the most common mental health conditions and where to get help


Today is World Mental Health Day (WMHD), an annual campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Recognised by the World Health Organisation, WMHD happens on October 10 every year with the aim of opening up the mental health conversation and reducing stigmas surrounding the topic.

And with recent stats from mental health charity, Mind revealing that approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, the awareness day is much needed.

While experts say the overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, how people cope with mental health problems appears to be getting worse.

With that in mind, and to mark WMHD we’ve put together some of the UK’s most common mental health issues and what to do if you or someone you know is suffering.

Anxiety

Anxiety problems are one some of the most common mental health problems. Although it is difficult to predict exactly how many people suffer from anxiety, as it manifests in many different forms, Time to Change estimates than in any given week around 6 in every 100 of us will be experiencing Generalised Anxiety Disorder (a common type of anxiety problem).

Meanwhile around 8 out of 100 people will be experiencing a mixture of anxiety and depression.

Feeling anxious is a normal emotion that everyone will experience at some point, but anxiety becomes a mental health problem when someone finds they are feeling this way all or most of the time..

It is difficult to pinpoint the symptoms of anxiety because those suffering could have differing experiences but Time to Change suggest often those who experience problems with anxiety describe life in general becoming exhausting, as the worry and fear associated with different situations takes so much energy to overcome.

Sufferers may also find it hard to relax, sleep and eat and could avoid certain situations, work or new and unfamiliar experiences.

A lot of people with anxiety problems will experience physical symptoms too including aches and pains, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, feeling sick or dizzy and blurry vision.

READ MORE: Surprising signs you could be suffering from a mental health condition

Depression

According to Mentalhealth.org 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.

Mind describes depression as a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

“In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits,” the site explains. “It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile.”

But at its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.

Some of the symptoms of depression include feeling down, upset or tearful, empty and numb, isolated and unable to relate to other people, lacking in confidence and self-esteem and feeling hopeless.

According to Mind, there are also some specific forms of depression including:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that occurs at a particular time of year, or during a particular season.

  • Dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. It is also referred to as persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression.

  • Prenatal depression – depression that occurs during pregnancy.

  • Postnatal depression (PND) – depression that occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Though postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women, it can also affect men.

Phobias

A phobia is described by the NHS as an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

They are a common type of mental health issue impacting 2.4 people in every 100.

If a phobia sufferer doesn’t come into contact with the source of their problem very often it may not affect their life – although in some cases even thinking about the thing they fear can give a person “anticipatory anxiety”.

If a phobia becomes very severe, the person suffering may organise their life around avoiding the aspect that’s causing distress.

Bipolar disorder

Time for Change describes bipolar disorder as a diagnosis given to someone who experiences extreme periods of low (depressed) and high (manic) moods.

Bipolar is the fourth most-common mental health problem worldwide after depression, anxiety and schizophrenia with recent statistics revealing one in every 100 people will be diagnosed with the condition at some point in their life.

While all of us will have variations in our mood, those for those suffering from bipolar disorder the changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on their life.

Time for Change says high or ‘manic’ periods can involve people feeling euphoric, excited, confident, ambitious or adventurous, a feeling of being invincible, but can also include not feeling like eating or sleeping.

Meanwhile low periods can share a lot of the characteristics of depression including feeling down, hopeless or tearful, experiencing low self esteem and having a lack of motivation and inability to enjoy things.

Russell Brand, Mariah Carey and Kanye West are just a few of the famous names who have opened up about their battles with bipolar disorder.

Celebrities opening up about their mental health struggles can help to reduce stigma with many other sufferers claiming it helps them feel “less alone” in their own challenges.

READ MORE: Male loneliness: why are men finding it so hard to make friends?

Panic Disorder

Recent statistics have revealed one in about every 200 people will experience a panic disorder.

The NHS says panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear.

“Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times,” the site explains. “It’s a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations.

“But for someone with panic disorder, feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur regularly and at any time, often for no apparent reason.”

A panic attack therefore occurs when these feelings of anxiety become intense and overwhelming.

According to Time for Change physical symptoms of a panic attack can include shortness of breath, sweating, an increased heartbeat or blurry vision.

Although panic attacks are frightening, the NHS say they’re not usually dangerous. “An attack won’t cause you any physical harm, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be admitted to hospital if you have one,” the site explains.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to Mind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects around four in every 100 people.

The mental health charity describes the condition as a type of anxiety disorder which could develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events.

Symptoms can include being hypervigilant at all times or being unable to relax; avoiding talking about the trauma and numbing yourself to emotions. Sufferers can also experience flashbacks and nightmares.

How to help someone you suspect is suffering from a mental health condition

It can be difficult to know how to help someone with a mental health condition, but experts suggest taking a sensitive approach.

“If you think someone has a mental health problem, it is important to seek help early, either through mental health charities or your GP,” advises Dr Dane Vishnubala, Chief Medical Officer at Active IQ.

“Sometimes it’s hard to pin down what the problem is but the first action to take is to listen to them and support them to access the professional help they need. This is likely to include talking therapies, exercise and medications which are all known to help.”

Educate yourself and communicate

Often the best first step is to educate yourself about the symptoms and mental health issue they might have, and then share your findings with them.

“Communicate as openly as you can, but also conduct your own research by reading as much as you can on the condition and find out what other people have experienced,” suggests Niels Eék, clinic psychologist and co-founder at personal development and mental wellbeing app, Remente.

The more you know, the more support you will be able to offer. Once they understand that what they are going through is normal, and that you care, they are more likely to open up and speak to you, without being afraid of disappointing you.”

Talk

You don’t have to be a mental health professional to know what to do or how to help. “Offering a listening ear and words of support and reassurance go a long way,” says Dr Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK.

But it’s worth giving consideration to your words.

“Sometimes our natural reactions to a person’s admission of mental ill health, may not be the response the situation calls for,” Dr Vandenabeele explains.

“Trying to cheer that person up or make light of the situation with comments such as ‘You’ll feel better when the weather gets warmer’ or ‘It’s not so bad – things could be a lot worse…’ could undermine the other person’s feelings and close down the dialogue.”

Instead, he suggests keeping questions open ended, such as ‘Is there anything you would like to talk to me about?’.

“Let them speak at their own pace and show that you’re there to guide them towards support,” he adds.

READ MORE: What to do if you – or someone you know – is having suicidal thoughts

And listen

There is nothing more demoralising when you are speaking with someone that is clearly not listening. “Even if you might not always be able fully to understand, you can still support your friend by paying attention to his or her tone of voice and body language, without being too critical of them or overbearing in your worry,” explains Eék.

“While you might feel the urge to advise them or to impart knowledge, they want to know that they can speak to you, and that you acknowledge their feelings, without judging them. Knowing that you are there for them, supporting them, can do a lot to help someone suffering from mental health issues.”

Encourage them to seek help

The most important thing you can do for someone who could be suffering from a mental health condition is to urge them to seek the help they need. “Tell them to speak to their GP so that they can put together a personalised plan of action and treatment,” Dr Vandenabeele advises. “The important thing to remember with mental health is that it can and should be treated in the same way as physical health.”

Look after yourself

According to Eék it can be demanding and stressful at times to support a friend that is suffering from mental health, so it is essential that you make sure to look after your own mental health as well. “If you feel you need support, you should contact your GP and address your issues at an early stage,” he adds.



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