is mostly a ‘hidden disability’. This means that you can’t tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas: social communication, social interaction and social imagination. If you have Asperger’s syndrome, understanding conversation might be like trying to understand a foreign language.
Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
Someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder may experience extreme mood swings, with periods of depression alternating with periods of mania. When manic, they are in a state of high excitement, and may plan and may try to execute grandiose schemes and ideas. While depressed they may feel overwhelming despair, guilt and worthlessness, losing interest in everything. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times.
Dementia is defined as a decline in intellectual functioning, including communication and physical capabilities that are severe enough to interfere with normal activities of daily living. It is a description of a collection of symptoms that are caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain, such as short and/ or long term memory loss, disorientation in a familiar place, lack of concentration, judgment and understanding, an altered perception and character. Dementia is more common in later life but may occur at any stage of adulthood.
Depression shows up in many different ways. People don’t always realise what’s going on but symptoms may include many of the following: little interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling bad about yourself, feeling sad, feeling tired or having little energy, finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions, distancing yourself from others, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, thoughts of death or suicide.
You may have a personality disorder if: Parts of your personality make it hard for you to live with yourself and other people, experience doesn’t teach you how to change the unhelpful parts of yourself, you find it hard to make or keep relationships with friends, family and work colleagues, you find it hard to control your feelings or behaviour, you find that you upset or harm other people because you’re distressed.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms. These include hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that do not exist), and delusions (believing in things that are untrue) – often referred to as psychotic symptoms or symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is when somebody is unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination.
Stress is the way that you feel when pressure is placed on you. A little bit of pressure can be productive, give you motivation, and help you to perform better at something. However, too much pressure or prolonged pressure can lead to stress, which is unhealthy for the mind and body. Everyone reacts differently to stress, and some people may have a higher threshold than others. Too much stress often leads to physical, mental and emotional problems.