Mental health and depression

Autorka: Urszula Lis

What is Mental Health? 

Psychological assistance and mental health are essential aspects of individual and societal well-being. Psychological assistance refers to professional care and support for individuals facing emotional, mental, or behavioural difficulties that deviate from the norm. A valuable part of this process is psychotherapy, which enables the exploration and understanding of deeply hidden problems while assisting individuals in developing coping skills for life’s challenges. 

Mental health is as crucial as physical health. It encompasses not only the absence of mental illnesses but also a sense of satisfaction, peace, and the ability to cope with everyday difficulties. Maintaining psychological balance is crucial in shaping a fulfilling and meaningful life. Caring for mental health impacts all aspects of life – from relationships with loved ones to work effectiveness and self-satisfaction. 

It is essential to prioritize mental health due to its several benefits. Individuals aware of their emotions and can control them tend to cope better with stress and life’s challenges. They have higher resilience to illnesses, function better in social relationships, and are more productive professionally. Additionally, mental health influences motivation, creativity, and decision-making ability. 

Furthermore, the impact of mental health on physical health should not be underestimated. Research shows that individuals with emotional and mental problems are more likely to develop physical illnesses, such as heart disease, hypertension, or obesity. Therefore, taking care of mental health can improve physical well-being and long-term quality of life. 

It is worth emphasizing that caring for mental health is not solely an individual responsibility but also a societal obligation. Creating an aware and supportive social environment can reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and encourage those in need to seek help. A collective approach to mental health can lead to a more integrated and understanding society where everyone has a chance for personal growth and fulfilment. 

Depression 

Depression is currently the fourth most serious health problem in the world, according to WHO data. No one is “safe” from falling ill. Each of us can become ill at some point in our lives, so it is essential to know what this illness entails and not trivialize its symptoms, especially since they can vary widely – from mild mood changes to physical pain complaints. What are the types of depression? And how can one recognize its symptoms? 

What is depression? 

Depression is an ambiguous and multifaceted term. It is often used colloquially to describe a feeling of low mood and sadness. In the context of mental health, it refers to a type of emotional and mood disorder. 

Everyone may experience different symptoms of depression, making its diagnosis challenging. The boundaries between ordinary sadness and depression can often be blurred. However, some symptoms can distinguish these cases from each other. Some of them include difficulty concentrating, a pessimistic outlook on life, and sleep disturbances (often shallow sleep, making it harder for a person to relax and rest). 

Symptoms of depression: 

  1. Low mood 
  1. Lack of pleasure (anhedonia) 
  1. Lack of energy (anergia) 
  1. Negative self-assessment 
  1. Feelings of guilt 
  1. Suicidal thoughts and behaviours 
  1. Intellectual impairment 
  1. Disturbance of activity 
  1. Sleep disturbances 
  1. Appetite and weight disturbances 

Individuals suffering from depression may often experience physical complaints such as: 

  1. Gastrointestinal pain 
  1. Headaches 
  1. Lower abdominal pain 
  1. Back pain 

Depressive disorders are often noticeable in the appearance and behaviour of the affected person. Facial expressions are limited, repeatedly displaying a sad or tense face. Body movements are slow and sluggish, and the person may appear restless, frequently changing body positions while sitting. The individual’s voice may also be monotonous. 

If at least two symptoms from the primary list and other symptoms from the rest of the list (at least four in total) persist for at least two weeks, it is highly probable that the person is suffering from depression. 

Causes of depression: 

Depression can be caused by biological factors (endogenous depression, organic depression, unipolar depression) and psychological factors (exogenous depression, reactive depression). Concurrently, other diseases may coexist with depression, which can either be causes of depression or its consequences. 

Types of depression: 

All the symptoms listed above are characteristic of typical depression, but other types of depression have different symptoms. Some of the other forms of depression include: 

– Agitated depression – characterized by a predominant feeling of anxiety and restless agitation; 

– Bipolar depression – depressive episodes alternate with manic episodes (the person goes from thoughts of death and complete indifference to extreme optimism); 

– Dysthymia – chronic low mood lasting at least two years; 

– Delusional depression – characterized by an especially significant decrease in self-esteem and negative thoughts (they may reach the level of delusions, leading to distrust of loved ones); 

– Seasonal depression appears at a specific time of year (usually autumn or winter). 

Now let’s talk about differences between specialists you may encounter while seeking help regarding your mental health.  
 

Who is a psychologist? 

A person who holds a master’s degree in psychology is a psychologist. Psychologists can provide counselling, consultations, diagnoses, and opinions, for example, concerning personality, self-esteem, intellectual functioning, stress coping, or occupational burnout. Based on the described symptoms, they can also assist in interpreting difficulties and, if necessary, refer individuals to the appropriate specialist. 

Who is a psychiatrist? 

When the question arises of whether pharmacological support would be beneficial, you will be referred to a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed a specialization in psychiatry. Their primary task is to support individuals who suffer from health issues related to their mental well-being, using both pharmacotherapy and institutional care. By appropriately tailoring pharmacological support, a psychiatrist can help alleviate and reduce existing symptoms, contributing to an improved sense of well-being. Typically, they also propose concurrent psychotherapeutic support, and if they lack the necessary qualifications in this area, they refer patients to a psychotherapist. The scope of assistance covers psychiatric illnesses and psychological disorders like depressive and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sleep disturbances, habits and impulses, and substance abuse.  

Who is a psychotherapist? 

If there is a need for therapy, you will be referred to a psychotherapist. A person who obtains the title of psychotherapist in Poland has completed postgraduate psychotherapeutic training in a certified centre. While medical or humanities graduates often follow this path, individuals from other fields also have this opportunity. In addition to training, obtaining the diploma requires completing an appropriate internship, regular supervision, and undergoing personal therapy. There are numerous well-known psychotherapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, systemic, or schema therapy, and many others, with the choice depending on the therapist’s preferences and areas they want to focus on. 

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