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We’d be able to tell if we were suffering from some kind of mental health condition – wouldn’t we?
Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness are some of the signs we’d likely be looking out for, but what if you started getting breathless or you developed a random stomach ache?
Could you actually be suffering from a mental health problem without even knowing?
“Mental health problems are often described as ‘invisible illnesses’ but many, like depression and anxiety, have lesser-known physical symptoms too,” Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind.
“For example, someone with anxiety disorder might experience sweating, heart palpitations, headaches, stomach cramps or problems with their skin, hair and fingernails. You might also notice behavioural changes,” he continues.
But the sooner you’re able to identify the signs and symptoms that could indicate a mental health problem, the quicker you’ll be able to seek help and get back to your happier, healthier self.
“In any given year, one in four people will experience a mental health problem,” Stephen continues. “Despite their high prevalence, we know too often people don’t seek help.
“Unfortunately there is still a stigma, but mental health problems are nothing to be embarrassed about and treatments are available, so talk to your GP if you’re worried. That way, if needed, you can start receiving the treatment you need to set you on the road to recovery.”
In honour of World Mental Health Day, we’ve outlined some of the more surprising signs you could be suffering from a mental health problem – and what to do if you do believe you might be at risk.
Mental health condition sign: Isolation
According to David Brudö, co-founder and CEO at mental wellbeing and personal development app Remente, distancing yourself from family and friends could be an indicator that your mental health is suffering.
Mental health condition sign: Breathlessness
“We often associate breathlessness with a physical health problem, or just being unfit,” says Stephen Buckley. “But it could also be a sign of a mental health problem, such as anxiety disorder or panic attacks.”
Mental health condition sign: Lack of motivation
Can’t be bothered to prepare for that major meeting? Not performing well in your career or in your studies? “We all feel lack of motivation, but if it continues over a long period of time it might be an issue,” advises David Brudö.
Mental health condition sign: Bruxism
Grinding your teeth while you sleep might not sound like the most serious of life irritations, but did you realise the action of grinding and clenching while you snooze could be a sign of mental illness.
“Grinding our teeth – often goes hand in hand with anxiety in the same way many of us often unconsciously clench our jaws when we’re feeling stressed,” advises Stephen Buckley.
Mental health condition sign: Lack of excitement
Ryan Gosling/*insert celebrity of choice* could call and you’d still not be able to muster up the enthusiasm to care. “No longer pursuing your favourite activities and thing you used to enjoy could be an indicator,” explains David Brudö. “You may feel low spirits and restlessness,” he continues.
Mental health condition sign: Headaches
We might associate headaches with a hangover, but they are also a commonly cited symptom of stress. “In small doses, pressure can be a good thing, helping provide us with a surge in adrenaline and helping us meet deadlines,” says Stephen Buckley. “But prolonged exposure to unmanageable stress can lead to a range of physical health problems, as well as negatively affecting our mental health.”
Mental health condition sign: Loss of libido
Not feeling it in the bedroom? Your mental wellbeing might be the cause. “It’s common for people with depression and anxiety to experience a decrease in their sex drive, and it can also be a side effect of certain medication, such as antidepressants,” says Stephen Buckley.
Mental health condition sign: Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
“Lots of people report sleeping too much or too little when they’re mentally unwell,” says Stephen Buckley. “Sleep and mental health have a two way relationship: people with mental health problems are more likely to report problems sleeping, and problems with sleep can negatively impact on our mental wellbeing, especially if we’re not getting enough.
“Certain antidepressants can also cause drowsiness.”
Mental health condition sign: Booze
Drinking more alcohol could be a sign that you’re under stress or experiencing depression or anxiety. “Many people use alcohol as a coping mechanism but, as a depressant, it’s likely to make things worse, so try to resist the urge to up your intake and only drink in moderation,” advises Stephen Buckley.
Mental health condition sign: Withdrawal from social contact
Normally active on social media, but not been on for days? You might want to question your mental wellbeing. “Many people, including those who are normally sociable and outgoing, push their friends away when they’re struggling with their mental health,” explains Stephen Buckley. “But talking about how you’re feeling with a trusted confidante can be really helpful.”
Mental health condition sign: Struggling to stay in the black
According to Stephen Buckley symptoms of certain mental health problems might increase your likelihood of falling into debt. “Bipolar disorder can cause people to spend extravagantly during a manic phase and depression. Anxiety sometimes make it hard to communicate with creditors about money problems, with some people telling us they stick their heads in the sand rather than asking for help early on.”
Mental health condition sign: Anger Issues
Seeing the red mist more often than you used to? “Anger issues can be a problem if you can’t control it, and if occurs often and impact your relationships or even harm yourself by for example, self-harm and reliance on alcohol and other substances,” says David Brudö.
What do to if you think you might be suffering from a mental health condition
If you suffer from anxiety you often think of the future and worst case scenarios. So, discovering methods and techniques that can help you manage your anxiety is essential if you want to be able to control it.
“Being in the moment, along with mindfulness techniques are great ways of ensuring that your anxiety doesn’t take over,” advises David Brudö. “In fact, a study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that 85% of people who spent a few minutes meditating and focusing on the present were more successful at managing stress and anxiety.”
Refocus your brain
“Whenever you are in the middle of for example a panic attack, your brain struggles to focus on anything that isn’t the immediate sense of panic.
However, if you start naming each sensation that you experience, such as ‘it’s difficult to breathe’ or ‘I want to cry when this happens’, it can help re-focus your brain and reduce the feelings of panic,” advises David Brudö.
A good posture can also help. “Straighten up your spine and stand/sit up straight. Not only does this trick you into feeling more powerful and in control, but it will also have the physical effect of giving you more space to breathe,” he advises.
Take a social media detox
A study by Flurry, who looked at over 500,000 apps across 1.3 billion mobile devices found that the number of mobile addicts has increased by a massive 123% in the last year alone.
“As more people become addicted to their phones, naturally the number of those experiencing anxiety when separated from their device has also significantly increased,” explains David Brudö.
“The most obvious signs are when you feel that you must bring your phone with you everywhere you go and that you have to keep checking it. If you feel that you are losing control, ask yourself questions like: if you don’t have the phone with you do you feel unconformable and annoyed? If you are out of battery or data, would that scare you?
“Also look out for when your phone usage has a negative impact on your conversations and relationships. A report by the University of Essex showed that our phones could harm our close relationships.”
“As well as therapy and medication, exercise is a great way to improve both physical and mental health,” explains Stephen Buckley.
Speak to people and seek appropriate help
“The main reason why people fear seeking treatment for mental health issues is the stigma that still surrounds the subject,” says David Brudö. “So many of us feel embarrassed or ashamed because of our symptoms, or because it is “weak” to seek help. This is especially true for men, who are thought to be invincible and never in need of assistance.”
Additionally, many people are not fully educated on what constitutes a mental health issue and at which point they should be seeking help, or even when to start. Many of us will think of our problems as unimportant or insignificant, primarily due to the fear of confronting the darker side of ourselves and being labelled a ‘mental health patient’.”
But seeking help is the best way to get on the road to recovery. “The idea of having that conversation with your GP, who might be someone you hardly know, might seem, daunting, but we’ve put together a new guide with some tips on how to prepare for your appointment and make the most of the short time you get with them, available at www.mind.org.uk/findthewords,” says Stephen Buckley.
Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday)
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