Advice from the top 8 mental health experts

November 14: Mental illness, also known as mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of psychological health issues, that is, disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. Many people have mental health issues from time to time. But a concern becomes an illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

A mental illness can make you unhappy and cause problems in your daily life. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medication and therapy. Here are some suggestions from top mental health experts on the warning signs of your mental health that you shouldn’t ignore.

Doctor LC Sunda,

MBBS (AIIMS), DNB (Psychiatry),

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist – ShakuKarma Mind-care Clinic, Paschim Vihar & Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital, New Delhi

Due to the stigma associated with mental disorders in society, we delay medical and psychological interventions by NOT “recognizing” the early signs of these disorders.

A longer phase of sadness, extreme mood swings, overwhelming anxiety, social isolation and withdrawal, thoughts of self-harm, delusions and hallucinations, sleep disturbances, use of addictive substances are some -some of the first signs of impending illnesses and should NOT be ignored. .

Awareness and psychoeducation programs are really important for the public and caregivers to gain insight into these disorders.

Early intervention remains the best policy in the management of psychiatric disorders as well as in other illnesses.

Dr Mithila Desai,

MA, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Therapist, Mumbai

Perfectionism can be confusing; it affects different people in different ways. Studies have shown that perfectionism is correlated with mental health issues and predictive of high levels of anxiety, OCD, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders.

Perfectionist thinking is based on the belief that we are inadequate: “I am not enough, and the only way to be enough is to accomplish.” Anxious perfectionists are hard on themselves and this often takes the form of self-criticism and insisting on imperfections, constantly worrying about what people think of them.

They procrastinate or don’t start things because they don’t think they can do it perfectly, feeling flawed or imperfect.

Stress can manifest in our body as pain, insomnia and sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, muscle tension and lack of energy. Stress also impacts our mood, contributing to anxiety, depression and a short temper could be some early signs of mental illnesses.

Dr Vikas Bhatheja,

PhD (Cognitive Psychology), Senior Consultant – Indus International Hospital, Chandigarh

Some symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.

There are a few early signs of mental illness that need to be taken care of. For example – feelings of sadness, confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme feelings of guilt, extreme mood swings of ups and downs, withdrawal from friends and activities, significant fatigue, lack of energy or sleep problems, detachment from reality, mistrust, inability to cope with everyday problems or stress, difficulty understanding and identifying with situations and people, excessive anger, hostility or violence. The most important thing is family support and a positive approach to handling these situations.

Dr Pooja Anand Sharma,

MA, PhD, President – Vishwas Healing Centre,

Psychotherapy Expertise, Dream Analysis and Energy Healing Training, New Delhi

Understanding the early signs of mental illness is key to getting the right help at the right time.

There are a few signs that we should not ignore such as – estrangement from loved ones, increased aggression or violent behavior, restlessness, prolonged period of sadness, increased distrust of others, being easily annoyed, feeling threatened by people, detached from reality, trouble sleeping, change in appetite, loss of interest in favorite activities, and trouble concentrating.

Remember that these are cumulative symptoms. If symptoms persist for more than three weeks, you should seek professional help immediately.

Mental illnesses do not go away on their own. We must seek the necessary help at the right time. Otherwise, they can get worse over time.

If your loved ones are facing such issues, discuss their concerns openly with them. Support and encouragement go a long way in healing and treatment.

Dr Kiran Makhijani,

Psychotherapist and Psychologist – Dr. YA Matcheswalla Superspecialty Polyclinic, Mumbai

One or two of these symptoms alone cannot predict mental illness, but may indicate the need for further evaluation. Some of the indicators that should not be ignored include – changes in sleep or appetite, mood swings, social withdrawal, loss of interest, difficulty in daily functioning, poor concentration, memory and increased sensitivity.

If a person experiences more than one at a time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work, or relate to others, they should see a professional. People who have suicidal thoughts or harm others need immediate attention. Early identification, appropriate assessment, effective care planning and appropriate treatment play a crucial role in improving mental health.

Dr Saumya Sharan,

MPhil (Gold Medal in Clinical Psychology),

Senior Senior Clinical Psychologist – MindOn, Gurugaon

Mental health is also health. Questions about mental health are difficult to answer: how much is too much, when does it get unmanageable, or how long do we wait before seeking help? But it’s worth being aware of some signs and red flags that may present as early symptoms or patterns that warrant timely professional help. There are loosely used terms for signs that may not be considered a psychological disorder, for example, internet sadness for depression, nervousness for anxiety, restlessness for ADHD, etc.

Instead, look for emotional patterns such as frequent crying outbursts, increased nervousness that seems unmanageable, changes in sleep routine or appetite, or energy levels. Note whether these signs extend beyond a certain period or cause significant distress in your professional, personal, and social spheres and interfere with daily activities.

Mrs. Saachi Arora,

MSc, MPhil, PhD, RCI Certified Clinical Psychologist,

Founder -Therapy by Saachi – A Safe Space for You, Mumbai

Signs of mental health are not as readily visible as signs of physical health. As a result, mental health care is often overlooked. However, there have been open conversations about mental health and wellness. Early identification of mental health signs and symptoms leads to appropriate management and intervention of these signs.

These signs can pave the way for seeking mental health care at the earliest – extreme mood swings, excessive worry or anxiety about trivial matters, avoidance of problems, dramatic changes in your sleep and appetite, difficulty doing cope with stress or engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or risky behaviors.

It’s normal not to feel well. It’s normal to feel changes in your mind and body. However, it can affect your functioning, social life, and other areas. Therefore, let go of the stigma, identify the signs of mental health, cope effectively, and seek professional help if needed.

Take care of your mental health because you matter!

Ms Devaleena Ghosh,

Clinical Psychologist, MRes (UK), Director – Kornash The Lifestyle Management School, Kolkata

Your feelings of sadness that last longer than two weeks may be a sign of mental illness. Everyone experiences sadness at one time or another. However, normal feelings of sadness improve over time. Abnormally intense sadness that lasts two weeks or more could be a sign of depression. If you observe in yourself or a loved one, a feeling that is heavier than normal and hard to get rid of requires immediate attention.

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