Common mental health struggles

by Jaya Chand (work experience student) & Dr Laura Keyes (Clinical Psychologist)

Here we describe common mental health difficulties, their causes and ideas to help.


Generalised anxiety

Social anxiety

Depression

OCD

Self-harm

Addictions

PTSD

Sleep difficulties

Bipolar Disorder


1) Generalised Anxiety


· Definition / Symptoms: This is a condition where individuals feel anxious most of the time and experience excessive worry and feelings of dread. They usually have trouble sleeping and concentrating, can feel dizzy and experience heart palpitations.


· Statistics: This disorder affects up to 5% of the UK population, with woman being slightly more affected than men, and is common between ages 35-39.


· Causes: GAD may be present for a combination of reasons including the genes inherited from parents who are prone to anxiety, having family who you have observed worrying a lot and who value worry as a strategy, a history of traumatic experiences, or experiencing painful long-term health conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.


· Psychological Therapies that can help:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

- Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)

- Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR)


· Other approaches that may help:

- Mindfulness

- Exercise/yoga/deep breathing

- Applied Relaxation


2) Social Anxiety


· Definition / Symptoms: Excessive worry, overwhelming fear and nervousness relating to social situations with long-term impacts. This tends to start around teenage years, and can have a large impact on day-to-day life. Symptoms include worry about every activities including meeting strangers, starting conversations and even shopping. Avoidance and worry of such activities and fear of criticism. Often avoiding eye-contact and experience low self-esteem with intense shames. Physical symptoms can include sickness, sweating, blushing, trembling and heart palpitations.


· Statistics: Women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. There appears to be a 12% lifetime prevalence of social anxiety (Kessler et al., 2005). Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain experience social anxiety at any one time (NHS inform, 2020).


· Causes: Anxiety difficulties tend to run in families as people can inherit a tendency to be anxious . However, it is not yet clear how much is due to genetics or learned behaviour from seeing social anxiety in. For example, their parents growing up fearing being embarrassed in social situations. Chronic social anxiety can lead to an overactive amygdala and heightened fear response, which increases anxiety in social situations.


· Psychological Therapies the can help:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

- Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)

- Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR)

- Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)


· Other approaches that may help:

- Mindfulness

- Radical self-acceptance work

Applied relaxation and deep breathing


3) Depression


· Definition / Symptoms: This is where low mood lasts several weeks and often months or years. Common symptoms includes feeling a deep sense of unhappiness and hopelessness, struggle with sleeping too little/too much, and loss of interest or pleasure in the thing normally enjoyed. Suicidal thoughts can also be around.


· Statistics: Around 21% of adults aged 16 years and over have experienced some form of depression in the UK in early 2021, which was an increase from 19% in November 2020.


· Causes: Genetics can be a factor if a parent or sibling has experienced depression, it’s more likely. Stressful life events and losses can also contribute to low mood including bereavements, loss of jobs, or breakups. Chronic pain and health conditions can lead to low mood, along with a tendency to think in a negative black and white way.


· Psychological Therapies that can help:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

- Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (CFT)

- Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)


· Other ideas that may help:

- Gratitude practice

- Journaling

- Mindfulness

- Exercise (which is shown to be as effective as antidepressant medication in research)


4) OCD


· Definition / Symptoms: This is where individuals have recurring thoughts and repetitive behaviours that cannot be controlled. Individuals can have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours which can be considerably distressing at times, however, with the right treatment can be controlled.


· Statistics: Current estimates in the UK show that there are around 75% of a million people are living with OCD at any one time. It is believed that it can affect 12 in every 1000 people from young children to adults, regardless of gender, social or cultural backgrounds.


· Causes: Various things can lead to the development of OCD, including family history / genetics, individuals are more likely to develop OCD if a family member has it. Chemicals in the brain can cause it, some individuals with OCD have high activity in their brain or low levels of a chemical called serotonin. Life events can also lead to OCD, for example, individuals that have been bullied, abused or neglected are more at risk. Finally, personality types can also lead to OCD traits; neat and meticulous individuals with high standards may be more likely to develop OCD, as well as individuals who are quite anxious.


· Psychological Therapies:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)


· Other approaches that may help:

- Medication

- Support groups


5) Self-Harm


· Definition / Symptoms: Self-harm is when individuals hurt themselves as a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations / experiences. Some individuals view it as a way of punishing themselves or reduce overwhelming feelings or thoughts. Others view it as a way of numbing the pain and dissociating themselves from the world.


· Statistics: In England, roughly 9% of women and 5.7% of men self-reported to have self-harmed non-suicidal at some point in their life. Self-harm rates are also found to be highest among women aged 16 – 24, with 26% having self-harmed at some point, this is compared to 10% of men in the same 16 – 24 age range (McManus et al., 2016).


· Causes: There are no clear reasons as to why people self-harm, it can be for very different reasons for everyone. For some, self-harm is a way of dealing with difficult experiences such as bullying, bereavement, money worries. It can also be due to low self-esteem, work / education pressures or low mood and depression.


· Psychological Treatments:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


· Other approaches that may help:

- Guided self-help

- Meditation

- Mindfulness


6) Addictions


· Definition / Symptoms: This is where individuals have little control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could potentially be harmful to them. Common additions can include drugs, gambling, alcohol and smoking, however, it is possible to get addicted to things like work, social media, solvents and shopping.


· Statistics: In 2020, it was reported that 7027 hospital admissions were made for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders. Statistics showing opiate and crack use prevalence indicated that in 2016 – 2017, there were 313,971 individuals in the UK aged 15 – 64 who use one of both drugs.


· Causes: Various things can lead to addiction, including genetics, if there is family history of dependence, then individuals are more at risk. If individuals have a pre-existing mental health disorder this could lead to addiction. Peer pressure and lack of family involvement are also factors, as well as environment.


· Psychological Treatments:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


· Other approaches that may help:

- Medication

- Lifestyle changes

- Help from family / friends

- Detoxing


7) PTSD


· Definition / Symptoms: Individuals who suffer from PTSD often relive a traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. These instances can unfortunately lead to feelings of isolation guilt and irritability. Other symptoms within PTSD include struggles with sleep and trouble with concentrating.


· Statistics: It is estimated that PTSD affects 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, however, it is not yet clear as to why some people develop the condition while others do not.


· Causes: Any traumatic situation individuals find themselves in can cause PTSD, including serious road accidents, violent personal assaults such as sexual assault or robbery, serious health problems or childbirth. PTSD can develop weeks, months or even years after such an event.


· Psychological Treatments:

- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)

- Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)


· Other approaches that may help:

- Medication

- Mindfulness


8) Sleep Difficulties


· Definition / Symptoms: This condition causes changes in the way individuals sleep. Symptoms can include being very sleepy during the daytime, trouble falling asleep at night, unusual breathing patterns and having an irregular sleep cycle.


· Statistics: Roughly 16 million adults in the UK were reported to suffer from sleepless nights, approximately 31% believed they had insomnia (Aviva, 2017). Furthermore, 67% of adults suffer from a disrupted sleep and 23% struggle to have more than five hours a night.


· Causes: Various factors can contribute to sleep disorders, including physical pains or aches, allergies or respiratory conditions, stress, anxiety, genetics and age.


· Psychological Treatments:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


· Other ideas that may help:

- Medication

- Lifestyle changes

- Mindfulness

- Meditation


9) Bipolar Disorder


· Definition / Symptoms: This condition causes fluctuations in mood, resulting in one extreme feeling to the other. There are two main symptoms of bipolar (1) manic, which can lead to feeling very high and hyperactivity or (2) depressive, which can cause low mood and hopelessness.


· Statistics: Approximately 1.3 million people in the UK have a bipolar disorder, that is equivalent to one in fifty people. Bipolar is thought to affect men and women in roughly equal numbers., however the way it presents can differ. Women are more likely to develop depressive episodes and fewer manic episodes than men.


· Causes: The exact cause of bipolar is not yet recognised. However, there appear to be a few common underlying causes of the disorder, for example a chemical imbalance in the brain. When there is an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain (e.g. noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine), there is evidence that individuals may develop some symptoms of bipolar disorder. Genetics can also be a factor for individuals developing bipolar disorder, as it is believed to run in the family. Also, triggering circumstances can also lead to the development of bipolar, including the breakdown of a relationship, bereavement, physical illnesses or sleep disturbances.


· Psychological Treatments:

- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

- Psychoeducation

- Family focused therapy (FFT)


· Other ideas that may help:

- Medication

- Lifestyle changes including exercises, planned activities, healthy diet

- Understanding and recognising certain triggers


If you are looking for individual therapy to help with any of the difficulties described above please do get in touch with us to see if we can offer what you need.

Tel: 07880610449 E: admin@drlaurakeyes.com

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