Your mental approach to dealing with everyday stress and life events
Growing up is a process of learning psychological responses to life events, both positive and negative. People vary in their ability to deal with these events, and everyone on occasion feels anger, frustration, sadness, mild depression, worry, loneliness, or uncertainty. However, when these feelings prevent you from functioning normally for a sustained period, you may need to see your doctor. People have different personality traits and sometimes these can become sufficiently exaggerated to be classified as a disorder (see Mental health disorders).
Children and adults express their concerns differently. Recognizing early signs of problems enables action to be taken before they become serious.
Recognizing problems in children
Children often cannot say if something is upsetting them, so they may express their feelings in unexpected ways, often as a change in behaviour. As a parent, it is important to be aware of warning signs. For example, your child may have a problem if he or she starts wetting the bed after a period of dryness or is unusually withdrawn, sad, or nervous. Children who are unhappy often complain of pain, typically stomach-ache. If your doctor cannot identify a physical cause, he or she may ask you about possible sources of stress.
Recognizing problems in adults
If you notice changes in your normal behaviour, such as increased moodiness, irritability, constant depression, anxiety attacks, trouble sleeping, poor concentration, or loss of appetite, you may be under some kind of emotional strain. If these feelings continue for a sustained period of time or grow more intense, they could signal a developing psychological problem. They may stem from a specific cause, such as the death of a relative (see Loss and bereavement), but may develop for no apparent reason.
Your psychological health changes with age and may reflect your physical well-being. Physical and psychological problems often coexist in older people, and if you become seriously ill or have a major operation you are more likely to suffer from psychological problems as a result (see Mental problems due to physical illness).
If an aspect of your behaviour or personality is making you or someone close to you unhappy and you want to change but cannot, seek advice from your doctor or a therapist (see Psychological therapies).
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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