It is important for you to know that mental health and mental illness are two different but related things. Mental health refers to a person’s ability to think, feel and act in their daily lives.
Good mental health is associated with a person’s ability to live, appreciate and enjoy life in a positive, productive and balanced way. However, individuals with good mental health also cannot escape from stress. However, they are able to deal with stress and other challenges that arise in their lives.
Individuals with poor mental health may find themselves unable to deal with stress, pain and other problems. Prolonged and untreated poor mental health can, but does not necessarily, cause a person to develop mental illness. In addition, mental illness can also affect a person’s mental health as well.
Better known as mental disorder, mental illness is a health condition that affects and can cause changes in a person’s ability to think, feel and act. Individuals suffering from mental illness find it difficult to do normal tasks, they may not be able to interact with others, and are affected by changes in their mood and behavior. Mental illness can be experienced by anyone regardless of age, and the disorder.
Types of mental illness
According to Mental Health America, there are more than 200 types of classification of mental illness. Among the most common types of mental disorders are:
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
The severity of mental illness varies between individuals, as do the symptoms.
Mental illness can be caused by several factors including:
- Bad life experiences during childhood such as trauma or abuse.
- Having a chronic disease for a long period of time.
- Substance abuse.
- Genetic factors or chemical imbalances in the brain.
- Damage, infection or physical defect in the brain.
- Loneliness, isolated life and lack of social exposure.
Making a diagnosis of mental illness
Making a diagnosis for mental illness requires professional expertise. There are many different types of dementia. Therefore, there are various different warning signs as well. However, mental illness rarely happens quickly, and if you feel that either you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness, there are some common signs that can be identified:
- Mood changes, especially dramatic or inappropriate changes in mood and emotion.
- Being less productive and losing interest in doing activities at school, work, home and other social activities.
- Dramatic changes in sleep and appetite, as well as neglecting self-care.
- Inability to concentrate, memory problems, hallucinations, and illogical thought or speech patterns.
- More sensitive to light, sound, touch and smell.
- Feeling afraid or suspicious of others.
- Feeling isolated from yourself or the environment.
- Behaving unusually and atypically.
- Abusing substances, self-harming or showing interest in self-harming.
Experiencing one or two of these signs is not a valid diagnosis of mental illness, but may require further evaluation by a qualified professional. If you or someone you know is experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you or they are advised to seek the advice of a mental health professional. Anyone who shows suicidal thoughts or intentions must seek help immediately.
Get help dealing with mental illness
If you think you may be suffering from a mental illness, this awareness is the first step towards your mental recovery. The Malaysian Psychiatric Association suggests that you ask yourself this question: “Are my problems and symptoms affecting my life?”
If the answer is “Yes”, it’s time for you to seek the help of a mental health professional. They are the best individuals to know how serious your illness is and, if necessary, guide you to the right channel and treatment towards your mental recovery.
If someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, your support, patience and understanding are very important. Don’t force them to talk. Instead, tell them you have it for them when they’re ready later. Educate yourself about their condition knowing the signs and symptoms they are experiencing not only helps you understand why they are behaving in a certain way, but also allows you to help them more effectively. Be a supporter in their treatment journey help them set up the first appointment and accompany them, if necessary, especially when they feel hesitant. Your presence there will show your concern for them.
Helping someone who doesn’t believe they have a mental illness can be difficult. Instead of sharing your diagnosis with them, try to ask them how they are and express your concerns. Offer to help them – many are embarrassed to admit that they cannot handle the problem at hand. Your actions will remind them that there is someone by their side and that everyone needs help once in a while.
Additionally, you also need to remember that someone who refuses to admit that they have a mental illness is not necessarily denying their condition. Anosognosia is a condition experienced by someone who is unaware of their own mental health condition and fails to acknowledge it as well. If someone is experiencing this condition, you need to be patient and offer them emotional support. If possible, share with them the locations to get help when they are ready later.
Mental illness can affect your physical health. Early diagnosis and treatment can help many people lead normal, productive and healthy lives.