How should I look at mental disorders

Why mental illness shouldn't be taboo anymore

Depression, burnout syndrome, anxiety attacks: the world of mental illness is one with many terms and complex definitions. In addition, for many people the topic is filled with uncertainties and vagueness: am I still “normal”, do I only have a “crisis”, when am I sick, should I seek treatment? In addition, if a mental illness is diagnosed, many are afraid of being marginalized. Mental illnesses such as depression have long ceased to be an exception and will be the second most common disease by the end of 2020, according to the World Health Organization.

Why does the psyche suffer so often and what can we do to strengthen it?

It is therefore worthwhile to understand the language of this world, because in principle it can affect us all: whether young or old, male or female, born in Germany or moved here. One in four Germans already suffers from a depressive illness at some point in their life, and the trend is rising. Children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 are also more and more often affected by depression.

But why does the psyche suffer so often and what can we do to strengthen it? What can we do for people who are already mentally ill so that they have a chance to get well again? Questions that we as Barmer take very seriously. Because the mental health of the insured is very important to us and we see the increasing numbers of mental illnesses as a challenge. We are therefore convinced that the topic is rightly gaining more and more public attention. However, there are unfortunately still some knowledge gaps in the population. Other areas of health literacy are in some cases significantly further developed. We would like to close these gaps with our topic special “Mental Illnesses” and at the same time encourage our policyholders to take their mental health into their own hands - as far as possible: We dedicate ourselves to many important aspects and frequently asked questions about mental health Wellbeing.

The following questions and answers are not only aimed at those affected. We also encourage friends and family members to find out about mental illnesses. Depression, for example, often affects the entire social and family environment. Education and knowledge of the symptoms and course of the disease can help loved ones and those affected to cope better with the circumstances. Our soul is a complex place that we would like to explore with and for you. From A for fears to Z for compulsions.

Don't give a taboo or stigmatization of mental illnesses a chance with us. It shows enormous strength to recognize a mental illness and to have it treated.

What is Mental Health?

Let's look at the ways in which mental health can be defined. Myths, clichés, and subjective assessments of mental illness are widespread and have become so persistent in society that we want to bring ourselves to a common denominator for general understanding. We already find the first suggestions in the ancient Greeks.

Psyche - the invisible force

Because the meaning of the word “psyche” is originally a metaphor: psyche is the ancient Greek word for “breath” or “breath”, an invisible force that completely fills us and keeps us alive. The scholars of antiquity have already established 800 years before our time that our soul is the most precious and valuable of all. Because with it we feel love, happiness and anticipation, but also sadness, anger and fear - the two sides of the human coin. The psyche is the command center of our body from which all decisions are made that steer life in one direction or the other.
For example, today we put it this way: "Mental health is a state of well-being in which a person can reach their abilities, cope with normal life stresses, work productively, and contribute to their community." This is the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Ottawa Charter of 1986. According to the WHO, mental health is a prerequisite for the individual citizen to realize his intellectual and emotional potential and his role in society, in education and can find and fulfill in working life. At the societal level, mental health contributes to economic prosperity, solidarity and social justice.

Withstand the stresses of everyday life

In summary, mental health is crucial for us to withstand the stresses of everyday life, contribute to the community and fully utilize our abilities.
Mindfulness and individual recipes for life play a very large role in fulfilling these life tasks. Mindfulness helps us to be mindful, wide awake and without getting lost in the daily hustle and bustle to perceive our body and mind. Fortunately, we as a society have come to the point that mindfulness is being practiced and taught more and more often.

Incidentally, mental health is also a key requirement for overall health. According to the WHO, “health” is a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. Modern medicine has recognized that people are only healthy when we are physically and mentally intact. We know this interplay from another medical term: psychosomatics. This holistic teaching is as old as medicine itself and examines how psychological influences affect the body and how physical illnesses influence psychological processes. Well-known psychosomatic complaints are migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, panic attacks, dizziness or rapid heartbeat.

What do mental illnesses do to me and how do I recognize them?

Many sufferers describe a mental illness as an uninvited guest who simply does not want to leave. A constant companion who sometimes hums softly in the background or - if an illness-related condition is acute - takes over and controls all thoughts. With this guest in tow, it is impossible to participate in life as usual.

Signs of mental illness

There are few uniform signs for all mental illnesses, the diversity is considerable. Experts describe a mental disorder as a condition that is characterized by noticeably different ways of experiencing and behaving. However, a deviation from “normal” behavior is not a sufficient indication of a mental disorder. Mental disorders are typically associated with personal distress or with limitations in social or professional, educational and other important activities.

Let us look again at the most common example, depressive illness. Drive, hunger and zest for life are somewhere, just not present and you have the feeling of standing next to you. Such psychological crises often announce themselves over a longer period of time and should be carefully observed as soon as one increasingly perceives frequent signs:

  • slight irritability
  • Depression and sadness
  • Drop in performance
  • unwarranted guilt
  • strong fears and fears
  • Withdrawal from social contacts
  • everyday life can hardly be managed
  • Loss of appetite
  • sleep disorders
  • Back pain
  • Indigestion

When the personality changes

Particularly devastating for those affected is the fact that their own "nature", the personality before the illness, is almost completely masked by a crisis such as depression. Even people who are described by their family and friends as cheerful can be affected by depression. In addition, the factors that can lead to depression, for example, are not always obvious. Traumas from childhood, sudden changes in life or a changed hormone balance can be responsible for the emergence of psychological disorders, either interactively or on their own.

How do I distinguish a "bad day" from a mental illness?

For example, to distinguish a completely normal low mood from depression, the time factor is important. We would like to say that the temporary feeling of sadness, listlessness and listlessness is completely normal, especially in difficult life situations - as long as they subside on their own and do not occur several times a year over a long period of time. We understand that in today's happiness-seeking world it can be difficult to accept negative or challenging emotions and to let them inwardly. Let go of this thought, however - the entire range of emotions is part of life. According to some scientists, a high level of so-called “emodiversity”, i.e. a variety of feelings, can even be a protective factor for health. Our gut feeling often helps to classify emotions.

It depends on the duration and symptoms

Is everything upside down anyway? According to the international classification system ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases), doctors speak of a mild depressive episode if you have two main symptoms such as depressed mood and lack of drive and two so-called additional symptoms such as insomnia and feelings of guilt for more than two weeks. If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, we advise you to seek psychological or medical help.

Can I maintain my mental health with personal recipes for life?

A hot full bath, plenty of stretching in the morning or a mask that supplies our face with moisture: We love pampering our bodies and keeping them fit, and for this we resort to a wide variety of care rituals. But what do we do to take care of our mind and psyche? Often we are not aware of this, but almost everyone has a very personal recipe for life (or should have one). This can be a long walk in the forest, extensive baking, pottery, dancing or yoga - the main thing is that we take several hours a week or a month for our soul and simply let everyday life be everyday life. In our fast-paced times, these moments of conscious awareness of what is mentally good for us are essential in order to prevent mental illnesses or to treat ourselves as a supplement. There are more and more digital helpers for this, such as the popular app from our partner 7Mind, which can help to incorporate beneficial moments of conscious mindfulness into everyday life, and also the psychological barmer trainings from HelloBetter. What's your recipe for life?

Is it true that there used to be fewer mental illnesses?

Was everything really better in the past? Or just different? It is probably the latter, because our world has changed faster than ever since industrialization. This also applies to dealing with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and anxiety. Emil Kraeplin, a psychiatrist and founder of today's Max Planck Institute, laid the foundations for what we now understand by depression as early as the late 19th century. So we have known for over 100 years that a lack of or impaired mental health is not just a whim, but an actual mental illness. Yet it is only in the last ten years that we have really started to see diseases like depression as a widespread disease.

When the soul became a big issue

Conversely, this means that there was probably no less mental illness in the past - there was simply no official classification, no social awareness and therefore no statistics on this topic. On the one hand, this was due to the fact that personal soul life was not openly discussed and, on the other hand, to the fact that satisfaction and happiness were much more reserved for the upper class. Workers, day laborers, servants and maids simply didn't have time to take care of their mental health. It was only Sigmund Freud, the famous analyst, who made the soul a major issue in the West.

How does it look today? Why are mental illnesses increasing?

“Self-realization” and “fulfillment” have rarely taken place in everyday life for the majority of the world's population in traditional societies. What has changed? The further the cultural development towards a modern and, since the 1960s, also a postmodern society, the more sensitive and demanding many people began to make their mental health and later also their psychological growth or their best possible personal development a life's task. Due to the enormous acceleration of cultural development, digitalization and globalization, we are at the same time confronted with previously unknown challenges that put our psyche under massive pressure: constant availability, a lack of a permanent place in society, social media as a new source of social stress and the constant quest for fulfillment in the relationship and in the workplace are a curse and a blessing in equal parts.

Constant search for fulfillment

Social inequality still plays a role in the treatment of mental illnesses today. Studies show that the tendency to address depression, to recognize it and to have it treated, decreases with decreasing social and economic status. The reasons are similar here, as they were over 100 years ago: lack of time, lack of resources, lack of acceptance in the immediate vicinity. Of course that shouldn't be - mental health shouldn't be a question of social status in the 21st century. As a health insurance company, we take these challenges of so-called "public health" very seriously and strive every day to make education and therapy transparent and accessible for everyone.

Men and Mental Illness - Still a Stigma?

If you answer this question with pure numbers, you have to assume it. The vast majority of psychotherapies are used by women. It starts with the diagnosis: in the course of life, for example, around one in four women, but only one in eight men, will develop a diagnosed depression. Women would therefore be affected twice as often. However, that probably doesn't mean that men are actually mentally better off. Of the 9,396 suicides in Germany in 2018, 76 percent were committed by men - men committed suicide much more often than women. In addition, they suffer more often from addictions, which also does not speak for their unrestricted mental well-being.

In addition to somatic (physical) reasons still to be researched, scientists cite two main factors: Traditional images of men prevent many men from admitting depression. It is still associated with the loss of manhood. On the other hand, men who see a doctor with symptoms similar to women are less likely to receive treatment for symptoms of depression. It is not only the self-perception that is distorted, but also the perception of others, and in some cases even in the healthcare sector.

Develop strength - show weakness

Fortunately, the archaic role model is opposed by a new, established image of men. Boys and girls are still being pushed into (emotional) drawers, but less and less often, and are now increasingly encouraged in their upbringing not to adopt any gender-specific patterns. Men are allowed to develop a whole new strength today, namely to show weakness. This is important because chronically suppressed mental overload can have serious consequences. Mental hygiene, i.e. addressing problems, fears and grief openly, is not unmanly - it is very human.

Are Mental Illnesses Hereditary? Or what is the cause?

There is no general answer to this question for all mental illnesses. However, experts agree that most mental illnesses are caused by a variety of factors, including genetic, biological, and so-called psychosocial factors.

The diathesis stress model

A well-known explanatory model for the development of mental disorders is the so-called diathesis stress model (also known as the vulnerability stress model). Diathesis or vulnerability means something like susceptibility to illness or vulnerability. According to this model, it is assumed that both the individual disposition of a person, genetic and neurological, as well as their personal learning history in relation to the stress or stress experienced are significant for the development of mental illnesses.

For example, if a person grows up in difficult circumstances where, in addition to a lack of emotional security, many important behaviors and social skills have only been insufficiently developed, they may be more susceptible to the development of psychological ones than a person who grows up in a safe psychosocial environment Have interference. This means that even less stress can lead to illness.

Resilience and other protective factors

However, an increased susceptibility in the sense of this model does not necessarily have to lead to mental illness. Psychological factors such as B. Resilience (learned, acquired resistance), social support, positive relationships and good stress management strategies can be protective factors.

Using the example of depression: It is possible that all women in a family will develop depression in the course of their lives. The reason for this doesn't have to be genetic or physical. According to the multifactorial model, what these women - grandmother, daughter, granddaughter - could also connect with one another are softer factors such as the same stress management patterns that are passed on from generation to generation through living together.

So do I have to worry about getting mentally ill myself if a close family member is already affected? Not necessarily. However, it could be helpful and exciting to exchange ideas with family members about dealing with challenges or stress, thereby recognizing behavioral patterns and questioning your own in order to perhaps prevent a mental illness.

Can mentally ill people do a good job at work?

Mental illnesses are treatable, in many cases curable, in some cases even preventable. As with physical illness, it may or may not have an occupational impact. Even with the rather rare, most severe mental illnesses, a third of the patients heal completely. In a second third, a permanently stable state is achieved, which allows a relatively normal professional and private life. Participation in working life is actually an important health-promoting factor. In particular, the more it is experienced as meaningful, predictable and shapeable.

It is important for those affected that noticeable changes in behavior are reported back to them early, clearly and in an empathic manner. As colleagues or managers, you should therefore be sensitive to changes in behavior such as permanent depression, pronounced demotivation, strong tendencies to withdraw or frequent mood swings. As a manager, express your concern for the health of your employees and offer your support to mentally ill employees by, for example, referring to suitable offers of help. If you are a manager, you can help to enable mentally ill employees to continue their work successfully as easily as possible.

Pay attention to the mental balance

Of course, it is best not to let mental illness develop in the first place. In working life there are many ways to look after our emotional balance as well as possible. It starts with mundane things like regular breaks and with a healthy alternation between tension and relaxation. We should regularly check whether, for example, our "inner critic" is too strict with ourselves, whether we tend to be perfectionism, whether we want to please everyone at our own expense, whether we are appropriately involved and involved, whether we still make sense our work, and last but not least, whether a healthy management style prevails. If we recognize work-related imbalances that are permanently gnawing at us, it is important to be active, creative and constructive at an early stage, until the work feels good or at least significantly better again.

Is there a connection between mental illness and addiction?

Indeed, such connections do exist - not always, but also not infrequently. For example, in the case of depressive illnesses, we have an additional diagnosis of alcohol addiction more frequently than the population average. The same applies vice versa: If alcohol dependence is diagnosed, a depressive illness is also particularly common. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, alcohol is literally a "depressant": the more of this substance we consume, the more it depresses the mood in the long run. On the other hand, alcohol is "felt" to be relieving in the short term: In the case of mental illness, one is often emotionally ill and alcohol can numb this in the short term. Psychologists speak of attempting (sometimes unconsciously and naturally unsuccessful in the long term) "self-medication". The same vicious circle can also drive us more and more into a corner when it comes to drug addiction: Short-term relief leads to long-term additional stress, which in turn increases the need for short-term relief - it makes sense and one can well empathize with the fact that one is best with good support comes out of such a treacherous vortex.
That is reason enough to keep an eye on the subject of addiction in connection with mental illnesses. As Barmer, we cooperate with the German Main Office for Addiction Issues and recommend the website of the "Alcohol Action Week" and the thematic websites of the Main Office for Addiction Issues and Drug Addiction for further information.