Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It’s a state of mind that enables us to function optimally in day-to-day life. However, according to the World Health Organization, nearly one in four people worldwide experiences a mental health problem each year. Although we often understand mental illness as something that others deal with, the truth is that many of us struggle with some form of mental health problem at some point in our lives — and it can be very difficult to cope with when it happens. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help maintain or even improve your mental state; here are the five most common mental health problems and how you can tackle them:
Depression is a mental health problem that affects a person’s mood and their ability to experience pleasure. It’s one of the most common mental health problems, affecting around 10% of people at some point in their lives.
Symptoms: In addition to feeling sad, people who are experiencing depression may experience a number of other symptoms. These include insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleep), weight loss or weight gain, appetite changes, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, high levels of anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.
Treatment: Depression is most commonly treated with a combination of therapy and medication. There are many different types of therapy that can help with depression, and it’s important to find the one that’s right for you. Medication can also be helpful in reducing the symptoms of depression and enabling you to get the most out of therapy.
Prevention: While it’s not possible to prevent depression entirely, you can reduce your risk of experiencing it by looking after your mental health in general. Set time aside each day to do something you enjoy, surround yourself with supportive and understanding people, and try to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Anxiety is a feeling of panic or dread that’s out of proportion to the situation. It’s an incredibly common mental health problem, and is experienced by 19% of people at some point during their lifetime.
Symptoms: Anxiety can take many forms, but is often described as a general feeling of unease, restlessness, and tense muscles. People experiencing anxiety often have difficulty concentrating and may feel as though they’re on edge. They may also suffer from insomnia or have difficulty sleeping.
Treatment: There are many different types of therapy that can help with anxiety. It’s important that you find one that’s right for you, but many therapies focus on mindfulness, relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Medication can also help with anxiety, but it’s important to find the right one for you and to be aware of any side effects.
Prevention: Anxiety is a mental health problem that can often be prevented by taking good care of your mental health in general. Get enough sleep, set aside time for relaxation and exercise, and try to avoid letting work, school, and family life become too stressful.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem characterized by extreme mood fluctuations. People who suffer from bipolar disorder will experience periods of feeling overly happy (known as mania) as well as periods of extreme sadness (known as depression).
Symptoms: Bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify because it often interferes with a person’s ability to make sound judgments. A person with bipolar disorder might make rash decisions or act impulsively, or they may have trouble maintaining healthy relationships. Bipolar disorder may also affect a person’s ability to work or study, and they may become very self-critical.
Treatment: Bipolar disorder is usually treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Often, a therapist will help you to identify early warning signs so that you can take steps to regulate your mood. Medication can help to regulate the symptoms of bipolar disorder, but it’s very important that you work with your doctor to find the right one for you.
Prevention: Many people with bipolar disorder also suffer from depression. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of developing these conditions. Set aside time for relaxation and exercise, avoid alcohol and drugs (which can exacerbate bipolar disorder), and get enough sleep.
Schizophrenia is a mental health problem that significantly affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave normally. It affects 1% of the population, and is one of the most severe mental health problems.
Symptoms: People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there), delusions (false and unwavering beliefs), unusual or bizarre thoughts, as well as difficulty regulating emotions.
Treatment: While there is no cure for schizophrenia, it can be managed with medication and therapy. Therapy can help you to understand your condition and to learn coping mechanisms, while medication can help to reduce the most debilitating symptoms. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Prevention: There is no way to entirely prevent schizophrenia, but certain things may increase your risk of experiencing it. If you have a family history of this mental illness, try to avoid drugs and alcohol and minimize your exposure to stressful situations.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental health problem that affects up to 2% of the population. It involves experiencing excessive and uncontrollable thoughts and having feelings of anxiety until these thoughts are dealt with.
Symptoms: People with OCD may experience uncontrollable thoughts about things such as contamination, germs, or the potential for danger. They may try to reduce their anxiety by engaging in ritualistic behaviors such as excessive hand washing or checking.
Treatment: OCD is often treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you to understand your condition and learn to manage your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Medication can help to reduce your anxiety and enable you to get the most out of therapy.
Prevention: There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of developing OCD. Avoid spending too much time alone and try to surround yourself with supportive people. It’s also important to find a healthy outlet for your anxiety, and to avoid becoming too stressed.
While mental illness is often thought of as something that others deal with, the truth is that many of us struggle with some form of mental health problem at some point in our lives — and it can be very difficult to cope with when it happens. Luckily, there are things you can do to help maintain or even improve your mental state. Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, get rid of any sources of stress in your life, find ways to relax and de-stress when you need to, surround yourself with supportive and understanding people, and most importantly, don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it.