What is mental health?
People talk about mental health a lot these days, but what do we actually mean by this and how can we take care of it?
Mental health is important
We use the term mental health to cover the psychological, emotional and social well-being of an individual. The state of our mental health has a huge impact on how we act, feel and think as well as how we relate to others and ourselves.
Factors that affect our mental health
When we look at things that have an impact on our mental wellbeing they can be divided into 4 categories:
- Biological factors such as brain chemistry
- Genealogical factors – family history of mental illness
- Life Experiences – Trauma and abuse
- Drug and alcohol misuse
Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions can range from minor to severe and can present with a range of different symptoms depending on the individual and the condition. Mental health disorders can be divided into the following categories.
- Mood disorders from depression to bipolar
- Anxiety disorders from mild to severe
- Personality disorders
- Impulse control disorders and addiction
- Psychotic disorders
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
Mental Health and Addiction to Drugs and Alcohol
Drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness are often coupled together. This sphere of medicine is often termed ‘dual diagnosis’ or referred to as ‘co-occurring disorders’. This presents a number of problems when clinicians attempt to treat either condition. Often the symptoms present as very similar and it is difficult to determine which one is primary.
When a mental health issue remains untreated the use of drugs and alcohol often gets worse. Likewise, when drugs and alcohol are taken in increased amounts, the mental health problems often spiral.
Alcohol and drugs are often used by people to self-medicate the symptoms of mental health problems. Moreover, abusing substances causes side effects and in the long run, often worsens the symptoms they initially helped to relieve. Drug and alcohol abuse can also escalate the underlying risk for mental disorders or simply make the symptoms of a mental health problem worse. Mental disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors
According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
- Approximately 50 % of individuals with mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
- 37 % of alcohol abusers and 53 % of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
- Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 % abuse either alcohol or drugs.
Ways to look after your mental health
Generally, these are some good guidelines to make sure that you are looking after your mental health and wellbeing.
- Connecting with other people
- Being positive through your actions
- Doing physical exercise
- Helping other people
- Having enough sleep
- Developing healthy coping skills
Probably the most important thing for anyone suffering from a mental health condition, addiction or a co-occurring disorder is to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment from professionals who understand the complexities of the issue.