Mental Health and Behavioral

As these illnesses are biologically based brain disorders, a regimen of medication and therapy is needed. There is a misconception that mental illnesses such as depression, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) can be “snapped out of” or “overcome by willpower”, which is false and breeds a hostile atmosphere.

Treatment incudes 3 main facets: medication, therapy & support. There are several types of medication being produced to combat mental-illness, the aim of which is to reduce social symptoms and help bring about daily functioning.

Therapy with a clinically trained psychologist helps understand your disease better and equips you with the tools you need to deal with the disease.

Support of family, friends & community helps the patient feel less isolated & gives them a platform for open communication. Feeling like a part of a community helps the patient ground themselves

Many people confuse sadness & depression, as the primary emotion attached to depression is being sad. However, these are 2 very different emotional states and must be understood as such.

Sadness is a normal emotional state, triggered by an event or act that is difficult, hurtful, fearful, or disappointing. Basically, sadness implies there is a cause to be sad about, an outside catalyst that brings about distress. Resolution of this event leads to the person going back to a happy state.

Depression is an abnormal emotional state, where one feels sad about everything. There is a lack of event that may trigger depression; in fact, depressed people often have seemingly perfect lives. A person in a depressed state is not able to enjoy anything, is often irritable, feels fatigued, feels isolated and worthless, is having disturbed sleep, can’t concentrate, and in chronic cases, may have thoughts of suicide.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these above symptoms, consult a mental health professional immediately.

Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental disorder that disrupts a person’s ability to think, feel and behave. The cause of schizophrenia is unknown. It affects more than 1 million people in India and most common in people between 16 to 30 years of age.  

The risk factors are genetic history & environmental factors such as malnutrition, psychosocial behavior, exposure to viruses, etc. Some experts believe that around puberty, there is a change in hormones as well as brain chemistry that can trigger the psychotic changes in people who were previously vulnerable. This explains why schizophrenia is mostly seen in adolescents, with very rare cases being reported in children.

Symptoms of schizophrenia are:

  • Visual hallucinations
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Thought disorders (Unusual way of thinking)
  • Movement disorders (Agitated, repetitive movements)
  • Difficulty recalling things after remembering them
  • Reduced pleasure in life
  • Unable to carry out basic activities

Schizophrenia is treated by a combination of anti-psychotics, therapy & family support. While this disease can be treated and contained, it is unlikely that it will be cured. A person with schizophrenia will require treatment lifelong.

Due to incorrect representation of the disease in media & books, there is a myth that schizophrenics are violent. The truth is most schizophrenics are docile and keep to themselves. The schizophrenics who have demonstrated bursts of violence are either in an acute stage of psychosis or are abusing an addictive substance.

Anxiety is a normal emotional state when you are afraid of something or nervous about an event. An anxiety disorder is a mood syndrome where one displays excessive anxiety, worsening every day. One stays in a state of anxiety for months or even years, with no specific trigger.

Symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Cannot concentrate
  • Disturbed sleep pattern
  • Inability to control worrying

Anxiety disorders can be treated by a combination of:

Medication: Anti-anxiety medication, anti-depression medication, beta-blockers

Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT), Exposure therapy

Stress-Management techniques

Support groups

Sometimes, the anxiety gets too much leading to palpitations, hyperventilation, sweating, trembling, shaking, and choking. The person feels an impending sense of doom and there is a ‘sinking heart’ feeling that tightens the chest. This is known as a panic attack. It is extremely distressing and immediate intervention is strongly advised.

Eating disorders are a group of food-related disorders that are characterized by intake of inadequate or excessive food, purging of large meals, and obsession with weight and body shape and an unhealthy relationship with food and body shape.

There are different types of eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa: In this type of disorder, the male/female patient will severely limit their food intake, obsessively count calories and have body dysmorphia (will think they are over-weight even though they are under-weight). Long term effects on anorexia are brain damage, heart damage, multi-organ failure, bone loss and infertility. Anorexia can lead to death, in some cases.

Bulimia Nervosa: People who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa are trapped in a pattern of overeating and purging. They eat a giant meal and then follow it up by vomiting out the stomach contents on purpose or excessive exercise or use of laxatives and diuretics. This cycle instills a feeling of shame and guilt in these people. A person with bulimia nervosa has false perceptions of their body shape and is obsessed with their weight. This disease has severe effect on the gastrointestinal system and the heart.

Binge Eating disorders: Eating a large, calorie-filled meal is known as a ‘binge’. Unlike bulimia, the person does not purge out the meal. However, after eating this meal, the person is plagued with feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment which lead to anxiety. To deal with these feelings, this person ends up eating another large meal, thus getting stuck in a vicious cycle.

Eating disorders are commonly seen in teenagers and young adults but can affect any age group. Apart from genetic disposition; psychosocial elements such as self-esteem, peer group pressure, and dysfunctional family life can also lead to developing these disorders.

Treatment includes medication for any underlying cause (depression, anxiety), therapy, and nutritional education as well as support groups.

Stress exhibits differently in different people. While some hide their feelings, other turn to alcohol and drugs. Some withdraw from the world whereas some are angry all the time, lashing out at close ones. The common factor with all these people is that they are under stress and are not able to manage it.

Managing stress can be done the following ways:

  • Talk it out: Find a mental health professional and start talking about your day to day life. Talking it out helps reduce the mental worry one carries with them. Talking to a professional helps you understand your mechanisms and how to deal better with them.
  • Exercise: Be it the gym or just a run, doing a cardio activity leads to better stress levels
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Choose an activity of your liking
  • Write a journal

Bipolar disorder (Manic Mood disorder) is an unusual mood disorder where a person’s mood fluctuate, thereby affecting mood, energy levels, activity levels and day-to-day tasks.

Bipolar disorder has two main phases – a manic phase & depressive phase. The manic phase is an extremely happy, elated ‘up’ phase whereas is the depressive phase is a sad, down-trodden ‘down’ hopeless phase.

Person having an ‘up’ phase will be irritated, feel jumpy, will have excess energy, will try to do multiple activities, be more active than usual, have too many thoughts, be reckless in their behavior.

Person having a ‘down’ phase will be sad, hopeless, have little energy, decreased appetite, disturbed sleep pattern, thoughts of suicide.

While family history plays a large role in developing mental illness, it is not the only factor. There are environmental and psychosocial factors that add to the risk factors. No one is immune from developing mental health illness.

Children may develop mental health illnesses. Their symptoms differ from adults:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite effort
  • Hyper activity
  • Consistent, recurring nightmares
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Frequent, unmanageable temper tantrums

Like other medication, psychiatric medication has its own set of side effects like Drowsiness, Restlessness, Dizziness, Dry mouth, Constipation, Nausea, and Vomiting.

It is usually because of the body getting used to medication. It normally takes a month for the body to get used to these drugs. If you are feeling any of the above symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

Most psychiatric conditions are not covered by insurance. Contact your insurance provider to get more details.

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