Care for your mental health

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MENTAL health issues are too often brushed off, especially when it is our own. However, ignoring the problems does not mean that they do not exist. Although the topic remains a taboo in most countries – including in Cambodia – it is important to continue to raise public awareness.

Did you know that quite a number of Cambodians suffer from mental health issues? It is reported that the Preah Kossamak Hospital deals with an average of 30-50 mental health patients every day, while the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital receives up to 200-300 daily.

However, mental health disorders do not always equate to being mentally unstable. This is the biggest misconception surrounding the issue. According to Medical News Today, mental health refers to human cognitive, behavioural, and emotional wellbeing.

“It is all about how we think, feel, and behave. The term ‘mental health’ is sometimes used to mean an absence of a mental disorder. Mental health can affect daily life, relationships, and even physical health,” the website reported.

Therefore, mental health disorders can simply be deduced as a wide range of conditions that affect the aforementioned aspects. Regardless, there are several mental health disorders that are more common than others and they could heavily affect one’s quality of life, such as anxiety and depression. It is reported that these two disorders could also be a result of chronic illnesses.

Anxiety

Definition: It is normal for us to feel anxious every now and then, especially when faced with important life events such as job interviews or making big decisions. However, anxiety disorders are more than that. According to WebMD, they are a group of mental illnesses covering panic attacks, social phobias, specific phobias and generalised anxiety. Depending on the degree, they can be disabling and deterring you from living your best life.

Symptoms: Panic, fear, uneasiness, sleep problems, fidgety, cold sweats, tingling hands or feet, shortness of breath, nausea and/or heart palpitations.

Cause: While it is not known exactly, a slew of studies found that mental health disorders typically stem from a combination of factors such as environmental stress, chemical imbalance in the body or even genetics. A research on Bio Med Central suggested anxiety can also be observed in patients following a chronic illness.

Treatment: If you sought professional help, you will either be prescribed with antidepressants such as escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac), or you will be advised to undergo counselling with a mental health specialist.

Depression

Definition: It is described as an unshakeable episode of sadness or apathy along with other symptoms that lasts for a long period of time. If your low mood is starting to interrupt or dissuade you from wanting to participate in daily routines, it is highly likely that you are suffering from depression. Those affected by major depression might also have suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms: Emotional, fatigue and decreased energy, insomnia, excessive sleep, persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, and/or loss of appetite.

Cause: It is unsure what mainly triggers depression, but many experts believe it is due to altered brain structure and chemical function. Other possible causes include stress, medications, alcohol or substance abuse and even the season.

Treatment: Anti-depressants, physical activities that may release endorphins to boost mood, getting a pet, light therapy and/or finding a support group.

More often than not, having an anxiety disorder or depression could prompt you to lead an unhealthy lifestyle — either by choice or circumstance. If not monitored, poor lifestyle habits might open the floodgate to other major health problems such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Poor lifestyle habits that could lead to chronic illnesses

Staying idle — When you are depressed or dealing with a major anxiety attack, most likely you would want to go home and hibernate in bed. However, a sedentary lifestyle is never good. According to the World Health Organization, it doubles the risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even obesity.

Binge-eating — Sometimes when you are nervous, you need to do something to distract yourself from the matter at hand. If you want to snack on something, make it a healthy one. Consuming salty snacks, for instance, would raise your blood pressure thus increasing the risk for heart disease.

Excessive alcohol — Thanks to the influence of Hollywood, you might try to drown your sorrows with alcohol. You can, but don’t do it excessively. An American Heart Association journal reported that ‘people who have more than two drinks a day have a 34 percent higher risk of stroke compared to those whose daily average amounted to less than half a drink.’

Tips for coping with depression and anxiety

Try some meditation or relaxation techniques

Accept that you cannot control everything and put your best foot forward

Find someone that you can trust to talk to

Make realistic goals and a step-by-step plan to achieve them

Do not be embarrassed to seek professional help

Overall wellness does not only constitute excellent physical health, it also includes one’s mental wellbeing. Remember to keep your body, mind and soul happy. Put your mind at ease by getting additional protection with AIA’s life insurance solution. It covers 26 conditions of critical illnesses and medical operations in Cambodia and overseas. For further enquiries, contact 086 999 242.

Sources: Healthline, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, WebMD, Mayo Clinic, National Center for Biotechnology Information, World Health Organisation, American Heart Association,

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