Ignoring your mental health problems can have many different consequences, it may make your condition a lot worse or you may feel better for a while.
World Mental Health Day is observed every year on 10 October in order to spread awareness about emerging mental health issues. The World Health Organisation (WHO) insists that this is the time for all organisations, healthcare professionals and communities to invest in getting mental health in good order — or at least amp up drives to do so.
While a part of this drive will have to be government-led initiatives to provide better mental health facilities, the major investment needs to come from the individuals. This is because being self-aware and asking for help when needed are both actions that need to be taken at the individual level. The following are some frequently asked questions that can dispel some ideas you may have about mental health.
1. How do I know if I or a friend has a mental health issue?
There are many mental health issues and each one has a different set of symptoms. However, as the US National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) points out, almost all of them have some common symptoms like excessive worrying or fear, feeling too sad or low, confusion, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, strong feelings of irritability or anger, changes in sex drive and difficulty carrying out everyday functions. The symptoms may be different in children, depending on their age. If you do observe such symptoms in yourself or a loved one, don’t be afraid and reach out to a doctor or healthcare professional for help.
2. Can I “get over” a mental health issue without getting help?
Yes, there are medical conditions that run their course and go away in due time. But ignoring your mental health problems can have many different consequences, it may make your condition a lot worse or you may feel better for a while. But even if you feel better, there is no saying your condition won’t get worse soon. Like with every health concern, the sooner you get help, the easier it is to treat and manage the issue. The same applies to your mental health problems.
Getting proper guidance from a mental health expert will help you make appropriate changes in your lifestyle and outlook so that you can recover. While the large part of this treatment and recovery process depends on an expert, you will also need the support of loved ones and the motivation to adopt the necessary changes in your life – like getting exercise, sleep, nutritional diet, etc.
3. Where do I go for help with my mental health?
Most hospitals, clinics and healthcare apps provide consultations with mental health professionals and you can directly reach out to them. If you are unsure about directly contacting an expert you don’t know, consult your regular doctor or family physician and ask them to refer you to a specialist.
4. Are all mental health professionals the same?
No. There are mainly two types of mental health professionals: psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychiatrists are medically-trained doctors who specialise in mental health and can prescribe medications. Psychologists have degrees in psychology, cannot prescribe medication, and usually provide psychotherapy which is also known as talk therapy. Who you get referred to for your health issue depends on the severity of your issue and the line of treatment best suited to your needs.
5. Can I get better without using antidepressant drugs or medications?
Whether you need antidepressants or not depends on the severity of your mental health problem. Usually, in mild to moderate cases of depression, anxiety, mood disorders or anxiety disorders, antidepressants or any other kind of medication is not prescribed. Instead, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive defusion exercises like “Leaves on a Stream”, meditation, exercise and yoga, a healthy diet and maintaining sleep schedules are the interventions recommended in such cases. It’s only when a case ranges from moderate to severe that antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and mild sedatives to promote sleep are prescribed by a psychiatrist.
6. Are antidepressants addictive? Will they change my personality?
Contrary to popular belief, antidepressants are not addictive. Prolonged use of antidepressants can lead to dependency. But dependency and addiction are not the same. Addiction is a type of mental illness and medications like antidepressants that target neurotransmitters in the brain to remedy mental illness cannot lead to addiction. If there’s any class of medications that can be addictive, it’s painkillers and opioids, not antidepressants.
Also, antidepressants cannot alter your personality permanently if you take them with the proper guidance and prescription of a psychiatrist. In case some personality changes like loss of emotions do show up, the psychiatrist would immediately lower the dose or change the combination of medications to suit you better. Taking antidepressants can have some side effects in the beginning, like loss of appetite, change in sex drive or difficulty sleeping but these are usually resolved with an adjustment in the dosage or trying a different drug.
7. What do I do if people find out I get therapy or take antidepressants?
If you got an infection today and the doctor prescribes a course of antibiotics, healthy diet and rest to cure you, you would not give thoughts like “people will find out” or “what will they say” a second thought. What you need to remember, and remind those around you too, is that mental health issues are just like every other disease. What you need most to deal with any disease, including mental health issues, is an appropriate treatment, care and support. Leaving the shame and stigma behind is a key part of your recovery.
Additionally, as long as there is no threat to you or someone else, what you speak to your doctor about is completely confidential. With counselling being made available through call, video, text and even email, no one needs to know that you’re in therapy if you don’t want them to.
For more information, read our article on Mental health.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.