Thankfully, mental health is not the taboo subject that it was a few decades ago. Thanks to campaigning and sharing of experiences by sufferers, many people are now happy to talk about their mental health issues in the same way as they would talk about physical health issues. Some high-profile celebrities have shared their experiences too and this has led to most people feeling more relaxed about the subject.
When children are younger, parents do all they can to protect both their physical and mental health. However, once you reach your twenties, you are more or less expected to be able to stand on your own two feet. Sadly, for some people, their twenties is the time when mental health issues can start.
The pressure of being in your twenties
You may have expected an emotional roller coaster when you were a teen. Adolescence is acknowledged as a time of hormonal upheaval and radical changes. However, a lot of these issues can extend way past your twentieth birthday. During this stage of your life you are growing physically, mentally, and emotionally. You will have probably finished (or are about to finish) university and college and are trying to settle down in your first job. You have to take on adult responsibilities of rent, a mortgage, perhaps even a young family and you may not feel equipped to cope with it.
Fluctuations in the housing market and a fall in wages coupled with rising student debt means that your twenties can be a time a great financial insecurity and frustration. The salary that you were hoping for has not materialized and you have no more ready cash than you did when you were a student!
This is also a tricky time for relationships. If you are not in a relationship you feel the pressure to find someone special. People keep asking you if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend! When you are in a relationship, you may be getting to the stage when you have to decide if you want to settle down and that is a big decision to make.
Recognizing a mental health issue
It is hardly surprising that many people notice a deterioration in their mental health at this stage of their lives. However, it is important that you can recognize a true mental health disorder (which requires diagnosis and treatment from a health professional) and distinguish it from simply feeling a bit down or being in a bad mood for a few days.
In general, the medical advice is that if your low mood extends for more than a couple of weeks it is something that you should talk to your doctor about. It may be nothing but it is always best to be sure. The same applies if you have noticed that you have become withdrawn socially. Do you dread social occasions and having to interact with people? This is something that you should get checked out. Are you continually angry, irritable or depressed? This could be affecting your relationship with your friends and family and is something that you should get checked out. Finally, if you have had some dramatic changes in your appetite and have had a huge weight loss or weight gain, this is something that needs to be investigated.
The majority of mental health conditions are diagnosed before a person reaches 24 years of age. Issues that were diagnosed in your childhood and adolescence can get worse or can start to get in the way of your life in ways that they have not done previously. This can apply to depression, eating disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Mental health disorders are most common in families where there is a genetic history of such disorders and where there is a history of abuse.
Bipolar is sometimes referred to as manic depression. It is a severe mental health issue that lasts for your entire life. It can be treated. The most obvious symptom is severe mood swings which range from manic highs down to depression that is so severe that the sufferer can feel suicidal. It affects men and women of all cultures and of all ages. However, it is common for it to be triggered when work or study is causing huge stress and this is common in the late teens and early twenties.
It is very important to have a correct diagnosis and to receive the right treatment. You can find a lot of detailed information on the symptoms on Bipolar Lives when you can also join a bipolar community for more help and support. This information is vital as bipolar is often misdiagnosed by professionals and it can take a long time for you to get the help you need. Armed with this information you can play an active part in managing your own mental health.
We all feel anxious and nervous at some point in our lives and it is a normal part of everyday life. However, if your anxiety is interfering with your ability to hold down a job, get out and about to meet friends or to form normal relationships, it is time to do something about it. Anxiety is not a single condition. It is a range of disorders which includes phobias and panic disorders. If you have a phobia you can experience physical and psychological symptoms when you are exposed to whatever makes you anxious. It is an irrational fear but it feels very real to you! It could be open spaces, heights or spiders. You can feel unsteadiness and dizzy and very light headed. You can also feel sick (nausea) and start to sweat profusely. At the same time, your heart rate increases and you can feel it beating in your chest. This condition is called palpitations. Your breath is ragged and you may tremble and shake.
It also includes social anxiety which is a general anxiety of social situations and of interacting with other people. Sufferers are so worried about being judged and about what others think of them that they can’t face meeting other people at all. Often the sufferer would like to be friendly and open but their condition prevents them from doing so. If you have social anxiety, you may appear shy or aloof in public situations. The symptoms are similar to phobias and panic disorders. You may experience a racing heart, blushing and excessive sweating which makes you even more anxious about what you look like. You may get a dry throat and mouth, tremble and get muscle twitches which make it very hard to interact with people. It turns into a vicious cycle and treatment is needed to break out of it.
Anxiety also manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when it occurs following a traumatic event. This could be exposure to actual or threatened death, a serious injury, or sexual violence. You may be suffering from this because you were involved in an accident at work, a car accident or because a member of your close family has died. The symptoms can include repetitive and upsetting memories as well as distressing and vivid night and day dreams, called flashbacks. You may feel a combination of sadness, guilt, shame, and confusion. PTSD can also cause you to experience physical symptoms such as intestinal disorders, headaches, muscle tension and feeling agitated and twitchy all the time. Women are more likely to develop it than men and it can go on for several years after the event that triggered it.
Your anxiety may cause you to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which is now considered as a mental health condition in its own right. If you have developed OCD you may be trapped in a cycle of repetitive thoughts and you carry out repetitive behaviors to try and allay your (often irrational) anxiety. Carrying out the ritual (e.g. washing your hands) may help to relieve the irrational anxiety (that your hands are contaminated) in the short term but the fears just come back. Then you have to perform the ritual again and so the cycle continues.
The most common cause of anxiety for people with OCD is a fear of dirt or contamination by germs but a fear of causing harm to another and fear of making a mistake are also very common.
If you have OCD you are likely to need to repeatedly take a bath or shower or wash your hands and may have to refuse to shake hands or touch doorknobs. However, it is also common for sufferers to have to repeatedly check that doors are locked and stoves are turned off. In severe cases, you may feel a compulsion to count out loud whilst performing routine tasks, constantly arrange things in your home in a certain way or eat foods in a specific order. The condition can put a big strain on your relationships with your family and friends who may find it hard to understand your condition.
If you have any concerns at all about your behavior you should seek medical help and talk through your concerns.