To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, we take a look at the pandemic-induced mental health issues on the rise
You probably won’t be the least bit surprised to hear that mental illnesses, in the UK in particular, are on the up. A lethal combination of working from home, homeschooling, lockdown, zero socialising, and, well, the global pandemic, means people are struggling with their mental health more than ever before.
Conditions like anxiety, PTSD, and low-grade depression are all increasingly common. Unsurprisingly, stats from The Health Foundation show 69% of UK adults feeling somewhat (or very) worried about how COVID is impacting their day-to-day lives, with 56% surveyed feeling stressed or anxious.
People are actually physically experiencing the side effects of stress, too, with reports of lack of sleep, vivid dreams, and panic attacks across the UK.
You’ve heard of the regularly talked about ones – according to MIND, the above, plus conditions like seasonal affective disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are all well-known and understood conditions.
But what about the rest?
We thought it’d be useful to take a look at some of the mental health conditions that are seen in clinics regularly that aren’t as well known. Plus, a psychologist will talk you through how to identify if you yourself are suffering, and when to get help.
6 common mental health conditions that are rarely reported
Did you know? “There are currently over 300 officially recognised mental health conditions according to the DSM-5, which means there are so many that aren’t regularly reported in the press,” says psychologist, author, and therapist Dr. Kalanit Ben-Ari.
Radio 1, TV presenter and author, DJ Matt Edmondson, has confessed he suffers from a rare disorder called cyclothymia, which means he feels ‘very low or emotionally high’. Sadly, the unknown condition can lead to bipolar disorder if untreated, according to the NHS website. Men and women of any age can get it, but sadly, it’s more common in women.
We reported on catastrophising this year. The term explains getting stuck in a mindset that makes you assume the worst will happen, shares life coach and master of psychology Ruth Kudzi. “It can be a symptom of many mental illnesses, and it can determinately affect your day-to-day life,” she explains.
You’ve heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, but have you heard of post-traumatic stress, or PTS, as it’s own entity? PTS is a fairly common human response to trauma. It’s perfectly normal, and simply what your body does when it’s scared, according to Brainline.
This one is important to highlight, as although not a mental health condition on its own, many NHS workers may be experiencing it right now. If PTS develops into PTSD – that is, nightmares, flashbacks, and general anxiety, then it’s regarded as a mental illness in its own right, or so explains their website.
Borderline personality disorder
According to Rethink Mental Illness, BPD is a type of personality disorder. This means it’s a mental health condition that will directly affect who you are as a person. Factually, around 1 in 100 people in the UK have BPD, so it’s fairly common. As per the site, the condition “makes you struggle with your emotions and can affect your relationships with other people.”
Dissociation and dissociative identity disorder
Again, this mental illness is a personality disorder, so affects the way you think, according to Rethink. As the name indicates, dissociative identity disorder, or DID, results in a person feeling like they’re removed or not connected with their body. Sometimes, it can result in a person forming several different identities.
“These days, there is so much cultural pressure on people to perform academically, cognitively, in their career and in family life. Social media and pop culture adds to this pressure, and the more connected we are to technology, the less we’re connected to our real-life relationships. Technology also adds overwhelming noise and has the opposite effect of peace and being present in the moment,” doctor Ben-Ari shares.
Do note here: as with PTS and PTSD, you can have symptoms of dissociation without it developing into a more serious disorder, as per the Rethink site.
This is one condition that doctor Ben-Ari feels isn’t talked about enough. “The mental and emotional effects of menopause are huge,” she explains. “It can put women through an emotional rollercoaster and really take them by surprise,” she shares.
So, how do you know when your behaviour becomes a problem?
It’s simple: when your behaviour starts impacting your day-to-day life, shares doctor Ben-Ari. “When you find that your feelings are preventing healthy functioning every day, then it might be time to seek professional help,” she explains.
If it interferes with relationships
Struggling to hold down your normal relationships, while also fitting in working, sleeping, eating, or parenting for example? “This is often an indication that something might not be right,” she shares.
You experience persistent low, or changed, mood
“If any of the activities you normally do every day become consistently challenging or overwhelming, or you are experiencing a constant low mood, panic attacks, extreme tiredness, or any feelings that prevent you from doing day to day activities, then I would recommend considering help,” the psychologist adds.
Your problem could be physiological, hormonal, psychological, or any combination of the above, she explains.
The answer? Seek help
“The first port of call should be your GP,” she recommends. Remember, the service is totally free. Plus a doctor’s job is to try and give you the right advice or refer you to the relevant professional. “Alternatively, if you are able to, reaching out directly to a psychotherapist will help you work through your feelings,” she adds.
Scared or unsure about reaching out? Remember this: seeking help will allow you to have a safe conversation in a non-judgemental setting.