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A sound mind in a sound body sounds about right…?

When it come to our mental health, do we really know enough?

That’s the goal, correct? To have a healthy, sound and active mind, in an equally healthy, sound and active body. While popular culture always seems to focus on external beauty and the way a person looks, we tend to almost ‘shy away’ from matters concerning the mind and mental health. The reason? We’re probably afraid of what people might think. Ironic, isn’t it?

Photographer: Lauren York | Source: Unsplash

But, apart from the irony in all of this, what do we really know enough about mental health? For starters, the World Health Organization defines mental health as "... a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities to cope with the normal stresses of life, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." They also go on to say that mental health "is not just the absence of mental disorder."

That’s great, but what is a ‘mental disorder’ exactly? Glad you asked. Listed below are a few of the common types of mental disorders and a brief description of each, and if you feel as though you may be suffering from any of these conditions, I’d like you to know that you’re not alone, and medical help is but a phone call away.

A few, common mental disorders

The most common types of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia disorders; below we explain each in turn:

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common when it comes to mental illness. The person has an almost crippling fear or anxiety, which is linked to certain objects or situations. Most people with an anxiety disorder often avoid exposure to whatever triggers their anxiety.

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder - the person experiences sudden paralysing feelings of dread, horror or a sense of imminent disaster.
  • Phobias - these may include simple phobias (a disproportionate fear of objects), social phobias (fear of going out, social settings), and agoraphobia (dread of situations where getting away or escaping may be difficult). We really do not know how many phobias there are - they could be in the hundreds, if not thousands.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – In this case, it is exactly as the name describes - the sufferer has uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions. In other words, constant stressful thoughts (obsessions), and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts, such as hand washing (compulsion).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - this often occurs when somebody has been through a traumatic event - something really upsetting, violent or frightening that they had experienced or witnessed. During this type of event, the person thinks that their life or other people's lives are in danger. They may feel afraid or feel that they have no control over what is happening.

Mood disorders

These are also known as affective or depressive disorders. Patients with these conditions have significant changes in mood, generally involving either mania (elation) or depression which can take a too on your mental health.

Photographer: Andrew Neel | Source: Unsplash

Examples of mood disorders include:

  • Major depression - the individual is no longer interested in and does not enjoy the usual things that they previously liked doing. There are extreme or prolonged bouts of sadness.
  • Bipolar disorder – also known as manic depression. The individual switches from episodes of euphoria (mania) to depression (despair).
  • Persistent depressive disorder – a condition that is defined as a low mood occurring for at least two years, along with at least two other symptoms of depression.
  • Examples of symptoms include loss of interest in normal activities, hopelessness, low self-esteem, low appetite, low energy, sleep changes, and poor concentration.
  • SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - a type of major depression that is triggered by a lack of daylight. It is most common in countries far from the equator during late autumn, winter, and early spring.

What to do if you’re suffering from a mental disorder

The first thing to do is know that there is no reason for you to be ashamed of your condition, it’s no different than a cold or a ‘flu. And, just as you would go to a doctor to treat these illnesses, you would need to seek medical advice for mental illness as well.

Who do you call?

The first person to call would be your GP, for a full diagnosis of your condition. He or she can then refer you to a specialist doctor for further treatment. If you need help immediately, and your GP is not available, and you feel like you cannot cope, you can speak to a trained counselor by calling Lifeline on 0861 322 322, any time during the day or night, and at every day of the year. If you’d like to contact a Lifeline office near you and arrange a face-to-face counseling session, visit http://lifelinesa.co.za/south-africa/ for more information.

Quiet Hustle
Photographer: Hannah Wei | Source: Unsplash

One final thought on mental health

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s likely that your doctor would have put you on some form of medication that you’re required to take on a daily basis. With so many things happening all at once, and you trying to cope, there’s a great possibility that you might forget to take your meds. Don’t worry. Simply download the Memo Health Assitant app here, set up daily reminders to take your meds when you need to, and you’ll feel better soon!

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