Updated 27 June 2023 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What is Mental Health?Mental health refers to a person's emotional and psychological well-being. It encompasses how we think, feel, and behave and plays a vital role in our overall health. Those with a healthy mind can cope with daily challenges like work and relationships. On the other hand, poor mental health can lead to difficulties in managing stress, experiencing mood swings, and even developing mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Prioritising your mental health by seeking support, practicing self-care, and engaging in open conversations about mental well-being is essential.
Common Types of Mental Health DisordersCommon types of mental health disorders that doctors often see include :
- Anxiety disorders (e.g. generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, etc.)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, etc.)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Causes of Mental Health ProblemsThe causes of mental health issues can stem from various factors commonly contributing to their development. These factors include biological, environmental, and psychological influences.
Biological FactorsBiological influences play a significant role in mental health issues . Our brain chemistry, structure and genetic factors contribute to developing various mental health conditions. These can be expanded below:
- Brain chemistry: Imbalances in brain chemicals, neurotransmitters, can impact mood, emotions, and behaviour.
- Brain structure: The structure and functioning of different brain regions also influence mental health. For instance, abnormalities in the amygdala responsible for processing emotions have been linked to anxiety and mood disorders.
- Genetic factors: Our genes play a role in mental health susceptibility. Certain mental health disorders have a hereditary component, meaning they can run in families. Having close relatives with conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia increases the risk of developing those disorders.
Environmental factorsEnvironmental factors have a notable influence on mental health .A person's circumstances and experiences can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health issues, including:
- Traumatic experiences: Exposure to traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence, or experiencing a natural disaster can profoundly impact mental well-being.
- Stressful living conditions: Chronic or overwhelming stress can significantly impact mental health. Financial difficulties, unstable housing, work-related stress, academic pressure, or family conflicts can lead to mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
- Social support and relationships: The quality of social relationships and support systems also affects mental health. Positive and supportive relationships can serve as protective factors against mental health issues, while isolation, loneliness, or abusive relationships can contribute to their development.
- Socioeconomic factors: Socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination, can impact mental health. Limited access to resources, opportunities, and quality healthcare can increase the risk of mental health problems.
Psychological FactorPsychological factors significantly impact mental health and can contribute to developing or exacerbating mental health issues . These factors involve our thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and how we perceive and interpret the world around us.
- Cognitive patterns: Our thinking patterns and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world can influence mental health. Negative thought patterns can contribute to conditions like depression and anxiety.
- Emotional well-being: Our ability to understand, manage, and express emotions effectively plays a crucial role in mental health.
- Coping mechanisms: How we cope with stress, challenges, and life events can impact mental health outcomes. Healthy coping mechanisms (e.g. seeking support, engaging in self-care, etc.), promote resilience and protect against mental health issues. On the other hand, relying on unhealthy coping strategies, such as substance abuse or avoidance, can worsen mental health problems.
- Self-esteem and self-image: Self-esteem, self-worth, and body image can influence mental health. Low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, or negative body image can contribute to conditions like eating disorders, depression, or anxiety disorders.
- Past experiences and learned behaviours: Previous experiences, including childhood trauma or significant life events, can shape our psychological well-being. Behaviours and responses acquired through past experiences, such as unhealthy coping mechanisms, can contribute to mental health challenges
Signs of Mental Health ProblemsIdentifying signs of mental health issues can help individuals recognise when they or someone they know may be experiencing challenges with their well-being. It's important to note that these signs can vary from person to person, and the presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily confirm a mental health disorder. Here are some common signs to be aware of :
- Persistent sadness or low mood: Feeling down, hopeless, or experiencing an ongoing sadness that lasts for an extended period can be a sign of depression or other mood disorders.
- Excessive worry or anxiety: Constantly feeling on edge, experiencing racing thoughts, or having intense worry or fear that interferes with daily life may indicate an anxiety disorder
- Social withdrawal and isolation: Withdrawing from social activities, avoiding interactions with friends or family, or isolating oneself for an extended period can be a sign of underlying mental health issues.
- Changes in appetite or weight: Significant changes in eating patterns, such as a noticeable decrease or increase in appetite, as well as unexplained weight loss or gain, may be indicators of an eating disorder or other mental health conditions.
- Sleep disturbances: Frequent difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing irregular sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping, can be associated with various mental health disorders.
- Loss of interest or pleasure: Losing interest in once enjoyable activities, experiencing a lack of motivation, or feeling a persistent sense of emptiness may indicate depression or other mood disorders.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions: Experiencing trouble focusing, making decisions, or experiencing a decline in academic or occupational performance could be signs of mental health issues, such as anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Treatments for Mental Health IssuesTreating mental health issues usually involves a combination of approaches tailored to each individual's needs. Here are some standard treatment options:
Seeing a psychologistYour GP may refer you to a psychologist for mental health treatment . Psychologists provide a safe and confidential space to discuss challenges, offer support and guidance, and utilise evidence-based therapeutic approaches tailored to individual needs. Through therapy, individuals can gain insight, develop coping skills, and experience long-term benefits in improving their mental well-being.
MedicationIn some cases, medication  may be prescribed by a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional to help manage symptoms of mental health disorders. Medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or mood stabilisers can be prescribed based on the specific condition and individual needs. It is important to note that medication is not always necessary for everyone and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
Lifestyle modificationsSpecific lifestyle changes can support mental well-being. Regular exercise, practicing stress management techniques like deep breathing or meditation, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting sufficient sleep can positively impact mental health.
Support networksBuilding and maintaining a strong support network is crucial. This can involve reaching out to trusted friends, family members or joining support groups. Please view a list of Australian mental health support networks by clicking here.
Self-careSelf-care activities that promote relaxation, self-compassion, and self-expression are essential for mental well-being. Engaging in hobbies, spending time in nature, listening to music, or journaling are examples of self-care activities that can help individuals manage their mental health.
Holistic approachesSome individuals benefit from complementary and alternative therapies, such as mindfulness practices, yoga, or art therapy. These approaches can promote relaxation, self-awareness, and emotional expression.
Mental Health Issues ComplicationsMental health issues can have various complications that impact a person's life. Here are some common complications associated with mental health issues:
- Poor daily functioning: Mental health issues can hinder a person's ability to perform daily activities and meet responsibilities, such as attending school or work, maintaining relationships, or managing personal hygiene and self-care.
- Academic or occupational performance: Mental health issues can significantly impact academic performance or work productivity. Difficulties with concentration, memory, motivation, and interpersonal interactions can hinder success in educational or professional settings.
- Social isolation and relationship difficulties: Mental health issues can lead to social withdrawal, making it challenging to engage with friends, family or participate in social activities. Relationship difficulties may arise due to mood swings, irritability, or difficulty expressing emotions, affecting personal connections and support networks.
- Physical health problems: Mental health issues can contribute to physical health complications. Chronic s and anxiety, for example, can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, or weakened immune function. Additionally, some mental health conditions, such as eating disorders or substance abuse, can significantly impact physical health.
- Increased risk of self-harm or suicide: Some mental health issues, particularly severe depression, bipolar disorder, or certain anxiety disorders, can increase the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. It is crucial to seek help and support if experiencing such thoughts or witnessing them in others.
Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.
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- Australian Psychological Society. (n.d.). Find a psychologist. Retrieved from https://psychology.org.au/find-a-psychologist
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (2020). Work-related mental health conditions in general practice: Guidance for GPs. Retrieved from https://www.racgp.org.au/FSDEDEV/media/documents/Clinical%20Resources/Guidelines/Mental%20health/Work-related-mental-health-conditions-in-general-practice.pdf