Understanding Mental Illness
Some common mental illness terms and definitions.
Studies indicate that in any given year, one in every five Canadian adults under age 65 will have a mental health problem. Indirectly, all Canadians are affected by mental health issues because we know someone in the family, a friend or fellow worker who has an illness. In spite of these startling facts, most people know very little about mental illness aside from what the media tells us, or from word of mouth. Twenty per cent of the people in our communities experience mental illness at some time – isn’t it time we learned the truth about these conditions and separated fact from fiction?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent intrusive ideas, thoughts, impulses or images (obsessions) which often result in performing compulsive rituals over and over again. Typical compulsions are washing, checking and arranging things, and counting. These actions give individuals with OCD only temporary relief from their anxiety. With early diagnosis and the right treatment, people can avoid the suffering that comes with OCD.
Phobias and panic disorders are included in a group of mental illnesses known as anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are among the most common type of mental health problems, affecting one out of every ten Canadians. In spite of this startling statistic, anxiety disorders are not well understood, and those experiencing these conditions are often regarded as “weak, self-indulgent or undisciplined”.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by reliving a psychologically traumatic situation, long after any physical danger involved has passed, through flashbacks and nightmares.
For every woman, having a baby is a challenging time, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for many new mothers to have mood swings after delivery, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next. These feelings are sometimes known as the “baby blues”, and often go away within 10 days of delivery. However, some women may experience a deep and ongoing depression which lasts much longer. This is called postpartum depression.
Suicide. We would rather not talk about it. We hope it will never happen to anyone we know. But suicide is a reality, and it is more common than you might think. The possibility that suicide could claim the life of someone you love cannot be ignored. By paying attention to warning signs and talking about the “unthinkable,” you may be able to prevent a death.
Weather often affects people’s moods. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.
Your heart is racing; it’s pounding so hard you feel like it is coming out of your chest. Your mouth has gone dry but at the same time, sweat has broken out all over your body. Dizziness and nausea are threatening to overwhelm you and you can’t catch your breath. Do you have an anxiety disorder?
As a group, people with mental health issues are not more violent than any other group in our society. The majority of crimes are not committed by people with psychiatric illness, and multiple studies have proven that there is very little relationship between most of these diseases and violence. The real issue is the fact that people with mental illness are two and a half to four times more likely to be the victims of violence than any other group in our society.