MENTAL HEALTH & NEUROLOGY

An estimated three to 10 percent of the global population has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This disorder is more common in boys than girls. Every three boys to one girl are diagnosed with ADHD. Children with ADHD start to face problems in school and at home before they turn seven years old.

ADHD is diagnosed after the child has shown signs of inattention and/or hyperactivity on a regular basis for over six months in school and at home.

A child’s normal attention span is believed to develop in three stages. In the first stage, a child’s attention is focused solely on one object for a long time and he tunes out all other stimuli. If a child gets stuck at this stage and doesn’t move on, he could have autism.

In the second stage, the child develops a wide but rapidly changing attention span. A child who is stuck at this stage of attention span is diagnosed as having an attention deficit disorder.

Finally, the child develops selective attention where he is able to shift focus at will, from being inclusive to being exclusive. This is a mature pattern of attention and concentration that is required for a child to succeed in a classroom setting.

Some people with ADHD do become successful later in life. However, others continue to have strong symptoms as adults. Some are not able to adapt to society on their own. These people often drop out of school and social life. It is for this last reason that children who have signs of ADHD should receive all the help to spare them frustration and anguish later on in life.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. The term ‘bipolar’ means that there are two extremes of mood – depressed (‘low’) and manic (‘high’). There are varying severities of this disorder. Mild cases may pass for normal for many years. In severe cases, the person may become agitated or psychotic.

Depression and mania usually occur in episodes. Different individuals will have different symptoms. For example, one patient may be predominantly depressed, and another may be predominantly manic. In between episodes, the patient is likely to be quite well and to function normally.

When depressed, the patient:

  • feels persistently sad
  • feels hopeless
  • feels lethargic
  • experiences disturbances in sleep and appetite
  • feels excessively guilty
  • feels negative
  • feels suicidal

When manic, the patient behaves quite differently. He / she:

  • becomes overly elated and energetic
  • becomes more irritable
  • requires less sleep
  • has racing thoughts
  • talks very quickly
  • makes many grand plans
  • may believe that he has supernatural powers, or a special mission
  • may impulsively engage in potentially dangerous behaviour

Everyone has felt sad at one time or another. Usually it is due to a disappointment, frustration or losing someone. Such sadness is normal. Time heals, the mood lifts and people continue to get on with their lives. But in some people, depression can be so severe that it dominates their lives, preventing them from coping as they are used to. Depression of this degree is an illness and needs treatment.

Depression has been called the “common cold of mental health problem”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently ranked depression as the leading cause of morbidity in developing nations in the next century. Lifetime occurrence rate is between 3% to 6%, and it is twice as common in women as it is in men. It commonly begin in people aged between 20 and 40 years, although it can occur in children or older people. Research has shown that it is commoner in people with a family history of depression.

Some types of depression run in families, indicating hereditary or genetic factors. In some families, major depression seems to occur generation after generation. Studies have also suggested some biological component in depression. It may be associated with having too little or too much chemical in the brain. Certain medications have mood altering properties. Antidepressant medication act by altering and normalizing the biochemical imbalances in the brain. Life events such as loss of job, retirement, divorce, death of a loved one or moving to a new house can precipitate a depressive illness. Social circumstances also play a part. If we are alone, have few or no friends, suffer from a chronic illness, them we may be more vulnerable to depression. People with life threatening or long-term physical illness such as cancer, stroke, arthritis or heart disease are also more vulnerable to depression. Personality may also play a part in depression. Some of us are more vulnerable than others because of the individual make-up or early life experiences. Every often, a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors is involved in the onset of depression. The good news is that whatever the cause, depression is treatable.

Nerves allow your body to feel temperature, pain, and other sensations. Over time, the effects of diabetes can harm the nerves in the legs, feet, arms, or hands.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects the soft tissues of the body, causing chronic widespread pain and stiffness in muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints throughout the body, with multiple painful and sensitive spots in the affected muscle areas. This is usually accompanied by unusual fatigue and sleeping problems.
Unlike other arthritic conditions, there is no inflammation of the affected muscles, no apparent damage to the structure of the joints or soft tissues, and no abnormality in the body’s immunological system.
Scientists are still unable to determine what causes fibromyalgia and how the condition progresses in the body. Other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are often linked to a higher incidence of fibromyalgia. Generally, fibromyalgia is estimated to affect between 2 - 5% of the population. It mainly occurs between the age of 20 to 50. The condition can also develop in children. It affects more women than men, by a ratio of 9 to 1.

Anxiety and fear are common emotions. But, while fear is a normal response to a perceived threat, anxiety is an unwarranted or inappropriate fear or response to a vague or ill-defined threat. Anxiety can be a normal or an appropriate emotion when dealing with day-to-day stresses or problems. However, when these emotions are persistent, excessive and irrational, they may affect (a) the way a person leads his life, (b) the person’s ability to work and (c) the person’s ability to cope with the demands of life or relationships. When this happens, the anxiety becomes an abnormal condition or disorder.

There are different types of anxiety disorders characterised by anxiety or fear as the predominant emotion. They include phobia, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Schizophrenia is a complex neurological disorder, believed to be caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain. Schizophrenia is not a disorder of 'split personality' but rather a disorder of fragmented mental processes. It is a major psychotic illness. Many suffering from schizophrenia would, usually, have suffered the symptoms of psychosis for at least six months before seeking help. Sufferers will have experienced a deterioration in interpersonal relationships and in daily functioning at school or at work. Although it can affect anyone at any age, its onset is usually in adolescence or young adulthood. Schizophrenia affects men and women equally.

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