The ABC of Mental Health
Tanya uses stress as an excuse to get out of things she isn’t interested in doing. One day, her psychology teacher asked her to think about the meaning of the term ‘stress’ that she keeps using now and then. Later, when Tanya got home she opened her laptop and started reading about stress and as she was doing that, she discovered more about the most common terms used in mental health to indicate the same which led her to this blog. Let’s accompany Tanya in learning about the most common terms in the field of psychology and mental health!
Do you ever find yourself wondering about what exactly is “anxiety” or “depression”? What do we call “stress” in our day-to-day lives? We use the term ‘stress’ most commonly indicating things that might not even cause us stress. As human beings, we tend to question the meaning and idea behind everything that interests us. In the previous blogs, we talked about mental health and signs you might consider therapy highlighting the basics of mental health and when to seek help from a mental health professional to improve your overall emotional and psychological well-being. Although we already know the difference between mental illness and mental health, it is important to understand the difference between disorders and symptoms. In this blog, we will discuss the differences between disorders and symptoms, as well as some common terms used in mental health.
I. Disorders & Symptoms
Mental health is an important matter, knowing and understanding the difference between disorders and symptoms, can help us better understand mental health issues and how they should be treated.
a. Disorders can be defined as a pattern of behavior and mental processes that cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning. Symptoms, on the other hand, are signs or indications that something is wrong.
b. Disorders refer to a set of symptoms that are part of a larger condition or illness. Meanwhile, symptoms may be physical (such as fatigue), psychological (such as anxiety), or behavioral (such as aggression). Symptoms are individual experiences that may or may not be part of a disorder.
c. Another way we can try to understand the difference between these two terms is to think of them in terms of cause and effect. Disorders are the underlying causes of specific symptoms, while the symptoms themselves are just observable signs that something is wrong. If a person has a disorder, they will likely experience some or all of the associated symptoms. Therefore, it is important to identify both disorders and symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
One point to note here is that while both refer to an individual’s mental state, they are not identical or can be interchanged with one another. A disorder is a diagnosable illness, while symptoms are signs that specify the occurrence of a disorder. For example, depression can be referred to as both a disorder and its associated symptoms. In other words, depression can be diagnosed as a disorder because of its existing overall symptoms in the mood, sleeping pattern, and behavioral, and cognitive features of the person.
II. Common Terms Used in Mental Health
Mental health is a crucial topic that needs to be discussed openly and honestly. We often find ourselves struggling with our mental health, and it can be hard to know when and where to turn for help. It is important to know the numerous terms and concepts used when discussing mental health as this can help you reach out to the right type of care and support. Hence, we should all try to understand the most common terms used when talking about mental health, so that we can better identify and support anyone in need. Each of these concepts has its own set of implications for a person's well-being and should be taken seriously. With the understanding of these terms and the appropriate support available to those affected by them, we can help create a healthier society.
Let us take a look at a few commonly used terms when we talk about mental health:
1. Stress: Exams coming? I’m stressed. Spilled juice and mom’s staring? I’m stressed! Stuck in a pressure situation, we become worried and irritated. This state of emotional/physical tension is called stress. Having some stress in our lives is completely normal and even good as it drives us to confront challenges! But problems arise when our stress levels go beyond our control.
2. Anxiety: When we are attacked by stress, our pulse quickens, breathing accelerates and we’re hijacked by intense fear/worry. There’s sweating, restlessness, and nervousness! That's exactly what anxiety feels like. It's our response when the weight of stress becomes too much for us to handle just like when you’re standing before a mic with a hundred people staring!!
(Trigger warning: mention of war, rape, accident, death)
3. Trauma: Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. Some downs are deeply distressing, damaging, and disturbing. They become our trauma. Experiencing a deadly accident, rape, war, or losing a loved one can overwhelm us with negative emotions and leave long-lasting scars. Traumas are emotional wounds that are expressed in flashbacks, nightmares, or anxiety.
4. Panic Attack: Imagine yourself walking and suddenly your heartbeat starts racing, you can't breathe, you feel nauseated, you’re sweating, your chest is aching and your entire body is shaking. Panic attacks bring along with them profound terror and stress. Having a panic attack feels synonymous with having a heart attack!
5. Anxiety Attack: Although milder, anxiety attacks follow in the same footsteps as panic attacks in terms of symptoms and sensations. But, whilst panic attacks are random, sudden, and abrupt, anxiety attacks usually arise from an underlying stressor or are a reaction to some threat or danger.
6. Depression: All of us have our definitions and episodes of depression. When a past trauma manifests when life gives us stress aplenty or simply when family drama becomes too much to handle! Depression as a mental disorder involves a shift in mood, losing interest, experiencing sadness, feelings of unworthiness in both self and life, or suicidal thoughts. It dissolves negativity in your holistic existence.
There you have it! There are many common terms when we speak about mental health, hence with each term, we must be mindful of the words we use and how they are being used. Being aware of a few of the common terms, understanding their definitions, and recognizing their use in a context can help us to communicate clear and effective messages. We should be mindful of these symptoms within us and around us and take proper action so that we can foster a good and healthy society!
Written by: Navya Singh (BA Psychology, FY, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)
Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)