The continuing stigma and lack of awareness surrounding the vast spectrum of mental health problems mean often people are not aware of the symptoms of even some of the most common disorders like depression and anxiety.
This week it is mental health awareness week which means thinking of and considering the mental health of both yourself and those around you. Run by the Mental Health Foundation, this year the focus is on good mental health and why many people do in the UK do not have that. A recent study by the foundation found only 13 per cent of people report living with high levels of good mental health and nearly two thirds of people say they have experienced a mental health problem.
Often, people are so busy and stressed in their everyday lives that they might not even notice that they are experiencing a mental health problem. This can mean they don’t talk about it with anyone or seek treatment until it deteriorates.
Aside from feeling low or anxious, symptoms of mental health problems can be misunderstood and as there are many different mental health problems, symptoms can be common to more than one diagnosis for example depression and anxiety. Below, with help from Licy Lyus the information manager at mental health charity Mind, are five lesser-known signs of the two most common mental health conditions (depression and anxiety) which if you are experiencing, you should not ignore.
1. Removing yourself from social situation
If you suddenly notice you are cancelling on social occasions with your friends and family that you would normally be present at, listen to your mind.
“Having down days is a perfectly normal part of human nature, and usually these feelings will pass without having any major impact on your life. But if the feelings don't go away after a couple of weeks, get worse or keep returning, and you no longer enjoy things you normally would, it could be a sign that you're experiencing depression,” says Ms Lyus.
2. Trouble concentrating
If your mind is preoccupied with a mental health problem it can sometimes be difficult to think or speak clearly. You may also find it more difficult remembering certain things or concentrating.
“If you find your concentration is worse than usual, or that you’re having trouble with things like punctuality and decision-making at work or school, this might be a symptom of living with a mental health problem.”
3. Trouble with sleep
Many people living with depression find it difficult to wake up in the morning and find themselves sleeping more than usual. This then often means they feel exhausted and that carrying out everyday activities seem more difficult than usual. People with anxiety often report that they struggle to get to sleep or wake up more in the night worrying about things. Or they may clench their jaw or grind their teeth during sleep.
“There is a close relationship between sleep and mental health, and sleep deprivation can also make your mental health worse.”
4. Feeling removed or numb
“If you are experiencing a mental health problem like depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is possible to feel a sense of unreality and removed from your day-to-day life,” explains Ms Lyus. This can mean people find it difficult to connect to both their surroundings and other people.
“For example, you might be sitting in a meeting at work and find it difficult to keep up with what people are saying, or feel as though you’re not really there.”
5. The physical side
A common misconception is that just because the illness is psychological it does not manifest physically. Many people with anxiety experience physical symptoms like nausea, shaking, sweating and panic attacks. People with depression might have lower energy levels and therefore find it more difficult to look after yourself day-to-day.
“You may find that you can’t find the energy to plan meals and eat as well as you usually do, or find that taking care of your personal hygiene is difficult,” Ms Lyus explains.
Anybody can be affected by mental health; if you think you are experiencing a mental health problem Mind suggest speaking to someone you know and trust, like a friend or family member, and visiting a GP who can talk you through support and treatment options.
You can also visit Mind’s website or call their confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393.
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