Mental Illness a Worldwide Epidemic

Mental Illness a Worldwide Epidemic | Dr. Ali Ghahary

First observed on October 10th, 1992, World Mental Health Day is commemorated each year and aims to promote mental health awareness. Mental illness affects over 1 billion people on a global scale, making it a worldwide epidemic. Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary shares a list of some of the most common mental health disorders affecting people today, and their statistics.

• Depression: 268 million.
• Anxiety disorders: 275 million.
• Bipolar disorder: 40 million.
• Eating disorders: 10.5 million.
• Schizophrenia: 21 million.
• Alcoholism: 100 million.
• Drug abuse: 62. Million

Furthermore, at least 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness, or be aware of someone who has, which is why days like World Mental Health Day are crucial in providing the general public with informative tools on how to recognize the signs of mental illness, along with helpful information on how to cope with mental illness if you, yourself are struggling.

DEPRESSION: Can range from mild to moderate to severe – also known as mild depression, persistent depression, or major depressive disorder. Symptoms of depression include lack of concentration or inability to pay attention, reduced self-confidence and self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of guilty, pessimism, lack of appetite, change in sleeping patterns (such as inability to fall or stay asleep), ideations or acts of self-harm/suicide. Depending on the type of depression that an individual is diagnosed with, they may be able to carry out their daily activities or cease from carrying out those activities all together and withdraw from society.

ANXIETY DISORDERS: There are many types of anxiety disorders that one can be diagnosed with, including generalized anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as PTSD), phobic anxiety disorders, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (also known as OCD.) You can find in-depth descriptions of these disorders by clicking here. Anxiety disorders are often experienced with feelings of panic, feeling on edge, having difficulty concentrating, worrying about the future, feeling apprehensive, trembling, inability to relax, restlessness and/or fidgeting, light-headedness, headaches, sweating, dizziness, and even dry mouth.

BIPOLAR DISORDER: Bipolar disorder is similar to depression in the sense that they both share similar symptoms. However, they also differ in many distinctive ways. Individuals who have bipolar disorder will often feel as though nothing is wrong, and it is usually friends, family, or other outsiders who notice changes in the individual’s behaviour. Symptoms of bipolar disorder may include uncharacteristic periods of anger and/or aggression; alternatively, an individual may also experience overconfidence and grandiosity, in addition to moodiness, frequent sadness, lack of sleep, confusion, failure to pay attention, as well as impulsive behaviour.

EATING DISORDERS: Eating disorders are defined by patterns of disordered eating behaviours. There are different types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or other eating disorders not otherwise specified. There is also a relatively new eating disorder known as pica, in which persons with this type of disorder will crave non-food substances such as ice, dirt, soil, and chalk, just to name a few. Pica is most commonly observed in children, pregnant woman, or individuals with mental disabilities. With these types of eating disorders, people may subject themselves to very restricted eating patterns, have an intense or irrational fear of weight gain, be obsessed with losing weight, have distorted body image, may force themselves to vomit after eating or engage in other purging behaviours such as the use of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas, as well as excessive exercise, me eat large amounts of food and short periods of time, restrict calories, and feel a lack of control.

SCHIZOPHRENIA: Schizophrenia is a type of mental illness that can have gradual or sudden onset. It is characterized by symptoms such as withdrawal from activities and personal relationships, inappropriate language, irrational and/or angry responses, deterioration in personal hygiene, moods swings, anxiety, as well as seeing and hearing things that are not actually present. Schizophrenia is also one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses and there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding it. Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia is that someone diagnosed with this disease has split personalities, which is also known as multiple personality disorder or MPD. People also often think that individuals with schizophrenia are dangerous, when in reality it is actually rare for someone diagnosed with schizophrenia to become violent. If violence does occur, than that usually means there is another underlying condition co-occurring.

ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE: Substance abuse, such of use of alcohol or illicit drugs, is not uncommon in individuals suffering with a mental health issue. In order to get better, the individual needs to address and treat both their mental health concerns as well as the use of the substances. Commonly, things like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia are all also associated with substance abuse. Often times, substances are used to try to help them cope with whatever mental illness they are experiencing and relieve symptoms (i.e. anxiety.) Unfortunately, over time, substance abuse will only worsen symptoms of mental illness, which is why it’s important to address it as early as possible. Frequent use of drugs and alcohol can also lead to overdose, which is a huge concern in the city of Vancouver, as well as around the world.

Visit WHO.int for more information on World Mental Health Day and how you can get involved.