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Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences

Introduction

Statistics state that of every ten patients in a doctor’s chambers, almost 60% are seeking medical care related to mental or behavioural health. Depressions, anxiety, smoking cessation, substance abuse like alcoholism and drugs, diabetes and obesity are some of the common behavioural issues. Thus, the demand for the integration of behavioural and mental care with primary care providers has seen an upward rise in recent times.  


What is Mental Health?


The medical domain of mental health comprises cognitive, behavioural and the emotional well-being of individuals, typically encompassing their thought process, feelings and behaviour.


The World Health Organization defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 


An individual’s mental health may have a significant impact on their every day lives, interactions with family members, friends, colleagues and even their physical health too. The ability to fully enjoy life and attain the right balance between life activities and efforts in order to accomplish psychological resilience also falls under the purview of mental health. 


Symptoms of Mental Health


The symptoms or early signs indicating the possibility of a mental disorder may broadly be categorized into:


• Anxiety disorders
• Mood disorders
• Psychotic disorders
• Personality disorders
• Impulse control disorders


Precise symptoms that may point in the direction of a mental condition include:

• If you are experiencing erratic thought patterns
• If your sudden changes in mood cannot be explained
• If you do not find any interest in socializing
• If you observe a lack of empathy
• If you are unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy
• If you seem to be losing control


If you are suffering from a mental disorder, the same may be manifested through emotional symptoms, namely:

• If you experience mood changes
• If your thinking becomes erratic
• If you suffer from chronic anxiety
• If you feel an exaggerated sense of self-worth
• If your actions are leaning towards being impulsive


While there are rarely any physical symptoms that denote mental illness, some widely accepted signs may comprise of:

• If you feel depressed frequently leading to a loss in weight
• If you experience tiredness more often than usual
• If you observe a loss of libido


For those eating related mental disorders, early signs may include:

• If you experience weight loss 
• If you do not eat adequately leading to malnutrition
• If you suffer from amenorrhea, relevant to women
• If you go through electrolyte imbalances resulting from self-induced vomiting


Causes of Mental Health Problems

Mental health problems are not caused by any single issue. On the other hand, it may the result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Pre-Existing medical history of mental illness in the family may be more at risk of developing mental health problems during their lifespan. In addition to that, substance abuse may result in fluctuations in the brain chemistry or possibly a change in the individual’s diet may cause mental disorders too. 


The individual’s upbringing and the extent of social exposure and manner of social interactions with the community may also lay the foundation of disproportional thought processes associated with psychological factors and environmental factors causing mental disorders in the future. 


Who is most at risk of being diagnosed with Mental Disorders?

The majority of the population across the globe has the potential to develop mental health issues, regardless of their age, sex, social status or ethnic groups. Approximately one in five experience some form of mental health condition every year with a large population having more than one mental condition. 
Mental health conditions are in fact, one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. 

Common Mental Disorders

The most common types of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia disorders; below we explain each in turn:

Anxiety disorders: The most common form of mental illness is anxiety disorders. In most cases, individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders display a severe fear or anxiety related to specific objects or circumstances. These individuals will do their best not to confront anything that may trigger this anxiety in them. Common anxiety disorders include:


Panic disorder is a condition where the individual experiences an abrupt paralyzing fear or a sense of looming catastrophe.
    Phobias may be further sub-divided into:

  • Simple phobias which are an unbalanced terror towards certain objects
     
  • Social phobias that are basically being afraid of being subjected to being judged by the society at large
     
  • Agoraphobia involves dreading circumstances of breaking away or getting away from may be hard to accomplish
     
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder or popularly referred to as OCD is a condition where the individual has compulsions and obsessions with a constant urge to perform repeated activities along with stressful thoughts
     
  • PTSD or Post-traumatic stress disorder may develop if an individual has experienced a traumatic situation – possibly something frightening or horrible. The constant fear of losing their life is that thought that primarily prevails over which the individual has no control. 

Mood Disorders: Affective disorders or depressive disorders occur when individuals have sudden bouts of mood transformations that typically involves elation or depression. Types of mood disorders are:

  • The major depression where the individuals are unable to trigger interest in activities that were previously enjoyable followed by long periods of extreme sadness.
     
  • Bipolar disorder is also referred to manic depression or manic depressive illness where the individual vacillates between bouts of euphoria or mania to despair or depression.
     
  • Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia is a long-term, yet the mild form of depression where the individual has symptoms like major depression to a much lower extent. 
     
  • Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a form of severe depression that may be instigated by daylight. Cases of SAD are mostly found in countries location far from the equator, specifically during winter, early spring or late autumn.
     
  • SAD (seasonal affective disorder) - a type of major depression that is triggered by a lack of daylight. It is most common in countries far from the equator during late autumn, winter, and early spring.

Schizophrenia disorders: It is yet to be fully determined if schizophrenia is a single disorder or a combination of related conditions. The manifestation of the illness typically occurs between the ages of 15 and 25. An extremely complex ailment, those experiencing schizophrenia tend to have thoughts that appear to be disjointed. The patients also find it difficult to absorb and process information.


Schizophrenia is comprised of positive as well as negative symptoms. Positive signs include:

  • If you are experiencing delusions
  • If your thoughts are disjointed
  • If you have hallucinations

Negative symptoms focus on:

  • If you tend to withdraw from situations
  • If you note a lack of motivation
  • If your mood is flat or inappropriate most of the time

 

Diagnosis

It is a multi-step process diagnosing a mental health condition. The initial consultation with your healthcare provider will typically involve a physical examination where he or she will look for physical signs that may contribute factor to your current symptoms. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire and may undergo sessions of psychological evaluations post the first consultation.In addition to the physical test and psychological evaluation, a series of diagnostic screenings may also be prescribed with the objective of examining any underlying signs of mental disorder. 


You may be referred to a specialist, possibly a psychologist or a psychiatrist depending on the initial evaluations, physical examination and the outcome of your laboratory tests. The severity of your symptoms will also be taken into consideration. It may take some time to arrive at a conclusive diagnosis in the case of mental health conditions. 


Treatment

There is no set pattern of treatment for mental health conditions. With multiple sessions in combination with therapy, sometimes medications, it aims to limit the severity of the patient’s symptoms, keep a check on any underlying causes and bring the condition under some form of regulation and control. Designing a treatment plan is done by your care team. Better results are produced when a multi-angle approach is adopted. 


Some common treatments for mental health conditions include:
Medications: There are four broad categories of medications that are used in the treatment of mental disorders. These are:

  • Antidepressants

  • Anti-anxiety medications

  • Antipsychotic medications 

  • Mood-stabilizing medications

Psychotherapy: This includes sessions with your psychologist or psychiatrist where the individual is free to discuss what he or she is experiencing, feeling along with their general thoughts and ideas. Therapists usually act as a neutral mediator, helping the individual with coping techniques and strategies that are able to manage and control the symptoms better.

 Hospital and residential treatment: Rehabilitation in a residential treatment facility may be required for some of the more severe cases of mental disorders.

Lifestyle treatments: Giving up alcohol, drugs and imbibing a healthy lifestyle are some of the changes that an individual can initiate at home. 


What are Behavioural Sciences?

Exploring the cognitive processes within humans and the pattern of behavioral interactions between them defines behavioral sciences. Through a procedure of systematic analysis and exploration of human behavior by studying its past actions, regulated and naturalistic interpretations of the current behavior patterns along with a disciplined, research-based model of experimentation is the core of behavioral sciences. It aims to achieve logical and objective conclusions via a process of evidence-based formulations and observations. The field of behavioral sciences comprises psychology, psychobiology, anthropology, and cognitive science.


What is Behavioural Health?

The relationship between behaviors and the overall health and well-being of the body, mind and spirit best describes the core ethics of behavioral health. Eating habits, drinking and/or physical activities like exercise, impacts the mental and physical health of the individual. Mental health, psychiatric, marriage and family counseling, and addictions treatment, together form a part of behavioral health. Therapy is a combination of efforts by a team of counselors, psychiatrists, neurologists, and physicians. As a discipline, mental health and substance use is also a part of behavioral health that encompasses a range of services including intervention, treatment, recovery support, and possible prevention. 


About the Department

The Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Hospital in Chennai is committed to offering the highest quality of accurate diagnosis, treatment and outpatient services to our patients. With a diverse team of experts, we provide comprehensive and compassionate care to both adults and children patients alike. 

With a broad range of mental health and counseling services for adults and children, the department of mental health and behavioral sciences at Fortis, Chennai is a premier establishment in the region specializing in treating everything from bipolar disorders, anger, and eating disorders to severe depression. Our team of psychologists and psychiatrists are some of the renowned names in the industry having access to the latest research and technology that enables them to design the best possible, tailor-made plans for patient care. 

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