Mental health problems are becoming increasingly common, but why is this and what can be done about it?
Causes of mental health problems
There is no single cause for the growth in mental health disorders over the last 10 years. We believe there may be many different contributory factors. There are more demands on people now compared to previous generations, fuelled by the pressures of social media and instant news. The pace of life has accelerated to such an extent that people are at greater risk of burnout than ever before. Our cognitive and emotional workload is increasing, and many people are finding it harder and harder to find any downtime or to relax in the short amount of leisure time they may have. The result is rising levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
Why is mental illness on the rise? Mr Stelios Kiosses explains in this video.
Depression is very different to feeling low or unhappy. When someone is depressed it can impact every aspect of their lives and they may feel unable to cope with everyday activities. It may affect their physical and mental health, resulting in a loss of interest in things that previously they enjoyed. They may lose their appetite or find themselves unable to sleep.
Anxiety is a natural human response to a perceived threat. It is what we feel when we are worried or tense about things that might happen, particularly if we are facing stressful events or major life changes.
Anxiety becomes a problem if it starts to have a significant detrimental impact on your life. You may be diagnosed as having anxiety if you have felt anxious for a long time or your fears are disproportionate to the situation. You may be experiencing distressing symptoms such as panic attacks, or you may find it hard to go about your normal life.
Stress is normally related to our reaction to feeling under pressure. This is very individual and what one person finds stressful, another may take in their stride. Stress can become particularly acute when we feel we don’t have control over what is happening to us or we become overwhelmed. Stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis however it can trigger mental health problems like anxiety or depression. Conversely, mental health problems can lead to stress.
Stress can also cause physical symptoms including tiredness, headaches and gastrointestinal problems. When we are stressed our bodies produce high levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are responsible for the body’s fight, flight or freeze response. When we are unable to release these hormones as our ancestors would have done (by running away or fighting, for example) they remain in our bodies and can cause unpleasant physical symptoms.
Treatment for anxiety and depression
The right treatment for mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, varies from one person to the next, depending on the type and extent of the problem and the person’s individual thoughts, beliefs and preferences.
Medication may be prescribed to deal with certain problems, such as anxiety or problems sleeping, but this will not get to the root of the problem. A therapeutic approach such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be effective in tackling some of the psychological issues that lie at the heart of a person’s depression.
CBT for mental health
CBT works on a person’s behaviour first. This is because when someone becomes depressed, they may stop doing things that they used to enjoy. They may lose motivation and become tired and listless. The focus of CBT is to try and increase the person’s activity levels first, so they begin to experience some of the things they used to enjoy and start to feel better. Once this is in place, the therapist may help the person to work on any negative thoughts or rumination.
How does mindfulness reduce depression?
Mindfulness-based CBT brings together mindfulness techniques such as meditation, stretching and breathing exercises and combines this with elements of CBT. It can be effective in helping to break the negative thought patterns that are a symptom of recurrent depression.
Evidence suggests that mindfulness-based CBT can reduce the risk of relapse of people who experience recurrent depression by as much as 43%. It is recommended by NICE for the prevention of relapse in such people.
Dementech specialise in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders including mental health conditions and can suggest the best treatment plan for you. For more information contact our experienced and friendly team.