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Author: Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital

Facts About Depression

We often use depression to describe feelings of sadness and grief that most of us experience at stages of our lives. It is also a clinical term used to describe forms of mental illness. Depression is a biological disorder that is made worse by life stress. It is a medical condition that affects your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical health as a result of alterations in body chemistry. It is a collection of signs and symptoms that persists over time which are not the normal reaction to life stresses. What is not? Depression is not the feelings of sadness...

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Facts About Anxiety

What is Anxiety? Anxiety is the term given to the mental, behavioural and physical changes that occur to assist the body to combat threat or danger. When the body becomes aware of danger the involuntary nervous system sends messages to areas all over the body in order to, either physically “fight” the situation or to flee from it – “flight”. This particular response is called the “fight or flight” reaction and is characterised by the following symptoms: Alert mind Increased heart rate Increased blood pressure Increased breathing rate Fear and apprehension Trembling or shaking Restlessness Cold and clammy hands Hot Flushes or chills Feeling sick or nauseous Butterflies in the stomach The “fight or flight” response can be useful in the short term when faced with dangerous or stressful situations (e.g. to get away from an attacking dog). However, this reaction can become harmful if it does not subside after the situation has passed or if the reaction your body has is out of proportion to the situation you find yourself in. If the anxiety continues for long periods and is more severe than the individual can tolerate, it may become disabling. Prolonged anxiety is characterised by not only the physical symptoms associated with the “fight or flight” response, but also changes in an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. As a result of the anxiety, you may often feel...

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Schizophrenia: Just the facts

What is Schizophrenia? schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. The term covers a number of disorders, all with overlapping symptoms. Although an exact definition evades medical researchers, the evidence points more and more conclusively to a severe disturbance of the brain’s functioning. The causes and symptoms may differ, but all people diagnosed with having the illness have one thing in common – they have been, at least some of the time, out of touch with reality to a serious degree. Schizophrenia affects 1% of the world’s population. Some people may experience only one or more brief episodes in their...

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Psychosis: Just the Facts

What is Psychosis? The word psychosis is used to describe conditions which affect the mind, where there is some loss of contact with reality. Psychosis varies greatly and the term covers a number of related illnesses. When someone becomes ill in this way and loses contact with reality it is called a psychotic episode. People who have experienced this often call it spinning out or going off the planet. With time and the right treatment, most people make a full recovery from the experience. Many may never have another episode. A minority experience psychotic symptoms on a daily basis. Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults and is quite common. Around 3 out of every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode making psychosis more common than diabetes. Psychosis can happen to anyone. Like any other illness it can be treated. What causes Psychosis? A number of theories have been suggested as to what causes psychosis, but there is still much research to be done. It may be a combination of factors. Chemical imbalance It is commonly believed that a psychotic episode occurs due to a disturbance in how the brain normally functions. Our brain works by sending chemical messages from one part to another. When someone develops psychosis this may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, perhaps sending too much or too little...

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT is a successful form of treatment for disabling, distressing and persistent feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. CBT identifies ineffective thinking and self defeating behaviours and offers new positive and supportive ways of coping with life’s challenges. Who could benefit from CBT? CBT is particularly helpful for people experiencing depression, anxiety, eating difficulties, substance abuse and issues with anger and frustration. There are four major factors known to affect vulnerability to feelings of depression. Genetic or biological factors such as hereditary factors. Early life experiences such as major losses. Personality styles such as poor...

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