Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.
Mental illness is much like diabetes, heart disease and a broken leg — one can live with it and recover from it. Recovery is not an end state; it does not mean that the individual no longer has depression, schizophrenia or another mental illness. Recovery means that the person has stabilized and regained their role in society as productive and valued individuals.
Learning more about mental health and mental illness is a crucial step in dispelling stigma, stopping prejudice and promoting early identification and effective treatment.
One in five Canadians meets the criteria for having a mental illness in their lifetime, 24 % of women and 17% percent of men.
A naturopath will put together a Treatment Plan which will usually include acupuncture, plant extracts, vit.B12 injections and nutraceuticals. Exercise does also wonderful things for mental health.
Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. Many people feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision.
Anxiety disorders are different, though. They can cause such distress that it interferes with your ability to lead a normal life.
This type of disorder is a serious mental illness. For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.
The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but anxiety disorders – like other forms of mental illness – are not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing. As scientists continue their research on mental illness, it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress.
There are several kinds of anxiety:
✓ Panic disorder. People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking. It can feel like you’re having a heart attack or “going crazy.”
✓ Social anxiety disorder. Also called social phobia, this involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
✓ Specific phobias. These are intense fears of a specific object or situation, such as heights or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause you to avoid common, everyday situations.
✓ Generalized anxiety disorder. This is excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there’s little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
The symptoms of anxiety depend on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:
•Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
•Cold or sweaty hands or feet
•Shortness of breath
•Not being able to be still and calm
•Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem.
But when feelings of intense sadness , including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless, last for many days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression, a medical condition, an illness, not a sign of weakness.
According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following symptoms at the same time:
✓ A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
✓ Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
✓ Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
✓ Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
✓ Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
✓ Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
✓ Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
✓ A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
✓ Significant weight loss or weight gain
A key sign of depression is either depressed mood or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. For a diagnosis of depression, these signs should be present most of the day either daily or nearly daily for at least two weeks. In addition, the depressive symptoms need to cause clinically significant distress or impairment. They cannot be due to the direct effects of a substance, for example, a drug or medication. Nor can they be the result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
✓ Difficulty falling asleep
✓ Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
✓ Waking up too early in the morning
✓ Feeling tired upon waking
There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.
✓ Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
✓ Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication they are taking; or a substance they are using (like alcohol).
Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month or longer.
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
✓ Depression and/or anxiety
✓ Chronic stress
✓ Pain or discomfort at night
Symptoms of insomnia can include:
✓ Sleepiness during the day
✓ General tiredness
✓ Problems with concentration or memory
Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. People with schizophrenia, the most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses, often have problems functioning in society, at work, at school, and in relationships. Schizophrenia can leave its sufferer frightened and withdrawn. It is a life-long disease that cannot be cured but can be controlled with proper treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split or multiple personality. Schizophrenia is a psychosis, a type of mental illness in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. At times, people with psychotic disorders lose touch with reality. The world may seem like a jumble of confusing thoughts, images, and sounds. The behavior of people with schizophrenia may be very strange and even shocking. A sudden change in personality and behavior, which occurs when schizophrenia sufferers lose touch with reality, is called a psychotic episode.
Schizophrenia varies in severity from person to person. Some people have only one psychotic episode while others have many episodes during a lifetime but lead relatively normal lives between episodes. Still other individuals with this disorder may experience a decline in their functioning over time with little improvement between full blown psychotic episodes. Schizophrenia symptoms seem to worsen and improve in cycles known as relapses and remissions.
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia can be grouped into several categories including positive symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and negative symptoms.
Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
In this case, the word positive does not mean “good.” Rather, it refers to obvious symptoms that are exaggerated forms of thinking or behavior that become irrational. These symptoms, which are sometimes referred to as psychotic symptoms, include:
✓ Delusions: Delusions are strange beliefs that are not based in reality and that the person refuses to give up, even when presented with factual information. For example, the person suffering from delusions may believe that people can hear his or her thoughts, that he or she is God or the devil, or that people are putting thoughts into his or her head or plotting against them.
✓ Hallucinations: These involve perceiving sensations that aren’t real, such as seeing things that aren’t there, hearing voices, smelling strange odors, having a “funny” taste in your mouth, and feeling sensations on your skin even though nothing is touching your body. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination in people with schizophrenia. The voices may comment on the person’s behavior, insult the person, or give commands.
✓ Catatonia: a condition in which the person becomes physically fixed in a single position for a very long time.
Disorganized symptoms of schizophrenia are a type of positive symptom that reflects the person’s inability to think clearly and respond appropriately. Examples of disorganized symptoms include:
•Talking in sentences that do not make sense or using nonsense words, making it difficult for the person to communicate or engage in conversation
•Shifting quickly from one thought to the next
•Being unable to make decisions
•Writing excessively but without meaning
•Forgetting or losing things
•Repeating movements or gestures, such as pacing or walking in circles
•Having problems making sense of everyday sights, sounds, and feelings
Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
•Poor executive functioning (the ability to understand information and to use it to make decisions)
•Trouble focusing or paying attention
•Difficulty with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
In this case, the word negative does not mean “bad,” but reflects the absence of certain normal behaviors in people with schizophrenia. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include:
•Lack of emotion or a very limited range of emotions
•Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities
•Lack of motivation
•Loss of pleasure or interest in life
•Poor hygiene and grooming habits
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder or manic-depression, is a serious mental illness. It’s a disorder that can lead to risky behavior, damaged relationships and careers, and even suicidal tendencies if it’s not treated.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood, from mania to depression. Between these mood episodes, a person with bipolar disorder may experience normal moods.
“Manic” describes an increasingly restless, energetic, talkative, reckless, powerful, euphoric period. Lavish spending sprees or impulsive risky sex can occur. Then, at some point, this high-flying mood can spiral into something darker — irritation, confusion, anger, feeling trapped.
“Depression ” describes the opposite mood — sadness, crying, sense of worthlessness, loss of energy, loss of pleasure, sleep problems.
But because the pattern of highs and lows varies for each person, bipolar disorder is a complex disease to diagnose. For some people, mania or depression can last for weeks or months, (and rarely, even years). For other people, bipolar disorder takes the form of frequent and dramatic mood episodes.
Manic periods, experts say, can be very productive. People going through a manic period can think things are going great. The danger comes, though, when the mania grows worse. Changes can be dramatic and marked by reckless behavior, sexual promiscuity, sexual risks, and financial irresponsibility.
The depressed phases can be equally dangerous. A person may have frequent thoughts of suicide.
Bipolar disorder is equally difficult for the families of those affected. The condition is the most difficult mental illness for families to accept, according to some experts. When a person is sometimes very productive and then becomes unreasonable or irrational, it may seem more like bad behavior than a sickness.
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), formerly considered a type of anxiety disorder, is now regarded as a unique condition. It is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors. People with OCD are overwhelmed by recurring and distressing thoughts, fears, or images (obsessions) they cannot control. The anxiety produced by these thoughts leads to an urgent need to perform certain rituals or routines (compulsions). The compulsive rituals are performed in an attempt to prevent the obsessive thoughts or make them go away and relieve the nervousness.
This OCD cycle can progress to the point of taking up hours of the patient’s day and significantly interfering with normal activities. People with OCD may be aware that their obsessions and compulsions are senseless or unrealistic and they do make some attempts to resist them, but they cannot stop them. The urge is too strong.
Common obsessions include:
- Fear of dirt or contamination by germs (the most common)
- Fear of causing harm to another
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of being embarrassed or behaving in a socially unacceptable manner
- Fear of thinking evil or sinful thoughts
- Need for order, symmetry, or exactness
- Excessive doubt and the need for constant reassurance
Common compulsions include:
- Repeatedly bathing, showering, or washing hands
- Refusing to shake hands or touch doorknobs
- Repeatedly checking things, such as locks or stoves
- Constant counting, mentally or aloud, while performing routine tasks
- Constantly arranging things in a certain way
- Eating foods in a specific order
- Being stuck on words, images or thoughts, usually disturbing, that won’t go away and can interfere with sleep
- Repeating specific words, phrases, or prayers
- Needing to perform tasks a certain number of times
- Collecting or hoarding items with no apparent value
The exact cause of OCD is not fully understood; studies have shown that a combination of biological and environmental factors may be involved in this puzzling disease.
- Biological Factors: The brain is a very complex structure and contain billion of neurons. At one time, it was thought that low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin was responsible for the development of OCD. Now, however, scientists think that OCD arises from problems in the pathways of the brain that link areas dealing with judgment and planning with another area that filters messages involving body movements. There is also evidence that biological vulnerability to develop OCD may sometimes be inherited, meaning it does run in families.
- Environmental Factors: There are environmental stressors that can trigger or worsen OCD in people with a tendency toward developing the condition. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Changes in living situation
- Death of a loved one
- Work- or school-related changes or problems
- Relationship concerns
It’s now estimated that about 1-2% of the population in Canada has obsessive-compulsive disorder or will have it at some point in their lives. 65% of people with OCD develop it before the age of 25. Only 15% of people develop it after the age of 35.
There is no lab test to diagnose OCD, meaning that there is not an objective test for this. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on an assessment of the patient’s symptoms, including how much time the person spends performing his or her ritual behaviors.