Poor Mental Health – What it is and Three Things You Can Do About It
Poor mental health affects millions of people in the U.S. each year. May is Mental Health Awareness month and having an understanding of what it is and the signs and symptoms to look for, could help you identify if someone you know is affected by it. You may then encourage them to take action that could help make a meaningful difference in their life. Three tips for what to do are listed at the end of this post.
Mental Illness Stats
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34
Types of Mental Illness
Mental illness, Serious mental illness and mental health disorder, as cited above, are different from each other.
Mental Illness can include anxiety, depression and substance-abuse disorders.
Signs of it can be:
More severe anxiety symptoms may include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Sweaty palms
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of helplessness or impending doom.
Serious Mental Illness is a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment and substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. These illnesses include schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder.
Some signs of Schizophrenia are:
- False perceptions
- Hallucinations or delusions
- False beliefs
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Problems with attention & slower processing of information, memory, planning & organizing
- Depression, anxiety, anger and mood shifts.
Some signs of Bipolar Manic state are:
- Decreased need for sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
- Easily distracted
- More talkative than usual
Some signs of Bipolar Depression state are:
- Hopelessness, sadness, discouragement, or emptiness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and regular activities
- Significant weight change (increase or decrease of 5 percent of body weight in one month)
- Excessive sleeping or having difficulty sleeping
- Restlessness or sluggishness, with slow speech or body movements
- Extreme fatigue; feeling too physically drained to complete even small tasks
- Worthlessness, guilt, or constant self-criticism
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Extreme irritability and frustration
- Body aches, joint pain, and other physical ailments
- Persistent thoughts of death or suicide
Mental Health Disorder normally applies to children under age 18 with anxiety, depression or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
The Stress Connection to Mental Illness
Chronic stress has been shown to affect a person’s mental health, as well as increase the risk of developing health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses. Studies have shown a connection between stress and the development of anxiety and depression.
In a 2013 study conducted by neuroscientists, it was found that even mild stress levels can affect the ability to control emotions. In the study, the subjects were taught stress control techniques. But when exposed to a mild stressor – having their hands immerse in icy water – the subjects could not easily calm themselves down when pictures of snakes or spiders were shown to them.
Stress affects the brain in other ways that can lead to mental illness, particularly chronic stress which can result in long-term changes in the brain causing mood and anxiety disorders.
The Brain’s structure can change with stress by creating an imbalance between its white and gray matter creating disruptions in communication and less resilience in handling responses to perceived traumas.
Stress can cause shrinkage of the brain. Chronic every day stress has little impact on brain volume, but can make a person more vulnerable to brain shrinkage when faced with a traumatic stressor.
And stress has been shown to adversely affect memory retrieval as well as spatial memory – the ability to recall the location of objects and/or spatial orientation.
Three things you can do
- Talk about it. Whether you suspect a mental health issue for yourself or you are seeing signs of them in someone else, talk about it. Create a partnership and do your research together on it. Feeling supported goes a long way toward reducing the anxiety around the negative thoughts and feelings that are generated with a mental health concern.
- Improve your health. Our bodies are chemical miracles with billions of different hormones, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, cells, organs, nerves and other components working together to give us life. Having the proper water intake and fatty acids (oils) helps with the millions of communication signals that are transmitted throughout our bodies to keep it going. A diet high in nutrition and fiber can keep inflammation down and support the chemistry in the body to function at optimal levels.
- Lower stress levels. Since stress is a factor that can initiate mental illness, keeping levels low will help to reduce the chances of creating it, but also help to lessen the symptoms of existing mental health conditions.
Lower stress levels
To effectively reduce stress reactions long-term, it is best to identify the origins of stressors, which are adverse or traumatic life experiences that occurred in the past, but are causing you to be triggered in the present. Talk therapy can help, but new therapies are proving to get faster and long-lasting results.
One of these is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), also known as Tapping, a top stress reduction technique that is long-lasting and used worldwide. EFT_Tapping helps identify the experiences in life that are the origins of stress and aids in neutralizing the emotional connections to them. Once this is accomplished, the things that used to trigger stress no longer do.
If you would like to learn more about how to have more stress awareness and drastically reduce your stress long-term and not just “manage” it, please contact me, Christine Hunt, Life Wellness Coach and Certified EFT Coach, for a free, no obligation consultation at www.HuntForHopeWellness.com/contact.
I would love to help you create a life you love.
Life Wellness Coach
“Helping you get over it so you can get on with it.”
Give EFT_Tapping a try at STOP the STRESS!
Mental Health By the Numbers | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
What Are the 5 Signs of Mental Illness? (medicinenet.com)
Mental and Emotional Impact of Stress (mentalhelp.net)
NIMH » Mental Illness (nih.gov)
Severe Mental Illness | Behavioral Health Evolution (bhevolution.org)
5 Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain (verywellmind.com)
Severe Mental Illness | Behavioral Health Evolution (bhevolution.org)
How Stress Affects Mental Health (psychcentral.com)
Nine Ways Stress is More Dangerous Than You Think (healthline.com)