Common mental health problems

There are loads of different mental health problems that you or people around you may experience at some point in your life time.

You don’t need to know great long lists of medical terms to understand a bit about them or to recognise some of the signs and symptoms.

This page tells you a bit about some of the more common mental health problems that people may experience. It is not a complete list of everything that exists out there in terms of mental health and is not supposed to be used as a tool to diagnose yourself or other people.

If you are concerned about your own mental health, or that of a friend or relative, it is always worth going to speak to a professional medical person. This could be your GP, school nurse or someone at your local walk in centre.

You could also ring one of the many helplines that are available such as the one at the LGF.

Depression

Depression is a common illness that is often misunderstood. If you have depression the feelings of sadness that we all feel from time to time can remain for weeks, months or years without going away.

These feelings can become very intense and might affect your everyday life. You stop enjoying the things you usually do, you may spend a lot of time on your own and you might find it difficult to concentrate or do work.

Depression can make you feel sad, worthless, tired and hopeless. You may find it difficult to carry out simple tasks or even to simply get out of bed. At its most severe these feelings may lead to you thinking about suicide.

About one in 10 people develop some form of depression in their lives, and one in 50 has severe depression.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to combat depression. A good starting place is to visit your GP or chat to your school or college nurse.

You may also wish to speak to a professional counsellor who will have been specially trained to help people deal with feelings of depression. See here for some useful links.

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Anxiety

Everybody will experience anxiety at different points in their lives, but if it becomes something that you feel is affecting your everyday life it may be the sign of a more serious problem. Anxiety disorders are relatively common and are often related to stress and worry.

People with an anxiety disorder may experience some or all of these feelings:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Getting Tired Easily
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty Sleeping

To combat some of these symptoms many people find it helpful to learn and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or controlled breathing. You might find it useful to have a phrase to repeat to yourself such as ‘everything is OK, I am beginning to feel calm, I have dealt with this before and it will all be OK’.

You may also find it useful to speak to a professional counsellor who will have been trained in techniques to help people dealing with feelings of anxiety. See here for some useful links.

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Self harm

Self harm is when somebody deliberately hurts or injures themselves. It is not the same as being suicidal or attempting to end your life.

Self harm is reasonably common and can affect anyone. It may involve any of the following:

  • Cutting or burning yourself
  • Pulling your hair
  • Picking your skin
  • Bruising yourself
  • Overdosing on tablets
  • Excessive alcohol and drug use

Some people think that these behaviours may be ways of dealing with difficult feelings that can build up inside you which you may feel unable or unwilling to talk about. You may not know exactly why you have these feelings or why you feel like you need to self harm.

If you are worried about yourself or someone else there are lots of places to get guidance and support. See here for some useful links.

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Eating disorders

Eating disorders can affect anyone, whether you are young, old, male or female. There are a few different types of eating disorder that each have different symptoms.

People with eating disorders use food as a way of helping them to cope with stress or difficult situations and quite often they do not even realise they are doing this. Food is used to help them gain a feeling of control over the way that they feel and what is happening in their life.

Anorexia, binge eating and bulimia nervosa are all types of eating disorders. They are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food, difficulty controlling how much is eaten, and making unhealthy choices about food. It is often thought that people develop eating disorders because of pressure from society to be thin, but there may be more complicated reasons such as depression, lack of confidence, personal or family problems, stress or problems at school, work or university.

Recovery from an eating disorder can take a long time but there are a wide range of support groups and treatments available to help people. It is also really important that a person has the support of their friends and family.

If you are worried about yourself or someone you know please see here for more information about where to get help and support.

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Some more complex issues

As well as the more common mental health problems that we have discussed in the last few pages there are lots of other conditions that may affect you or someone you know at some point in your life.
Some of these conditions are more complicated and people may need doctors and other professionals to help them to manage and treat them.

People may find mental health problems such as schizophrenia, bi-polar and psychosis scary things to think about or deal with.

People with these problems are still the same as you and me, they are people with hobbies, interests, favourite foods and they have family and friends who love them and care about them. The only difference is that they have a condition that they may sometimes need help with, just the same as any other illness.

For more information about mental health problems you can visit www.nhs.uk. For a full list of places to get more information please see here.

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