There should be no shame attached in facing a mental health issue. It is important that the patient gets a strong support from family and friends.
By Dr. Anuneet Sabharwal
The emotional and psychological well-being of an individual is what can be termed loosely as mental health. It encompasses how we think, respond and react in a social setting. The ability to understand the situation, have emotional IQ, work productively, cope with stressors and respond in an appropriate manner is what good mental health constitutes. Mental health can be affected by biological and genetic factors, life experiences and exposure to trauma or abuse. Mental health issues are getting increasingly common as life is full of pressures today. There is a constant pressure to perform, the parental pressure to be the best, a competition that builds up over a lifetime of trying to prove ourselves, leading to stress. Background stress and heredity can lead to a host of mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, and rarely, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.
Signs of mental health issues
A healthy body houses a healthy mind. We all have the potential to develop mental disorders, and should be aware of what early signs look like. Early detection can mean good management of symptoms. The most common mental health issues are anxiety and depression. The following are the common, but not exhaustive, signs that may indicate issues:
- The person withdraws from day to day activities; there is an inability to perform daily tasks like going to work or cooking, etc
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Sleeping patterns are disrupted. People tend to either sleep excessively or develop insomnia
- Eating habits may also show a marked difference. They either binge eat or lose all appetite
- There is a lack of energy and lethargy
- People who smoke or drink or use any substance may end up using more than normal quantities of it
- There is a tendency to display mood swings, and emotional outbursts are common
- Personal hygiene is also compromised. There may be a reluctance to take baths or groom as usual
- The patient may keep going back to one thought or memory repeatedly
- In serious cases the patient may have violent tendencies, and may try to cause harm to others and self too
- In extreme cases the afflicted person may hear voices and suffer severe hallucinations
It is not always easy to recognise that you need help. Some people are good at masking their behaviour to fit in. It is the family and friends who must reach out to help the person. Providing the person with support and empathy may help, but seeking professional help is most advisable. This may save a life.
Mental health issues need professional help from a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, psychologist or cognitive behavioural therapist, or a combination of the options. The well informed patient and care-givers can give valuable inputs about what is actually helping the patient.
If one is not seeking medicines, a procedure called Trans-cranial Direct Current Stimulation should be considered. It has a strong body of evidence in Depression, Schizophrenia, OCD, Addiction and Anxiety Disorders Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy. It is a psychological aspect of treatment. CBT (Cognitive behavioural Therapy), Dialectical behaviour therapy and Exposure therapy are some of the different approaches for treating mental health issues. Medication cannot actually cure mental disorders but can alleviate symptoms and allow the patient to lead a semblance of a normal life.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, or tDCS, is a form of very mild brain stimulation, that can be used alone, or as an adjunct to medicines and/or psychotherapy. The effects of tDCS persist for weeks to months. Lifestyle changes like shunning alcohol and substance use, exercising and eating well can also help in treating mental health issues. Meditation can also be a way to reduce stress and improve concentration and self-awareness.
There should be no shame attached in facing a mental health issue. It is important that the patient gets a strong support from family and friends. It is important that you understand that seeking help is not a stigma, and you should actively seek professional help in overcoming mental health issues for yourself or your loved ones.
(The author is MBBS and MD in Psychiatry. He has worked as a senior resident at GB Pant Hospital. Views expressed are author’s personal.)