MENTAL HEALTH : BELIEVE IT OR NOT

By : Rachana Menon

MENTAL HEALTH : BELIEVE IT OR NOT

What does it mean to be physically healthy and fit

Having an adequate diet and routine exercise? 

Following a keto diet and saying goodbye to caffeine or saying goodbye to your favorite pizza?

Maybe these are some contributing factors to being healthy and fit.

What about being mentally fit?

Our mental health is as important as our physical health. It is important to be strong not just physically but mentally as well. A wide range of myths and facts exist around mental health. 

But what are some of the misconceptions out there about mental health? 

How do we know if it’s true or false? 

How often do we trust google or wikipedia  to help us understand what we are going through and how often do we believe in them?

Let’s have a look at some common and uncommon myths about mental health.

Myth 1 –  Mental illness doesn’t affect everyone 

Mental Illness includes changes that affect our emotions, feelings, thinking and behavior. It is very common for individuals to experience some kind of mental health related issue in their life. Be it a bout of depression due to a break up, or a loss of a loved one, most of us have been through some form of mental distress. Individuals often experience anxiety before an exam, or an interview, or even a blind date! 

Most individuals may have experienced a mental health issue at some point in their lives. The difference to diagnose someone with a mental health concern lies in the duration as well as the kind of subjective symptoms they have or are currently experiencing. 

Myth 2 – Mental illnesses can be treated through medications only

Mental illnesses can’t be cured by psychiatric medications. Medicines help improve and manage the symptoms that one faces. Therapy and medications go hand in hand. One helps build internal stability while the other helps you focus on positive elements that will help improve your overall mental well being. Mental illnesses have specific forms of treatment. It’s also tailor-made to suit the individual’s needs. Some common categories of medications include antidepressants, anti – anxiety medications, mood-stabilizing medications, and antipsychotic medications. 

Myth 3 – Everyone is either Depressed or Anxious

Yet another myth that most of us have believed at some point or the other is that we are depressed or anxious but it need not be so. Depression showcases itself in various ways and is subjective by nature. No two people diagnosed with depression would experience it on similar lines, nor would their coping strategies be the same. The most common belief is that being sad or feeling weak is equivalent to being diagnosed as depressed. But depression is much more than that. In order for a person to be diagnosed as depressed, he or she needs to be evaluated on the psychological, social, biological and environmental facets of their life. 

Anxiety, on the other hand, is usually perceived as being shy or nervous or weak but it’s something that stems from worry, tension, or fear. Feeling worried or stressed does not conclude that you have anxiety disorder, rather it is a general worry that affects our everyday routine where we spend most of our time worrying about our health, or death or about our loved ones. 

Depression and Anxiety can be treated in various ways, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be quite effective in treating depression and anxiety. Another effective approach is practising mindfulness based breathing techniques that helps one anchor themselves onto their breathing, thereby helping them relax and focus on the present moment. 

Myth 4 – The internet has the power to diagnose you

Self diagnosis is a trend that everyone currently adheres to. The process of diagnosing one’s own illness be it mental or physical on the basis of information provided by the internet isn’t sufficient.  It is important to understand the consequences of self diagnosis. You may end taking over the counter pills for an illness that may require medical intervention. Most often, people diagnose their concerns without any valid evidence. They jump to conclusions which may worsen the condition as well. Most often, doctors have a limited understanding of the actual concerns because most patients analyse their symptoms based on the information provided by the internet, which may be quite generic. Individuals need to understand that no two problems are the same. Each person may have an underlying or co morbid condition as well. A common example could be mood swings that most of us have undergone. They could be due to various reasons such as various mood disorders, or hormone changes caused by certain stressors.

The information provided online is for us to build awareness of such mental or physical illnesses. Only by understanding that this is a concern and that it can be treated, do we seek out the necessary help. Most of these issues go undiagnosed otherwise.  When individuals self diagnose, the subjective crux of the problem is lost. It is best to seek medical help for this purpose. 

Myth 5 – Psychologists and Psychiatrists are the same 

Psychologists and Psychiatrists work in the mental health domain. They both work towards assessment,  diagnosis and counselling for the individual. In order to become a psychiatrist, one must complete a medical degree, whereas, in order to become a psychologist, one must possess a master’s degree or a doctoral degree.   

Psychiatry is a field of medicine that focuses on treatment of mental health concerns through medical interventions and counselling. Psychiatrists are doctors who diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They work in hospitals and collaborate with psychologists for treatment of individuals. 

Psychology is the study of human behaviour using various types of therapeutic approaches whereas psychiatry is focused on diagnoses, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses with the help of medications. With the help of therapeutic approaches, psychologists help the individual by establishing a safe environment for individuals to express their thoughts and feelings. They also work to promote mental well being by advocating positive practices like mindfulness based approaches, goal setting, effective communication, and various other techniques to help individuals resolve their problems. Psychologists use evidence based approaches to understand human behavior and mental illnesses. They work in various settings like schools, colleges, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and counselling centres. 

In a nutshell, your mental well being is as important as your physical health. Begin to  understand your mental health by reaching out to a psychologist today!

THE MIND RESEARCH FOUNDATION