By Adunke Olatunji
Everyone feels worried or anxious or down from time to time. But relatively few people develop a mental illness. What’s the difference? A mental illness is a mental health condition that gets in the way of thinking, relating to others, and day-to-day function.
A mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests that these factors may cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.
Dozens of mental illnesses have been identified and defined. They include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and many more.
Mental illness is an equal opportunity issue. It affects young and old, male and female, and individuals of every race, ethnic background, education level, and income level. The good news is that it can often be treated.
Signs and symptoms of mental illness depend in part on the illness. Common symptoms include: feeling down for a while,
extreme swings in mood,
withdrawing from family, friends, or activities
low energy or problems sleeping
often feeling angry, hostile, or violent
feeling paranoid, hearing voices, or having hallucinations
often thinking about death or suicide.
In some people, symptoms of a mental illness first appear as physical problems such as stomach aches, back pain, or insomnia.
Individuals with a mental illness can often ease their symptoms and feel better by talking with a therapist and following a treatment plan that may or may not include medication.
Depression is a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.
Sadness, feeling down, and having a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities are familiar feelings for all of us. But if they persist and affect our lives substantially, the issue may be depression.
Depression symptoms may vary among people but generally encompass a feeling of sadness or hopelessness.
These can include:
a. Tiredness and loss of energy
b. Sadness that doesn’t go away
c. Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
d. Difficulty concentrating
e. Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable of interesting
f. Feeling anxious all the time
g. Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
h. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
i. Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
j. Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
k. Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
l. Loss of appetite
m. Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems
n. Physical aches and pains
o. Thinking about suicide and death
Depression symptoms can vary in severity, from mild to moderate to severe depression. If you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day – every day – for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your Doctor.
Depression is a complex condition and its causes are not fully understood. However, various contributing factors can lead to depression. These can include biological factors (for example, genetics or experience of physical illness or injury) and psychological or social factors (experiences dating back to childhood, unemployment, bereavement, or life-changing events such as pregnancy. Having a long-standing or life-threatening illness, such as heart disease, back pain or cancer, has been associated with an increased risk of depression.
Tabitha New Life Foundation.