When it all gets too much

Everyone feels anxious, worried or stressed out sometimes and life can seem overwhelming. It's easy to see why when you think about all the pressures that are heaped upon us: society, family, work... where does it all end?

People get caught up with all kinds of destructive thoughts that have a negative effect on their perceptions and behaviours. This isn't uncommon or unnatural - it's just part of our brain chemistry and there are certainly things that can be done to help get you back on track.

What are mental illnesses?

The different manifestations of these symptoms are termed mental illness. Mental illnesses are no different to any other illnesses - they have a biological basis. In the same way as cancers develop as a result of both external and internal factors, so too do mental illnesses.

Common mental illnesses include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety/ Phobias
  • Eating Disorder
  • Stress

Severe mental illnesses include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder (Manic depression)
  • Clinical depression
  • Suicidal tendency
  • Personality disorder

A good source of information on mental illnesses is the NAMI website - alternatively, visit our 'Resources' section for more online information.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Severe mental illness

The Banyan works with people who suffer from severe mental illness: commonly Bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia. Their illness is sometimes combined with other psychological issues including personality disorders or mental retardation and with social issues including a history of abuse, deprivation, lack of education and extreme poverty.

This means that sufferers are dealing with symptoms such as hallucinations, mood fluctuations and other cognitive distortions as well as struggling to survive within their environment. This pushes them deeper into their illness as the appreciation and desire for a different life fades from their consciousness. Once symptoms are under control it takes significant efforts in psychological modeling, rehabilitation and training to give them the strength, independence and more importantly, yet more difficult to impart, the motivation to take part in the world around them; in control of their illness and positive about their participation in their own future.

Severe mental illness can be overcome: it depends on the individual's capacity and their receptiveness to intervention. In some instances the sufferer will spend the rest of their life on medication, requiring personal care and support; as would those with any other chronic disease. Others go on to lead 'normal' lives as part of families and communities - a testament to their triumph over their illness.

What is happening?

When we are under prolonged stress, our brains search desperately for ways to relieve the pressure. Often, if a person cannot find effective ways of coping or does not have a good support system, they can end up sinking deeper into negative thoughts and behaviours that affect daily functioning. As our bodies and minds are closely linked, a cycle of reinforcement develops that creates or exacerbates an internal imbalance.

Some of the effects of this imbalance can include:

  • Persistent negative thoughts including a preoccupation with death or suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low energy or severely fluctuating energy levels
  • Hearing voices
  • Wanting to spend excessive amounts of time alone
  • Inappropriate and uncontrollable behaviour: excessive anger or sadness for example
  • Severe paranoia

Each of our lives is precious for its unique potential - if something within you is dragging you down, affecting your abilities and therefore holding you back, you should address it and give yourself the tools and the strength to get on with your life.