If you have symptoms of a cold such as a runny nose, coughing and fever, I am sure you will take medicines or see a doctor.
But what if you have signs of poor mental health? What do you do if you are in a low mood or lacking in energy most of the time, or if you think your judgment and reasoning are deteriorating?
Would you also consult a professional?
Because of the social stigma attached to mental illness, many Hongkongers tend to shy away from seeking medical advice on matters concerning their mental well-being.
Many regard their mood swings as normal, part of leading a hectic lifestyle.
While talking to friends or going on a holiday could improve one’s moods, the root of the problem remains untouched.
Oftentimes, it is a family member or a friend who notices the changes in a person’s actuations, character and personality.
In an ideal situation, the patient seeks professional help and receives a diagnosis.
Some patients suffer physical pain, gastrointestinal ailments or even skin problems, but the corresponding treatments prove ineffective.
It turns out that these illnesses have psychological or emotional roots.
I’ve got two patients. One was suffering from aches in various parts of his body, but treatments from several doctors and acupuncture experts failed to alleviate the pain.
He was eventually referred to a psychiatrist, who prescribed appropriate medications for his low moods.
His body pains soon disappeared as his psychological condition improved.
My other patient had a serious case of eczema, but the various interventions by numerous dermatologists failed to bring relief.
One day he went to a psychiatrist simply to give vent to his grief over his skin condition.
It was found that his eczema was triggered by his anxiety and such a negative emotion only worsened his skin problems.
After taking medication, his acute anxiety was relieved and his skin problems subsided.
Indeed, our emotional state not only affects our mental health but also our physical well-being.
Some might argue that maintaining a sunny disposition or positive outlook in life would suffice.
However, mental illnesses are often triggered by chemical imbalances in the brain, and as such, professional help and medication are necessary to treat them.
What is worse is that negative emotions are also infectious. Patient suffering from wild mood swings would have an undesirable impact on people around them, and that would severely affect their social life and relationships with others.
Those who are aware of their problems should seek professional help, while family members and friends could be more supportive and show more understanding.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 28.
Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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