a state of ones’ well-being in which one realizes his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community. In short, this is simply ones emotional, psychological and social well-being. The word, “mental” means relating to the brain, and “health” means a state of well-being.
This is the coordinating centre of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity. It is responsible for the release of hormones such as dopamine, endorphin, adrenocorticotropic, growth hormone-releasing hormone, hypothalamic-pituitary hormone, melatonin, N-acetylserotonin,6-Hydroxymelatoninglucocorticoid cortisol, etc. These hormones main function is protection and adaptation, but like any other system an imbalance either in the positive or negative state cause a malfunction which in this case refers to development of illness. Examples of illnesses which arise from such disorder are Parkinson’s disease, Schizophrenia, Bipolar (a.k.a Mania), Depression, etc.
As I mentioned above, “mental health” is a blanket cover, now let us take a look at what lies underneath this blanket.
TYPES OF MENTAL ILLNESS
I’ll divide these into 3 different groups:
- Most-common type
- Less-common type
- My big 2
This group of people responds to certain objects or situations with fear, panic and/or physical signs (such as sweating, rapid increase in heartbeat, shaking). Diagnosis of this is usually done by introducing the person to a set of different situations then attentively analyzing the response if it is either appropriate or inappropriate, also observing if the person can/cannot control the response, and checking if it interferes with their normal functioning.
It subdivides into;
- Specific phobias
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Mood disorders (affective disorders)
This involves unwavering feelings of sadness or feelings of being overly happy, sudden changes from extreme happiness to extreme sadness.
Well-known mood disorders are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
Extreme emotions and attitudes involving weight and food, where the person either has an urge to over indulge in food or not to eat at all. Most common eating disorders are;
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
Impulse control and addiction disorder
Here, a person is unable to resist impulses to perform an act of either self-harm or one that harms another. Examples are pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania(stealing), excessive alcohol, drug addictions and compulsive gambling. A person suffering from this, tends to isolate themselves and ignores responsibilities.
People who suffer from this have inflexible personality traits which tend to be extreme. These traits can be distressing to both the person and his/her surroundings, causing problems at work, school, home and/ social relationships. Examples of this includes;
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
- Paranoid personality disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
These individuals are tormented by lingering thoughts or fear causing them to behave indulge in everyday routines which not be side-tracked or perform rituals. The obsessive part refers to the lingering, disturbing thoughts whereas the compulsive part refers to the routines/rituals.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This usually develops after a terrifying / horrific event such as sexual assault, physical distress, death. People with PTSD tend to be emotionally numb.
This is a chronic and severe disorder. It affects how a person thinks, feels , and behaves. It is caused by an increase in the production of dopamine. Symptoms are classified into positive and negative.
- Agitated body movements
- Reduced speaking
- Reduced expression of emotions via facial expression and/ voice tone
These people display repeated, quick, sudden, uncontrollable body movements or sound production which is involuntary. Tourette’s syndrome is an example.
Here, a person intentionally complains of either physical / emotional symptoms in order to receive attention as either a patient or as a person in need.
My Big 2
As a medical student, this group for me has the most interesting types of mental illnesses as these have been causing quite a stir in the medical world, trying to find out and manufacture specific medications which will target the exact causatives of these. If you are well read and have been following and taking note of what I have written above, you’ll most likely by now know what my big 2 are, without further ado, I introduce you to:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
This is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that with time the symptoms continue to worsen. The cause is still unknown, and as of right now there is no present cure, but medication and surgery serve as treatment options. Neurons (nerve cells in the brain) malfunction and die. These neurons are found in a region of the brain known as substantia nigra (black surface) and are responsible for the production of dopamine, which I mentioned earlier on as one of the key hormones produced by the brain. Dopamine sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. With this disease, there is a decrease now in the production level of this hormone and the person is unable to control movement.
For people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, symptoms vary from one person to the other but the key primary motor signs are;
- Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs
- Uncontrollable shaking of the hands, arms, legs, face
- Slowness of movement known as bradykinesia
- Impaired balance and coordination
- Adult day-care
- In-home care
- Residential care
AD, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease which like PD continues to worsen over time. The death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. It is the causative of greater percentages of Dementia cases. There is still debate as to what causes this degenerative disease, according to Wikipedia, 70% of the risk is genetic, and the other 30% is divided between are long list of factors which include history of head injuries, depression, hypertension, etc.
Amyloid beta which is a protein found in the brain forms plaques which tangle in the brain, causing a disintegration of another protein called tau, distorting the normal everyday/daily function of the brain.
Symptoms can be diagnosed at any stage and after initial diagnosis, progression is monitored, this then dictates how care is managed.
NB: Symptoms are often mistaken for old age:
- Loss in memory
- Decrease in ability to take in new information
- Impaired visuospatial abilities
- Speech, reading, writing impairment
- Changes in behavior and personality
- AD has different stages depending on the progression;
- Preclinical (which presents no symptoms)
- Mild cognitive impairment
Risk factors associated with AD are:
- Age (more likely in older people over 65 yrs)
- Family history (inheritance of causative genes)
- Presence of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, this puts the carrier at a 3-8 times more risk than a person without the gene.
There is no known cure as the death of brain cells cannot be paused or reversed. However, care options such as;
- Adult day-care
- In-home care
- Residential care
- Hospice care
- Respite care, help improve quality of life for both the elders and their families.
Availability of medications have help reduce the symptoms and improve quality of life have also proved effective.
FOR ALL THE DIFFERENT MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESSES I HAVE MENTIONED, IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW AND TO UNDERSTAND THAT, NO ONE-SIZE FITS ALL FORMULA WORKS.
Type of care needs change at different stages of the disease and each family situation is unique.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF MENTAL HEALTH PATIENTS:
A well-known Physician once said,” The best medicine for humans is love, if at first it doesn’t work, don’t worry, increase the dose”
Although taking care of these patients presents unique challenges as the problems vary greatly in severity and causes, the major things required from a care giver are LOVE, PATIENCE, UNDERSTANDING, and the ability to COMMUNICATE.
Give the person you care for enough time to make themselves heard, it is very important to listen to what they have to say. Allow them to express themselves without interrupting, or offering your own personal option. Always encourage and reassure them when they appear to be struggling, be it with movement, emotion etc.
- Always make sure you follow the prescribed medication routine and be sure to give it at the specific mentioned times.
- Do not discriminate or treat them differently from the next person.
- Develop a trusting bond between you and them, this will them settle down more and warm up to you which in return results in progress health-wise.
- Do not forget to celebrate special events with them, be it wedding anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, thanksgiving, valentine’s day etc, just to show you care.
- Finally, above all else, LOVE THEM, love has proven to be the best medicine as it heals what lies beyond the naked eye, it heals the SOUL.
I hope you enjoyed reading this just as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you for taking time to read my blog, feel free to leave any questions and/or comments below, I will gladly respond to them. If you have any nursing background and are interested in being part of a group of nurses of high caliber who offer exquisite professional care, then kindly contact us, click here.