Mental illness has an enduring effect not only on the patient, but on loved ones too. The ripple effect of the burden of illness can extend to the whole family.
But most often, the silent sufferers are the patient's care givers, the ones who helplessly watch someone they love go through pain, distress and inability to have a normal life.
It’s hard to see them suffer and you may offer help or advice, and get frustrated that nothing you do can make it better.
In case of severe illness, the patient may be in a situation where they are unable to take care of themselves, and a parent or spouse or even a child becomes responsible for their daily survival.
It takes immense mental strength to go through a situation like this, and there will always be moments of despair.
If you are going through negative emotions as a result of having a family member suffering from a mental illness, or feel like you're unable to cope with the added demands of taking care of one, we are here to help.
Do u feel constantly worried, on the edge, like you just cannot relax?
Do you always suspect or expect the worst and play scenarios in your head?
Do you question your decisions or worry about the future?
Do you experience chest discomfort, frequent gastric issues, fast heart rate, dizziness or shaking of hands?
These are all signs of an anxiety disorder. Possibly one of the most underrated of all mental disorders, anxiety can actually cause a lot of dysfunction in daily life. Because of the constant worry that comes with anxiety, a person might resist trying new experiences, underperform at work, and have an unfulfilling social life.
A simple explanation for anxiety is over activation of the Sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to help us deal with threat, stress and physical demands. For example, when you exercise, your heart starts pumping faster, your brain becomes more alert and your muscles start burning energy in order to move.
But, in anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system is overly active, even when it’s not needed. This means, even when you don’t need extra energy, your heart is pumping, your thoughts are racing, and your body is constantly preparing for a threat that doesn’t even exist!!! Undoubtedly, this takes a heavy toll on the mind and body.
Understanding the cause of anxiety needs expert intervention. With the right medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you can overcome anxiety, learn to regulate it and feel better equipped to cope with the uncertainty of life.
Further, supportive treatments like Relaxation and stress management techniques will help the mind and body calm down and relieve muscle tension, indirectly reducing anxiety.
Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder which is caused due to a disturbance in the neurobiology of the brain leading to changes in personality, thoughts, behaviour and emotions. Patients with schizophrenia are unfortunately unable to understand or explain the nature of their illness, many times completely denying anything being wrong with them. This makes it difficult to convince them to seek help.
When recognised early, with the right medication and psychological support, patients with Schizophrenia can be restored to normal functioning.
Due to the chronic nature of the illness and the tendency to relapse, long term medication is required in schizophrenia. Treatment can last upto 5 years and in some severe cases, extend for longer. Discontinuation of medicine without expert supervision and advice is not recommended.
If a close family member is suffering from the illness, there are around 5-15% chances of inheriting the illness.
Depression is a major illness characterised by a persistent low mood, lack of enjoyment and lack of energy and motivation.
There can even be physical symptoms such as fatigue, vague pains, headaches, weight loss or gain, and sleep disturbance.
At it's worst, the sense of hopelessness that depression causes can lead to a lack of desire to live and result in suicide.
There are some common signs of depression. Keep in mind that when comparing these signs, do NOT compare a person with someone else who is considered "normal".
Always compare them to a person's past behaviour, and what changes you notice now.
1. Persistent Low mood, sadness, feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
2. Lack of pleasure from activities that you normally enjoy.
3. Getting fatigued easily, Lack of energy, lethargy
4. Pessimistic thoughts, Negative view of the future/world/self, Guilt
5. No hopes for the future, death wishes, suicidal thoughts, self-harm
6. Lack of self confidence
7. Sleep disturbance, increased or decreased sleep, waking up too early in the morning
8. Loss of appetite and weight loss, Increased appetite and weight gain
9. Loss of sexual interest and sexual activity
Many stressful or difficult life events and transitions can lead to a short lasting episode of feeling low. This is a normal human reaction, and in most people, with social support, coping skills and the mere passing of time, the negative feelings reduce.
However, if the symptoms persist for too long, and are causing difficulties living life normally, such as affecting your close relationships and social life, your work and your body, then it is likely that you might need professional help.
It is always sensible to consult an expert who can evaluate, analyse and explain what you are going through.
Never hesitate to seek help.
It can be heartbreaking and mentally exhausting to watch someone you love suffer, and feel like nothing you do to help them matters.
But do understand, the depressed brain is not able to feel normal joy and happiness the way others do. And due to their negative thoughts, they may even feel like they are being a burden, or that their friends and family will be better off without them.
Always try to convince your loved one to seek professional help, because in many cases just the support offered by a close friend may not be enough.
In simple terms, the polar opposite of depression is called MANIA. It involves symptoms like excessive happiness, irritable mood, excess talking, grand and elaborate plans, believing oneself to be powerful, belief of having special abilities, loss of sleep and appetite, increased energy.
Usually, Mania occurs in episodes along with episodes of depression in between. This is called Bipolar disorder.
What essentially happens is a person shifts between feeling extremely happy and extremely sad over a period of months or years. Each episode can last for months.
Being a chronic and serious illness which can significantly disable the patient, it requires medication.
Mood stabiliser therapy combined with anti-depressant or anti-manic drugs can help control the symptoms and in many cases lead to long term remission.
OCD is caused by a disturbance in brain circuits which are responsible for controlling impulses and judgement.
This leads to a patient suffering from recurring thoughts, feelings, emotions and acts which he has very little control over. Attempts to control the thoughts or behaviour leads to anxiety and distress which does not resolve unless the patient gives in to the Obsessions or compulsions.
Soon, a patient ends up spending a significant part of the day yielding to the illness, leading to difficulties at work, with family and close relationships. A great amount of distress is felt due to the lack of control and helplessness. It can even lead to depression, anxiety and suicide.
With improved medical care, the average lifespan of a person has increased. With the rising senior population, it is important to be aware of diseases of old age.
Dementia is a neurological disease, commonly of old age, which mainly affects memory, leading to difficulties in daily activities like organisation abilities, remembering tasks, judgement, forgetting previously learned information and in advanced cases, being unable to recognise family members, difficulty taking care of self and complete dependence on a caretaker. In some cases, psychiatric symptoms like irritability, suspicion, paranoia, sleep disturbance, personality change can predominate.
Many neurological disorders can cause dementia, but the most common cause is Alzheimer's disease, where there is damage to the nerve cells that are responsible for storage and retrieval of memories in the brain.
Addiction, in simply terms, is a problem with controlling/stopping a behaviour in spite of the mental, physical and social harm caused because of it.
Often addiction is used in the context of repeated use of substances like alcohol, smoking and other drugs. “Behavioural addictions” also exist, where there is no drug use, but a problem with repeated indulgence in behaviour such Gambling and Gaming addiction.
A simple screening questionairre called CAGE is used by clinicians to recognise substance abuse. You can apply the same to recognise whether a substance is starting to take control of your life.
A YES to 2 of these can suggest that it may be time to seek professional advice.
Even though starting consumption of substances involves a personal choice, as time progresses, there are changes in the brain, especially in the circuits that are responsible for controlling impulses and compulsive behaviour. Slowly, the substance use becomes a compulsion that the patient has little to no control over.
This is the reason addiction is considered a disease of the brain, and blaming the patient for their problems is only going to induce guilt and even increase their substance taking behaviour. A non judgemental and supportive approach is best when trying to help a person overcome their addiction.
Recognising that you need help and seeking it takes a tremendous amount of mental preparation and motivation.
Deciding to seek help and treatment itself is a positive step in the direction of recovery.
Treatment involves medication to restore the body to it’s previous state and psychological interventions to improve motivation for abstinence, handle craving, prevent or minimise relapse and improve treatment compliance.
Consult a Psychiatrist for a detailed evaluation and treatment.