As a mental health personal trainer one of the things that never ceases to not surprise me is just how little most people really know about mental illness.
For a subject that receives so much stigma, you’d think people would have a better understanding of it. But in fact, its the exact opposite and I therefore believe this is why it is under such stigmatisation.
People just don’t really have a clue. Even those with a mental illness don’t know what they are dealing with. Often they are just told by the GP you have depression here are some pills, see you in 4 weeks lets see how the pills are working. End of, or they go to see a counsellor and discuss some issues. But what do they really know about their illness? about how it is affecting them about what signs and symptoms they are likely to experience?
So, here I will intend to briefly list some of the more common mental illnesses and their associated signs and symptoms. This is, I feel, a starting point for anyone diagnosed with a mental illness or wanting to help a friend/relative who has been diagnosed. It is why I always advise clients of mine to begin their journey with me by taking part in my workshop ‘Becoming Stronger Than Your Mind’ because this is one of the topics we cover, really getting to know your illness and how it makes up part of you. You can find out more about that workshop by clicking here.
1 in 10 in the UK will experience depression.
Depression is set to be the world’s BIGGEST health problem by the year 2030 if things don’t improve.
One of the most commonly known and referred to mental illnesses but what do you really know about the actual signs and symptoms of it. The word depression is so often used so sparingly, such as ‘I’m so depressed right now, McDonald’s ran out of milkshakes’. Well, no that is the word depression being used to describe feeling really upset or agitated. This is far from what depression really is. Although I do get upset when they run out of milkshakes! I mean what else do people go to McDonald’s for? (Can you tell I’m in the later stages of pregnancy whilst typing this blog).
Depression is not one size fits all, so these are general list of signs and symptoms. Some may experience them on a slight level while others may experience to a debilitating level. Also, some may experience one or two of the symptoms in an extreme form but not of the other symptoms. Depression is as unique as the person who has it.
Common signs/symptoms of depression;
- Down, upset or tearful
- Avoiding social events, you normally enjoy/attend
- Restless, agitated and irritable
- Self-harming or suicidal behaviour
- Guilty, worthlessness and generally down on your self
- Finding it difficult to speak or think clearly or make decisions
- Feel empty and numb
- Loss of interest in sex
- Isolated and unable to relate to others
- Struggling to concentrate or remember things
- Have no pleasure in things you usually enjoy such as watching TV.
- Using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs more than usual
- Sense you’re not in reality
- Difficulties with sleep; sleeping too much or not enough
- No self-confidence or esteem
- No appetite or eating too much
- Feel hopeless and suicidal
- Physical aches and pains with no obvious cause
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) / Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD)
1 in 100 UK residents have this personality disorder.
78% of all reported inpatient cases are women.
Bpd also known as EUPD is one of the most commonly recognised personality disorders. However, even in the field of mental illness itself it is one of the most stigmatised. It is also one that is resistant to meds and there is no medication specifically for BPD/EUPD as there is for illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
A blunt and very general way to describe someone affected by this illness, is a pattern of emotional instability and unstable relationships with others. Someone with BPD will differ from others when it comes to how they perceive themselves and relate to others. One of the most common issues sufferers face is the fear of being abandoned by friends or family, which often causes a whole host of issues, such as pushing friends and family away first before they get chance to abandon you first. People with BPD also suffer from intense emotions and extreme mood swings.
Signs and symptom of bpd include:
- Feeling worried people will abandon you and you would do anything to prevent that happening
- Very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly e.g. feeling really happy and confident then suddenly low and sad
- Don’t have a sense of who you are, feel disconnected and a stranger to yourself
- Feeling empty
- Acting impulsive and do things that put you at risk such as binge eating, drinking and or drugs
- Find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships
- Self-harm and have suicidal feelings
- Very intense feelings of anger that are difficult to control
- When stressed experience paranoia or dissociation
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
1 in every 100 people in the UK are affected by OCD.
50% of sufferers with OCD are in the severe range.
Another highly misconceived mental illness, people see or hear OCD and think of someone who likes cleaning and keeps a tidy house. But it is so much more than that. We all obsess over things from time to time, like did we lock the front door? Is the iron off? But ocd is so much more than this. Some of the coping mechanisms people use to help them with OCD symptoms is what has been misinterpreted by the media etc to give a glamorised portrayal of OCD as someone who simply likes to clean or has a ritual of flicking switches off. When it is far from that simple or easy.
OCD is an anxiety disorder and it causes people to experience obsessive thoughts which then leads to compulsive behaviours. The obsessions are most often frequent and intrusive, unwanted thoughts which then lead to anxiety, disgust or unease. The compulsive part of the illnesses is activities that the patient carries out, often repetitively in an attempt to relieve the distressing feelings of the intrusive thoughts.
Signs and symptoms of OCD include:
- Fear of causing or not being able to prevent harm
- Intrusive thoughts, image and impulses
- Fear of contamination, by dirt, germs or mental contamination
- Fears and worries that are related to order or symmetry – fearing something bad might happen if things are not in order, clean or symmetrical.
- Perform rituals such as washing your hands a lot or arranging objects in a particular way
- Checking – doors, windows, body or clothing, your response to thoughts, memory your route to work etc
- Correcting thoughts – repeating words or phrases out loud, counting to a certain number, replacing an intrusive thought with a different image
- Reassurance – repeatedly asking other people to tell you everything is ok
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Affects 2 million people in the UK
Only 1 in 4 affected with PTSD receive treatment for it
PTSD is a mental illness we often associate with the armed forces, a kind of side effect of being in the army. But not many of us realise or appreciate that it can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. More so, we all perceive events in our own way so what may be traumatic to one person may not have been so traumatic for another. It can include situations such as real or threatened death, sever injury or even sexual assault. PTSD can affect people of any age, and symptoms typically occur within the first 3 months after the traumatic situation.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Reliving what happened – flash backs like its happening again right now, intrusive thoughts or image, nightmares, intense distress to real or symbolic reminders of what happened, physical sensations like sweats or trembling.
- Alertness or feel on edge – panicking when reminded of the event, easily upset or annoyed, on alert, disturbed or lack of sleep, irritable, hard to concentrate on everyday things, jumpy and easily startled
- Avoiding feelings or memories – needing to keep busy, avoid any reminders at whatever costs, loss of memory of the event, feeling numb or cut off from how you feel, using alcohol or drugs to avoid the memories
- Feeling like you can’t trust anyone, like nowhere is safe, no one understands, blame yourself for everything and or overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, guilt or shame.
It takes on average 10 years to receive an accurate diagnosis
It affects 1 in every 100 adults.
Bipolar affects the sufferer’s mood, energy and ability to function. It has become one of the more commonly known mental illnesses due to celebrity coverage in the media. Kerry Katona is very open about her battles with bipolar. Other celebs include; Mariah Carey, Mel Gibson, Russel Brand and Demi Lovato.
The illness is characterised by extreme moods, and episodes such as manic, depressive or psychotic. Some think, don’t we all have our ups and downs in life? Some days we feel good and others we just don’t, that is just the roller coaster of life? But for those who suffer with bipolar these episodes are much more sever than the normal ‘highs and lows’ of life that we all experience. The episodes for bipolar sufferers may last several weeks or months and leaves you feeling out of control and ruled by your moods. This causes work, relationships and friendships difficult to maintain and sustain.
Bipolar can appear quite complicated as there are several types of it and the symptoms vary widely in pattern, severity and frequency. Some people will be more prone to either mania or depression, yet others will shift quickly between the two.
There are four types of moods; mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes each has a unique set of symptoms.
Mania symptoms include:
- Feeling uncharacteristically high or low
- Unrealistic beliefs about abilities or powers
- Not sleeping yet feeling extremely energetic
- Talking rapidly, people struggle to understand you
- Racing thoughts – jumping from one idea to the next
- Unable to concentrate
- Impaired judgement and impulsiveness
- Acting recklessly without thinking about consequences
- Delusions and hallucinations
Hypomania is a less severe form of mania and symptoms include:
- Feeling euphoric, energetic and productive yet able to function day to day without losing touch of reality
Bipolar depression symptoms include:
- Feeling empty and hopeless
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Fatigue, no motivation or energy
- Appetite changes
- Difficulties with sleep
- Poor concentration and memory issues
- Feel worthless and guilty
- Suicidal thoughts
Symptoms of mixed episodes are pretty much as it says, its feeling a mix of symptoms from both mania or hypomimia and depression. Commonly it’s a combination of high energy and low mood which makes for a particular high risk of suicide.
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If you are affected by your mental illness and are struggling to cope with the day to day symptoms, then please explore my website to see the ways I can help and support you to take the pathway to finding you again and becoming stronger than your mind. Most of my workshops are contained within my Stronger Than Your Mind Academy which can find out more about below.