- Written by Annemi Olivier
- Published: 05 Oct 2017
Types of Common Mental Illness
Everyone worries and everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety becomes a problem when it’s more than just feeling stressed or worried and the feelings associated with a pressured situation continue once the “stressor” is removed. When those anxious feelings don’t subside, when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause.
Symptoms of anxiety can often develop gradually and there are many types of anxiety. While everyone experiences anxiety differently it can affect a person’s thinking, feeling, behaviour and physical well being. Some general signs and symptoms are:
- Thinking – a racing mind or going blank, decreased concentration and memory, indecisiveness, confusion, vivid dreams.
- Feeling – unrealistic or excessive fear and worry (about past and future events), irritability, impatience, anger, feeling on edge, nervousness.
- Behaviour – avoidance of situations, obsessive compulsive behaviour, distress in social situations, sleep disturbance, increased use of alcohol or other drugs.
- Physical – pounding heart, chest paid, rapid heartbeat, blushing, rapid and shallow breathing, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, sweating, tingling and numbness, choking, dry mouth, stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle aches and pains (especially neck, shoulders and back), restlessness, tremors and shaking.
Everyone feels a bit low or sad sometimes. Depression is more than feeling low and sad, it’s a serious illness that affects your everyday life.
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.
It’s important to note that everyone experiences some of these symptoms from time to time and may not necessarily mean a person is depressed. Equally not every person who is experiencing depression will have all of these symptoms. To be diagnosed (by a suitable professional) with a depressive disorder a person may experience symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks:
- Feelings – overwhelmed, guilty, irritable, frustrated, lacking in confidence, unhappy, indecisive, disappointed, miserable, sad
- Behaviour – not going out anymore, not getting things done at work/school, withdrawing from close family and friends, relying on alcohol and sedatives, not doing usual enjoyable activities, unable to concentrate
- Thoughts – ‘I’m a failure’, ‘It’s all my fault’, ‘Nothing good ever happens to me’, ‘I’m worthless’, ‘Life’s not worth living’, ‘People would be better off without me’
- Physical – tired all the time, sick and run down, headaches and muscle pain, churning gut, sleep problems, loss or change of appetite, significant weight loss or gain
A panic attack is an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming physical sensations, such as:
- a pounding heartbeat
- feeling faint
- nausea (feeling sick)
- chest pains
- feeling unable to breathe
- shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly
- feeling like you’re not connected to your body
Substance Use Problems
Having a mental illness can make a person more likely to abuse drugs, to make their symptoms feel better in the short-term. Other people have drug problems that may trigger the first symptoms of mental illness. Some drugs cause a condition called drug-induced Psychosis, which usually passes after a few days. However, if someone has a predisposition to a psychotic illness such as Schizophrenia, these drugs may trigger the first episode in what can be a lifelong mental illness. Using drugs can also make the symptoms of mental illnesses worse and make treatment less effective.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a mental illness. Substance use disorder changes normal desires and priorities. It changes normal behaviors and interferes with the ability to work, go to school, and to have good relationships with friends and family. Approximately 5.1% of Australians aged 16 years or over have a substance use disorder in a given year and people with an anxiety or depressive disorder are three times as likely to have a substance use disorder.
Information about courses that provide a greater level of knowledge, training & awareness about Mental Health can be found on our Diploma of Mental Health course page, Certificate IV in Mental Health course page and our Mental Health First Aid Training page.