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How Do I Know if I Have a Mental Health Issue?

How Do I Know if I Have a Mental Health Issue?

2017-05-08 
| by Editor | Posted in Telford Health & Fitness, Telford Wellbeing

Telford Daily PRSS welcomes guest blogger, Katie Woodland, Managing Director of Telford-based Woodland Psychological Services

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As we launch into another mental health awareness week (8th May to 14th May), this is definitely a pertinent question!

How can we raise awareness if we don’t even know how to recognise whether someone is struggling or not – even if that someone is ourselves?

Well, the easiest way to tell is to work out whether the way you are acting and behaving is different now than it used to be.

If you used to be outgoing and the ‘life and soul of the party’ but now shy away from going out, meeting your friends or joining in at social events, then you may be struggling.

If you used to sleep really well and wake up feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for whatever comes your way but now no matter how much you sleep you still feel tired, exhausted or overwhelmed with everything, then you may be struggling.

If you have developed ritualistic behaviours which you feel compelled to complete otherwise something horrific will happen, then you may be struggling.

If your moods are all over the place and you can’t pinpoint what is causing it or why it’s happening – you may be struggling.

If you get panic attacks at the thought of doing something you used to do with no problems – you may be struggling.

As you can see from above, there are many different ways a mental health difficulty can manifest, and trust me this is quite literally the tip of the iceberg!

Because we are all unique, we have had a unique set of experiences, have unique DNA and have unique personalities the way we interact with the world is very different.

While this makes life exciting, it can also make it extremely difficult to pinpoint specific things that will ‘cause’ someone to develop a mental health difficulty.

Some people have a really high level of ‘resilience’ (how much they can take before their mind starts to break down) and be able to cope with an awful lot before things start to go south, whereas other people have a low level or resilience and may, therefore, start to struggle very quickly.

There are certain ‘risk factors’ which can indicate someone’s likelihood of developing a mental health difficulty such as; living in an area of socioeconomic deprivation (somewhere which has restricted access to; education, employment, social services, housing and high levels of crime); having a history of mental ill health in the family (e.g., mother, father, siblings or secondary relatives); having a physical health difficulty or stress.

However, these are ‘risk factors’ and not causal factors – this means that even if you tick every single box you may not develop any mental health difficulty.

What makes things even more confusing is that certain physical illness and mental illness manifest (show up) in the same way!

For example, if you’re struggling with something like Irritable Bowel Syndrome you could be allergic to a specific type of food (physical) or you may be stressed (psychological) and both the impact of the physical and psychological effects show up the same in our bodies (bloating, constipation, aches and pains…).

As you can already see uncovering whether someone is struggling with mental ill health can be very difficult – even for us professionals!

The best person in the world to know whether you are struggling is you.

You know you better than anyone else.

So think back, have you noticed any changes in what you are doing?

  • Are the changes negatively impacting on your life?
  • Have you isolated yourself from friends or family?
  • Do you feel different?
  • Do you wish you could go back to the way things were before you felt this way?
  • Are you struggling to enjoy your life?

The next best people to help you understand whether you may be struggling with mental ill health is your close friends and family.

They will know what you used to be like and will have noticed any behavioural changes.

So, if you can’t work out the answers to the questions above on your own reach out to someone close to you and ask whether they have noticed anything different over the past few weeks, months or years.

While mental health professionals and GP’s seem like they are the best people to reach out to – we really do come in last!

That is not to say we do not have some uses; if you realise you are struggling we can help identify what mental health difficulty you are most likely struggling with and this is a vital step in helping you get back to living happily.

But, even when you reach out to us we need you to help guide us by explaining what you’re thinking, feeling and doing.

If you are concerned - the worst thing you could do is to do nothing.

The second worst thing you can do is – google your symptoms.

Why?

Well, when I was training to be a psychologist we had to dissect and understand the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) and every time we were discussing a new mental health difficulty, looking at the symptoms each and every one of us would identify with traits which are present.

This is because all mental ill health stems from mental health.

We all show signs of most mental illness at some point – but this does not necessarily mean we have developed a mental health difficulty.

I hope this has helped at least a little!

Have a wonderful day and I look forward to catching up with you soon!

Katie

p.s. this year’s mental health awareness week is focusing on ‘why so few people with mental ill health are thriving’ so if you have had a mental illness whether you are either still struggling or have come out the other end and thriving – I would love to hear what you think has helped or you feel is keeping you stuck.

Your stories, experiences and knowledge are what helps us mental health professionals get better at what we do.

If you would like to share your experiences you can contact me in confidence using: katie.woodland@woodlandpsychologicalservices.com

 

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