Mental health

Mental health disorders can be among the most debilitating illnesses, affecting every aspect of life. Throughout history, mental health has often been misunderstood and even stigmatised, but we are now beginning to grasp its complexity and importance. If you are struggling with mental illness, it can feel like an inescapable prison. However, it is important to understand that mental health disorders do not have to be permanent states and that professional treatment and support can lead to significant improvements. At UKAT, we understand these challenges deeply. We offer evidence-based treatment for a range of mental health conditions, aiming to provide you with a whole new lease on life.

What is mental health?

Mental health is a broad term that encompasses our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It influences how we think, feel, and act and is critical in handling stress, relating to others, and making important choices. Mental health is essential at every stage of life – from childhood and adolescence through adulthood – and is often closely linked to physical health, social lives, relationships, overall well-being, and quality of life.

Mental illnesses involve changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of all of these). They are often associated with distress and problems functioning in social, work or personal responsibilities. As well as these daily struggles, poor mental health can also lead to destructive behaviours that may include substance abuse, addiction, self-harm and, in extreme cases, suicide.

Common mental health disorders

UKAT provides mental health treatment for several disorders, which often present as dual-diagnosis conditions alongside addiction. These mental health disorders include:

  • ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder): Characterised by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with functioning or development.
  • Anger management: Involves uncontrollable, often irrational anger that can affect relationships, work life and overall mental well-being.
  • Autism: A developmental disorder impacting communication and behaviour, often noticeable in early childhood.
  • Anxiety: More than just occasional worry or fear; anxiety disorders involve intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
  • Borderline personality disorder: A mental health disorder characterised by unstable moods, behaviour and difficulty in relationships.
  • Bipolar disorder: Involves episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
  • Codependency: An emotional and behavioural condition that affects your ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.
  • Depression: Not just sadness, depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, think and act.
  • Grief: This is a natural response to loss, but when it becomes overwhelming, it may develop into a mental health disorder.
  • Insomnia: More than just trouble falling asleep; insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can greatly affect your overall quality of life.
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder): Characterised by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) leading to compulsive behaviours.
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder): A disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary or dangerous event.
  • Personality disorders: These are mental disorders that cause unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and behaving.
  • Schizophrenia: A serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally and experience delusions and hallucinations.
  • Self-harm: This involves hurting yourself as a way to cope with overwhelming feelings or situations.
  • Stress: A feeling of emotional or physical tension that can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry or nervous.
  • Suicide: The act of intentionally causing your own death, often as a result of mental illness or distress.

Symptoms and signs of mental illness

Recognising the signs and symptoms of mental illness can be the first step towards getting help. These signs and symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, depending on the specific disorder, circumstances, and other factors. However, some common symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy, or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and people
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

It is crucial to understand that some of these symptoms can be caused by different factors and do not necessarily mean that a mental health disorder is present. However, if these signs are persistent and significantly interfere with your life, seeking professional help is important.

What causes mental health conditions?

Understanding what causes mental health conditions is complex because these disorders are typically the result of a combination of factors, including:

  • Biological factors: These include genetics, brain chemistry and hormones. Certain mental health conditions may be passed down from family members while imbalances in brain chemicals and hormones can affect mood and behaviour.
  • Life experiences: Traumatic events such as abuse, neglect, loss of a loved one or experiencing a traumatic event can trigger or exacerbate mental health problems.
  • Psychological factors: This includes your overall outlook on life, your ability to deal with stress and your psychological resilience.
  • Environmental factors: These involve conditions in which you live, such as exposure to violence, poverty, a dysfunctional family environment or a lack of access to quality education or healthcare.
  • Developmental factors: Problems during brain development, either in utero or during early childhood, can potentially affect mental health later in life.
  • Substance abuse: Using or abusing substances like alcohol, drugs or certain medications can cause or exacerbate mental health problems.

It’s important to note that these factors can interplay in complex ways, and the cause of a mental health condition can be different for each person.

How do drugs and alcohol impact mental health?

Substance abuse and mental health are often closely linked. Drugs and alcohol can temporarily relieve symptoms of some mental health conditions, but they often exacerbate the problem in the long term. Unfortunately, some people still use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, creating a vicious cycle of mental health and addiction struggles.

At UKAT, a proportion of our clients have co-occurring mental health and drug addiction or mental health and alcohol addiction disorders, with substance abuse either triggering or worsening mental health conditions and vice versa.

How are mental health conditions diagnosed?

Psychological assessments
Psychological assessments are the first step in diagnosis and usually involve in-depth discussions and activities designed to explore your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and patterns.

Cognitive tests to evaluate your memory, concentration and problem-solving skills may also be administered, while projective tests where you are asked to interpret ambiguous stimuli like inkblots or pictures can unveil hidden aspects of your personality and emotional state.

Physical evaluations
Physical evaluations are important because what feels like a mental health issue can sometimes be linked to physical health. For instance, thyroid problems can mimic depression, and certain nutritional deficiencies can present symptoms similar to mental health disorders.

A comprehensive physical exam, including blood tests and other relevant medical evaluations, is therefore used during diagnosis to rule out physical health issues that may be contributing to your symptoms, which are identified and addressed.

Observation and history
This includes not just your medical history but also your life experiences, such as any traumatic events, family history of mental illness, your upbringing and significant life changes or stressors.
DSM-V criteria
The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) is a handbook used by healthcare professionals as the authoritative guide to diagnosing mental disorders. It contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. When your healthcare provider evaluates your condition, they’ll refer to the DSM-V to see if your symptoms align with the criteria listed for a specific mental health disorder.
Ongoing process with evolving diagnoses
Mental health diagnosis is not always straightforward. It can evolve as more information comes to light, and your symptoms change over time. What may initially seem like depression, for example, could later be understood as a part of a bipolar disorder as more evidence of mood swings is observed. This ongoing process underscores the importance of regular follow-ups and open communication with your healthcare provider.

What does treatment for mental health involve?

Treating mental health requires a carefully designed, professionally administered approach tailored to your needs. At UKAT, we offer a range of therapies to help with mental health symptoms and the development of coping mechanisms. Our rehab treatment programmes include:

Group therapy

This involves regular sessions with a group of individuals who share similar mental health challenges. It is a space to learn coping strategies and feel supported by peers who understand what you’re going through.

One-to-one therapy

In these sessions, your therapist will help you explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a private, one-on-one setting. This personalised approach allows for deep exploration of your issues and tailored strategies to address them.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) & dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns that affect emotions and behaviour. It is a structured approach where you learn to challenge and replace unhelpful thoughts with more positive ones. DBT, a form of CBT, is more focused on emotional regulation and improving interpersonal skills. It involves learning mindfulness, distress tolerance and other strategies to manage intense emotions.

Meditation and mindfulness

These practices involve techniques to focus your mind and reduce stress. Meditation may include guided sessions where you are led through relaxation and concentration exercises. Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgement, which can help manage stress and anxiety.

Art therapy

This therapy uses creative activities like drawing, painting or sculpting to express yourself and process your emotions. It is not about artistic skill but rather using the creative process as a tool for healing and self-discovery. Art therapy can be particularly helpful if you struggle to express your feelings in words.

Sound therapy

Sound therapy uses music or sound to improve your mental health. It might involve listening to specific music, sounds or rhythms that are calming and soothing. The goal is to use sound to reduce stress and improve emotional well-being.

Get help for mental health today

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to know that help is available. Mental health disorders are treatable, and many people can recover completely or learn to manage their conditions effectively. At UKAT, we understand the courage it takes to seek help and are committed to providing compassionate, evidence-based care that respects your unique needs. If you are ready to start your journey to better mental health, contact UKAT today.

Call us now for help

Frequently asked questions

Is addiction a mental illness?
Yes, addiction, specifically substance addiction, is categorised as a mental illness in the DSM-V. The manual identifies four categories of criteria: lack of control over substance use, resulting social problems, risky behaviour related to substance use and physical dependency.
How many people in the UK struggle with a mental health condition?
Approximately one in four people in the UK experience a mental health disorder per year. This illustrates the widespread seriousness of mental illness and the importance of providing effective mental health treatment.