Surely we must all have questions surround mental health. I know I do. That being said, the conversation can be a difficult one to have, and Google can leave you even more confused. With that in mind, we called upon Senior Psychologist Cat Piper of psychology + mindfulness studio The Indigo Project to give us some clarity on the most commonly asked mental health questions. Keep scrolling to find answers to the questions which might be plaguing you.
Am I really nervous or do I have anxiety?
Cat explained to PEDESTRIAN.TV that nerves – like those you feel when presenting or rocking up to a hot date – tend to be in proportion to the sitch at hand, are accompanied by “a healthy sense of worry“, but disappear once the event is done and dusted.
“Anxiety is characterised by uncontrollable worry, and the chronic tendency to predict negative outcomes in the form of catastrophic worry and a focus on the future.”
How do I know if I have anxiety?
“Anxiety is exhausting,” Cat said. It’s one of the most common mental health concerns in the Western world.
“You may experience excessive fear, catastrophising or obsessive thinking, and physical symptoms such as panic attacks, a racing heart, breathlessness, or feeling tense and edgy,” she explained.
“It can stop you from doing things, make you do more of some things, worries can push you around and threaten you with the worst-case scenarios that are hard to control.”
Is there a difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack?
“Panic attacks are a certain presentation of anxiety, and are pretty common,” Cat explained. “They are characterised by an intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak in a few minutes, with a few or multiple physical symptoms occurring that can be pretty scary.”
These commonly include: increased heart and breath rate, sweating, trembling, chest pain, chills / heat sensations and nausea. They can be triggered or un-triggered. Turns out most of us will experience at least one in our lifetime.
How do I know if I have depression?
“While we all feel shitty at times – sad, moody or just low – sometimes these feelings can be experienced more intensely, or for longer periods of time (weeks, months, or even years),” Cat told PEDESTRIAN.TV. She also said that these feelings can surface without reason and that everyone who experiences depression will experience it different to the next person.
You might lose motivation and energy, isolate yourself and withdraw from family and friends, feel flat, become tearful, experience feelings of worthlessness or a “what’s the point” mindset, to name a few. Your sleeping pattern and appetite might also become irregular. However, there’s also something called “high-functioning” depression.
“Someone may seem completely OK, even happy, like they have it together – where under the mask it’s a different story completely,” Cat explained. “This is why genuinely checking in with our loved ones is so important, as well as, on the flipside, opening up to people honestly.”
She recommends seeing a doc / GP for a psych referral if you’ve been feeling symptoms as above for more than two consecutive weeks.
How can I help a friend who has shown signs of depression?
While it can be hard to know what to do or say, Cat says you should “provide them with support and understanding” and that “sometimes just being there to listen can be the greatest help in the world“.
“Remember that sometimes socialising can be overwhelming for someone experiencing depression, and they are more likely to prefer to avoid social situations. Let them know you are concerned and you care about them – ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen completely.”
She went on to tell us that you should never be judgey or dismissive, take what they say seriously, encourage them to seek professional help and, of course, check in with them regularly. “Let them know that you have their back – it means more than you realise.”
What are the side effects of anti depressants?
Cat told us that this changes depending on the medication and person taking them, but, of course, that your doctor will run you through the side effects before they prescribe them.
Common side effects can include: nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, loss of sexual desire, fatigue, drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, and constipation. They might bail after a few weeks, or hang around a while.
Cat reassured: “Side effects do not happen to everyone and if you have been prescribed anti-depressants by your doctor, they ultimately have your health and best interests in mind.”
How much does a therapist / psychologist cost?
Cat said that registered psychologists (like herself) typically cost somewhere between $160-$280 p/h. “The cost of seeing a therapist/psychologist will vary depending on who you see, their level of education, licensing and credentials,” she explained.
Of course, with a referral from your GP you can get access to Medicare Rebate and get $84.80 back per session. This caters for up to 10 sessions a year. There are also practitioners who will bulk-bill your sessions, depending on the service you’re after.
How do I go about finding a therapist?
Hit up your GP. They’ll either refer someone suitable for your needs, or, if you have someone in mind, they’ll refer you to them. If you wanna go around that step, you can ask for recommendations or search for practitioners online.
“It’s important that the practitioner you choose to work with is someone you can relate to and feel totally comfortable talking with, and sometimes this takes a few tries before you find the practitioner right for you,” Cat explained.
“Don’t give up, consider it like going on a first date… it’s a relationship after all.”
What do I do if I think a friend is suicidal?
There are two different situations here that require two different actions.
Immediate danger: “Call 000. It is vital that you take their warning signs seriously to ensure their safety.”
Not in immediate danger: “Talk to the person about the issue. Listen to them fully, and be understanding and caring. Help them find support through a professional, whether it be in-person, online or over the phone (e.g. Lifeline 13 11 14) and ensure they follow up on this. If they want you to keep it a secret, really encourage them to speak to a professional.”
Cat stressed: “Although talking openly about suicide or self-harm may be confronting and uncomfortable, it is important that you ensure they know that you care and are concerned for their safety.”
What does it mean if a friend jokes about suicide?
If your friend says anything worrying like “I can’t do it anymore” or “People would be better off without me”, talks about self-harm or has an usual preoccupation with death, Cat recommends always taking this seriously and always checking in with them.
“Ask them openly and honestly see how they’re doing and what they mean by these statements… even if these things are shaded by humour, take them seriously – the content of what they’re saying shouldn’t be taken lightly.”