Language is important. The words we use carry weight and a very different meaning can be established with the words we choose. Words and their meaning shape the way we see the world. Research has been done on this topic, exploring whether or not the language we speak can even shape what we see. While there is general consensus that language doesn’t actively influence how you think, there is evidence to suggest that language can influence perception, through the vocabulary we possess. This becomes particularly important when discussing mental health. Let’s use the example of ‘worry’ and ‘anxiety’. Worry and anxiety often get bandied around interchangeably. Whilst they share some common traits, namely concern, a sense of unease and possibly stress, they are very far from being the same thing and it’s largely unhelpful to be using them interchangeably. It’s worth establishing exactly what the major differences are between the two:
- Worry tends to remain in your mind. Anxiety impacts both the mind and body.
Worry will remain no more than a thought. It may run through your mind for somewhat of an extended period but it won’t be something that’s affecting you physically. Anxiety, on the other hand, is something that you feel physically, as well as mentally, often manifesting in symptoms like lightheadedness, hyperventilation, nausea and or irritable bowels. The distinction between the two here is pretty hard to miss.
- Worry will be related to something specific. Anxiety tends to be vague.
Worry will be something that has a concrete problem that you may have in your immediate circumstances. How to pay a bill. Wrestling with a big decision. Anxiety, in contrast, will typically be a general sense of unease, with the specific reason for it often difficult to pinpoint. Worry is a rational response to a circumstance, anxiety is likely not to be.
- Worry is logical. Anxiety is characterised by presumed concerns.
There’s nothing directly wrong with worrying. It’s often a grounded response to a very real or immediate concern that likely needs to be addressed. Anxiety goes way beyond this, often involving imagined and typically exaggerated risks associated with something. This kind of catastrophic thinking can be really debilitating and leave people feeling like they are unable to cope.
- Worry is short-term. Anxiety lingers.
As a challenge or concern is overcome then the worry associated with it will dissipate. Anxiety, because it’s not always directly linked to a concrete concern, will typically drag on, often for really extended periods.
- Worry isn’t debilitating. Anxiety can be.
You may be worrying about something but it’s unlikely that this will result in you needing to call in sick to work or inhibit you from catching up with people. Anxiety can leave you feeling completely unable to focus, as it can possess your thoughts, making getting other stuff done, really challenging.
The other dangerously interchangeable terms when it comes to mental health are ‘sadness’ and ‘depression’. Sadness isn’t something we can completely avoid. Obviously, life throws curve balls at us that can leave us feeling really low but these feelings should only be temporary. When whatever may have caused us pain or sadness begins to recede in the rearview mirror, our sense of sadness should start to dissipate and be replaced with an increased sense of contentment and a boosted mood. Sadness has many different degrees and it can certainly feel overwhelming at times but the ability to laugh or be comforted should also be available, even whilst the sense of sadness is present. In the case of depression it can feel entirely impossible to find any joy, regardless of the activity or the people you are with. Depression is where you have stepped past an emotion and have entered into the territory of a mental illness. Symptoms that will typically need to be present before you may be diagnosed with depression include:
- Feeling depressed throughout each day on most or all days.
- Lack of interest and enjoyment in activities you used to find pleasurable.
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much.
- Trouble eating, or eating too much, coupled with weight gain or weight loss.
- Irritability, restlessness, or agitation.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Unwarranted or exaggerated feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions.
- Suicidal thoughts or actions, or thinking a lot about death and dying.
Beyond just the mental symptoms, mental illness can sometimes manifest as physical problems. If you find you are unexpectedly experiencing stomach pain, back pain, headaches or other aches and pains that are not easily explained then it is worth considering that they may have a psychological origin. If this is the case then it is important to consult with a primary care provider and or a mental health professional as mental illnesses can get significantly worse over time if left untreated.
If you have experienced any of the following then it could put you at a higher risk of mental illness:
- Early childhood or teenage trauma.
- A traumatic event, such as the death of a family member that may have caused extreme levels of pain that are difficult to get over.
- Low self-esteem.
- A family history of mental illness. Particularly bipolar disorder and depression.
- An extended period of substance abuse.
- Lack of family or community acceptance for your sexuality.
- Trouble adjusting to a major medical condition or after a life altering injury.
- An experience of a prior mental health disorder.
- A limited support system in the form of family, friends or coworkers.
- Taking certain medications where there are possible mental health side effects.
Being conscious of these factors can help you to make the right lifestyle choices to help counter these threats. Medication is not the only route as there are many useful treatments that merely involve everyday choices to enhance your wellbeing. These can also be well supported through the use of vitamins and supplements to assist these choices. For example:
Stay connected - Keeping in contact with people is one of the most powerful ways to stave off mental illness. If you’re experiencing social anxiety then foods or supplements rich in vitamin B, available from any discounted chemist, can help to lower stress.
Get active - Again, B Vitamin supplements, available from any discounted chemist, are fantastic for boosting energy. Physical activity helps to release feel-good chemicals into the brain so the more you move, the better you’ll be feeling.
Get a good night’s sleep - For your body to recover from all the socialising and exercise you’ll be doing, you’ll need deep rest. A lack of sleep can really impact upon mental health and your ability to pursue the lifestyle that will help you feel best. Supplements high in melatonin and magnesium are fantastic to assist in good sleep and are available from any discounted chemist.
If in reading this you’ve realised that you’re feeling more than just worried or sad and that the words anxious or depressed may better fit your situation then be sure to apply the suggestions listed above and consult your health care professional as you don’t have to stay in that place, there are help and options available.