Psychiatry & Clinical Psychology - FAQs

What are mental health problems ?

Mental health problems include a wide range of experiences: some problems may be quite mild or moderate, while others may take on a more severe form, affecting a person’s ability to cope with day-to-day living. You may have heard about some of the more common problems, such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, schizophrenia, psychosis, stress and bipolar disorder.

According to some estimates, 1 person in 4 may have some form of mental health problem in their lifetime. For as many as 1 person in 50, this problem will be serious enough to affect their ability to work or to form and maintain personal relationships.

Although figures and definitions vary, what is clear is that millions of people in India will encounter problems themselves, or know someone else who does.

What are the signs ?

The first signs of mental health problems will differ from person to person and are not always easy to spot. In many cases of moderate depression or anxiety – the most common mental health problems – the person becoming distressed may not display symptoms, or may seek to hide them because they worry about what others will say or think about them. The signs can often be more noticeable to other people first: for instance, if your mood starts changing, it may take some time for you to become aware of it; other people may be much more conscious of the difference.

What are the Signs and Symptoms to Be Concerned About ?

  • Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others. An unusual drop in functioning, especially at school or work, such as quitting sports, failing in school, or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
  • Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
  • Heightened   sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
  • Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity; apathy.
  • A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.
  • Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
  • Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
  • Uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
  • Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene.
  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings.”

One or two of these symptoms can’t predict a mental illness. But a person experiencing several together that are causing serious problems in his or her ability to study, work, or relate to others should be seen by a mental health professional. All of these signs can vary in severity. Often they can be relatively minor, or pass quickly. However, if they are particularly severe or distressing, or continue for more than a short while, you may want to seek support.

Am I going mad ?

While this experience, particularly at first, is likely to be upsetting and create fear, it is a common human experience. Mental health problems can happen to anyone, at any time. For most people this will only be for a short period.If you are in mental distress, you may begin to doubt yourself and become desperately afraid you are going mad. You may question your ability to think and reason properly, and be afraid of becoming a danger to others or of being locked up in an institution. These fears are often reinforced by the negative way that people experiencing mental health problems are portrayed on TV, in books and by the media: you may also be scared of being seen as 'mad', of losing friends, family and freedom. These fears may stop you from talking about your problems. This, in turn, is likely to increase your distress and sense of isolation.

What causes psychiatric disorders ?

There is no simple answer to this question as there are lots of reasons why someone might develop a mental illness. They might inherit it from their family, it might be because of their lifestyle or it might be because of things that have happened to them in the past. Usually it is a combination of all of these. There is some evidence that mental illness is caused by a combination of biological factors that create vulnerability. Genetics play a part, but people can develop a mental illness with no family history at all. We know that chemical changes occur that affect functioning of the brain (both dopamine and serotonin are involved). People who are vulnerable to mental illness may experience symptoms in response to stress, social change or drugs.

Who is susceptible to psychiatric disorders ?

People with family history of psychiatric disorders, long standing prolonged stress, chronic illness, regular use of alcohol and substance use and abuse.

When do I know my problems are severe enough to see someone ?

We all have times when we are blue or particularly stressed. Usually these times pass and we begin to feel like ourselves again. Sometimes these problems persist a long time or start to interfere with daily life. People may have trouble sleeping, may feel more irritable, or begin to have difficulty in their jobs and relationships. Than it is the time to ee a mental health professional.

If I see a psychologist or psychiatrist, does that mean I'm crazy ?

No. There is a negative stereotype that many people have that can make them shy about coming to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. Because of this stereotype, many people put off treatment when they could have been feeling better long ago. Seeing a mental health professional really just means that you are struggling with feelings or behavior and would like help. It's no different than if you were seeing an eye doctor because you couldn't see well. Often as part of treatment you will receive a diagnosis.

How will I know if someone is developing a mental illness ?

Early warning signs differ from person to person, but some common signs are when a person’s behavior changes (either suddenly or gradually) and he or she becomes unusually suspicious, anxious, depressed, irritable or angry. The person may experience mood swings, sleeplessness, loss of motivation and energy, changes in eating patterns, and memory loss. Family and friends will notice changes in a person’s behavior, often with a disruption to a person’s work or study and to a person’s energy levels and sociability. These symptoms can sometimes be a reaction to life events or changes, especially for people in adolescence, but if in doubt, seek advice from a health service. Early intervention is better for all concerned.

Is recovery possible ?

Yes. Advancements in medication are continually improving the outlook for people with a mental illness. Along with psychological and social supports, a majority can live active and fulfilled lives.