The causes and manifestations of mental ill health are both numerous and complex. If you feel that you may have a problem, it is extremely important to seek professional help as soon as possible, and there are a number of sources readily available.
As a community wellbeing organisation, we advocate eating well, sleeping well and getting plenty of relaxation. Some form of exercise is very important, as it can help the body to burn up stress hormones and neutralise tension. During times of recovery, holistic massage or reflexology may also assist in reducing stress and anxiety, relaxing the body and the mind, and promoting a feeling of well being and harmony.
There is good and bad stress. Everyone needs the right amount of stress to reach maximum potential. Modern life can produce high levels of relentless stress over long periods. Human psychology is equipped to deal with short bursts of stress as a self-protection mechanism and an energy boost. The brain sends messages which activate the sympathetic nervous system to release the hormones which prepare the body for fight or flight. This is known as acute stress.
Stressful people are often driven, ambitious and restless, with heavy schedules and demanding timetables. They may suffer from muscle tension, headaches, palpitations, nervous indigestion, cold hands and feet, but sweaty palms; as a result you may be irritable, frustrated and have poor concentration. Outward signs may include an increase in cigarette or alcohol consumption, nail biting, hair fiddling, comfort eating, excessive talking and general fidgeting.
Anxiety is when a person becomes afraid of something without reasonable cause. Often they will recognise that their fear is unreasonable, but are unable to overcome it. Usually the fear is of something definite, but sometimes the foundation is long-forgotten and pushed into the unconscious mind. When a person’s health is affected by brooding on these fears, it leads to a state of anxiety, which may include panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive behaviour. The physical effects of natural fear become established because imaginary fear always outlasts physical fear.
Anxiety is sometimes effectively funnelled into a specific area, resulting in a phobia. Occasionally the seeds are sown in childhood, but only develop later in life. Phobias may be triggered by fluctuating hormones, or a life-related trauma. Fears often centre around personal health and safety – people become hyper-vigilant or hyper-sensitive to potential danger. In a phobia, reasonable concerns become out of proportion to a real threat.
This is, in part, connected to anxiety and is also a symptom of a neurosis. Again it may have it’s roots in childhood, and often affects those with above average intelligence. It can manifest itself in poor sleep patterns and digestive problems, with people suffering from headaches and muscle tension, particularly in the upper body.
Depression is a mental state where a person’s outlook is generally gloomy and everything becomes a burden. Often they are filled with despair at the thought of having to face each day, and may self-harm or become suicidal.
There are two main types of depression. The first is the reaction to events that would upset anybody but, to a depressive, will become a neurosis. This is known as reactive depression. Severe depression may become part of a manic-depressive psychosis, where people have episodes of mania and of depression and are not completely rational. They may lose touch with reality and suffer from hallucinations, delusions and be totally unaware that something is wrong.
For further help or should you know someone who needs help with their mental, contact one of the following organisations:
- Mental Health Urgent Advice Line – 0800 330 8590
- Greenwich Locality Mental Health Service – 0208 319 5500
- Positive Steps Thamesmead – 0208 320 4476/07815 734080