Understanding mental illness

5th, March 016

People with mental illness are often ignored and mistreated. In some cases they are often chained and locked up in a room. Not only that but taking a mentally sick person to dhami and shamans are also some of the things practised in the country. “The scenario has been changing in the last few years in the urban areas as people are being aware about mental health problems. Imparting education has been of help in bringing those mentally ill people for treatment,” informed Dr Neena Rai Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, KIST Medical College, and Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. However, in the rural areas condition hasn’t improved yet, and “specific data is not available”.

Mental functions such as thinking, emotions, judgement capacity et cetera should be intact to work as a normal human being. “If a person is unable to carry out his/her daily activities due to a change in such mental functions then this condition is generally termed as mental illness,” defined the doctor.

Neurotic and psychotic
Mental illnesses are divided into two categories — neurotic and psychotic. Mental illness such as anxiety, depression and sleep disorder fall under neurotic mental illness while bipolar disorder schizophrenia, et cetera fall under psychotic category. Among the common mental illnesses depression and anxiety are quite common in people as per the doctor. Symptoms such as feeling low, decreased energy, increased fatigue, decreased interest and enjoyment, decreased attention and concentration, forgetfulness, guilt feelings, decreased self-esteem and confidence level, decreased appetite and sleep, pessimistic view towards future are some of the visible symptoms. “These symptoms can be seen in anyone at any point of life but what one must understand is that if such depressive symptoms last for more than two weeks then it is time for one to get consultation from a psychiatrist,” informed Dr Rai.

The basic difference between neurotic and psychotic mental illness is that a neurotic patient has an insight of his/her illness. “S/he knows what is happening to her/him. However, psychotics aren’t in touch with reality. They can’t even take care of themselves. Daily activities can’t be carried on their own and there is no insight about the illnesses,” added the doctor. Symptoms such as hallucination and delusion can be visible in such patients. However, symptoms vary according to mild, moderate, and severe forms of mental illnesses.

Few causes
Biological, social, and psychological causes play an important role in mental health disorders. People with a family history of mental illness are prone to the illness. Stress factors such as financial burden, failure in academics, debts too are some of the causes for mental illnesses. In addition, intake of drugs during pregnancy and trauma during delivery are some of the causes for mental illness. Intake of substance such as alcohol, opioids, cannabis are some of the causes. Hormonal changes in females too are a major cause for mental illness in women as per Dr Rai.

Condition in the country
We often get to hear people gossiping when someone with some form of mental illness passes by in and areas our surroundings. People have become aware about mental health. “This is why they are not hesitant to come to psychiatrists. As a result 15 to 17 new patients visit the hospital daily. Fifty per cent of the patients visit hospital on their own and the rest come by referrals. People with psychotic disorders can’t visit the hospital on their own and as there has been a significant rise in awareness about mental health, psychotics too are taken to the hospitals by their families,” informed the doctor.

Lately teenagers in the Capital have been a victim of mental illness. “This is the result of alcohol, opioids, and cannabis intake,” mentioned Dr Rai. Sometimes people with mental illness are forced to get married to get their illness cured. “However, there is no connection between marriage and mental illness,” asserted the doctor.(the himalayan)

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