We are still in the month of October which is filled with a focus on mental health education and depression awareness, I have decided to post back-to-back blogs about this. This is because there is a need to create more awareness. Also, because this particular topic is close to my heart. Evidence can be found in some of my blogs here.
So, what is mental illness? Before we go there, what is health and what would be your mental health?
According to the World Health Organization, Health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.“ And Mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
And Mental Illness is referred to a wide range of conditions that affect the way we think (thoughts), the way we feel (mood), and the way we behave (actions). This illness usually causes disturbance in social (e.g relationships) and occupational functioning. This illness presents distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.
Some of the common disorders include
- Common mental disorders like Depression, Anxiety disorders e.g panic attacks, phobias, Trauma and stress related disorders
- Severe mental illness like Severe depression, Bipolar disorders, Schizophrenia, Dementias
- Other mental illnesses are due to a general medical condition like HIV, Alcohol and other addictive disorders, Epilepsy, Chidhood onset disorders
Some signs and symptoms of severe Mental Illness include the following according to the Ministry of Health Uganda’s Mental Health Desk, Dr. Kenneth Kalani Okware (Psychiatrist) these are;
- Feelings (e.g sad, angry, suspicious, excessive happiness or elation, anxious, indifference or diminished emotional expression, recurrent thoughts of death or at the extreme, homicidal ideas), low self esteem, high self esteem.
- Thoughts slow, muddled, unconnected, obsessssions, compulsions, delusions(abnormal beliefs that are not true e.g being followed, feeling special or having special powers and abilities, interference with private thoughts)
- Behavior such as disorganized behavior, abnormal movements, posture or being restless, being slowed down, isolating, withdrawal, loss of interest, changes in relationship, aggressive or violent behavior, risky ventures, overspending, partying, indiscrete sexual behaviour
Other symptoms include
- Changes in speech(e.g disorganized uncoordinated, incoherence, new words, slow or fast talking)
- Sensing things that are not there ( hallucinations) e.g hearing voices, seeing visions or things, strange tastes or smells, or abnormal sensations
- Changes in awareness, forgetfulness, changes in attention and concentration, indecisiveness , impulsivity
- Physical changes, Sleep changes, appetite changes, physical energy, sexual energy, changes menstruation periods
I hope this helps with understanding mental illness and identifying the symptoms.
The next post will be about the causes of mental illness, watch out for it.