Mental Health: Nine Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Disorders

As expected, as human beings we want to move from not knowing to ‘the knowing’. We want to move from not knowing how to cure a disease, to the knowledge of how to cure that disease and if possible how to prevent that disease from reaching us. We are always in an attempt to move from not knowing how to navigate oceans and why some things happen the way they do.

In contrast, mental health is one of the rarely or publicly discussed topics and with most of us either having very little to no information regarding the same. Among most African cultures, showing emotions and being vulnerable enough to seek help is in most cases seen as a sign of weakness and especially when it is from men.  This should not be the case, we need to talk about mental health more to get rid of the stigma.

Here is a list of the frequently asked questions on mental health and their answers;

1. What is mental illness?

Mental illness refers to the health conditions that disrupt a person’s emotions, thoughts, relationships and daily functions. They are closely associated with distress and diminished capacity to engage in ordinary activities of daily life. Mental health on the other hand refers to your emotional and psychological well being.

2. Is mental illness a genetic disorder?

Well, individuals with a family history of psychological disorders stand at a higher risk of developing particular mental health issues. This is because some of these conditions are a result of chemical and hormonal imbalances. However, there have been studies of  twins with the same genes which have shown that one twin experiencing mental health conditions and the other does not. Similarly, individuals with no genetic history of mental health disorders can develop new disorders due to their environment or lifestyle.

3. Can one have a mental health condition and not be aware they have it?

Yes, this is very possible. The highest percentage of people are not able to differentiate between mental health and daily life challenges; like stress from depression, work pressure, and burnout, etc. others live in denial.

4. Do psychological disorders occur in children, and if yes how is it detected?

Mental disorders can affect anyone in the society; old and young, gender, etc. in children, mental disorders manifest in a change of behavior, change in sleeping patterns, slow growth rate, poor or drop in school performance, aggressiveness, and isolating behaviors are some of the ways you can tell.

5. What is the difference between stress and depression?

Stress is most cases is short term and occurs when you are under mental, emotional or physical pressure. Depression on the other hand is a more serious mental condition that affects the way you think, feel and act; it causes feelings of sadness, withdrawal and lack of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed affecting the way you function at home, work or school.

6. Can one tell if they are suicidal or a friend is?

Although suicidal tendencies are not always visible, there are some of the habits and behaviors that either your friend may develop that are signs that you are posing harm either to yourself or others around you. If you are constantly thinking and talking about your death, giving away the most precious things that they own for no apparent reason or with no good intent, engaging in life-threatening behavior, feeling of withdrawal from life.

7. Is phobia in any way related to mental health, if yes, how?

Yes, in fact phobia is one of the most common forms of mental health disorders. Phobia in mental health is described as a type of anxiety disorder that is expressed by persistent and excessive fear of a situation or an object.

8. What should I do if someone I know appears to have symptoms of a mental disorder?

As far as this website cannot substitute for professional advice, we highly recommend for those with symptoms talking to their close family and friends and seeking a counsel of mental health professional.

If you happen to know someone with mental health problems or symptoms, don’t assume the issue will just resolve itself. Let them know, show them you care, and that there is treatment and that will help them heal.

9. What are some of the warning signs of mental illness?

Signs and symptoms of mental disorders vary depending on the severity, and type of the condition. Below are some of the common signs and symptoms;

In Young Children

  • Change or a drop in school performance despite strong efforts
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Aggressiveness and/or disobedience behaviors
  •  Anxiety or excessive worrying
  • Hyperactivity
In Young Adults And Pre-Teens

  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Skipping school, defying authority, stealing and other uncalled habits
  • Change of eating and sleeping habits
  • Negative moods, withdrawal, and thoughts of death
Among Adults

  • Mood shifts
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Headaches, muscle pains, and unexplained physical problems
  • Increased inability to cope with normal daily life challenges
  • A drastic change in sleeping and eating habits or patterns
  • Irritability, anger and long-lasting sadness
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Living in denial of obvious problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Social withdrawals
  • Excessive fear, worry or anxiety
1 reply
  1. Zoe
    Zoe says:

    In most parts of Africa and especially the remote areas, there is still a perception that mental health challenges are linked to witchcraft or some ‘dark magic’


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