Am I going mad?

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, writer and mental health campaigner Natasha Devon guest edited some of our favourite content. If it’s all getting too much and you’re worried you're going mad, read on.

Natasha Devon says:

The term ‘mental health’ covers such a broad range of states and conditions, in just the same way the phrase ‘physical health’ does. We often panic when we have symptoms of a mental health issue because we believe that our options are ‘really mentally ill’ or ‘fine’ and therefore we’re ‘going mad’. But that’s like having a runny nose and thinking it means you’re going to get the bubonic plague.

All the evidence shows that the earlier a mental health issue is detected and spoken about, the more easily treated it will be. So finding ways to manage those early warning signs is crucial and nothing to be ashamed of – If you have a brain you have mental health and, even if you never experience mental illness, it’s really likely it will wobble occasionally, in response to a period of stress at work, or a bereavement, or sometimes for no reason at all.

It just means you’re human.

I feel like I’m going mad. What’s going on in my head?

It’s possible you’ve landed on this article because you’re freaking out that you can’t sleep. Or you’ve had your first panic attack and now you’re worried you’ll have them forever. Or because you feel low and you think you may have depression.

Maybe you’re feeling cut off from your friends, or you’ve had your heart broken, badly. And it feels like your world’s ending, and you’ll never ever feel better. Or someone’s died or gone away, and you feel so alone and scared it’s like you’ve gone through a door into another world where everything feels alien.

Or perhaps you’re drinking too much; you’re permanently moody, angry or unable to concentrate at school or work. Maybe you’ve considered harming yourself or even thought about killing yourself.

Does any of this mean you’re mentally ill? Feeling anxious about feeling anxious only adds to the stress you’re already under. So we’re going to try and help you work out whether you’re dealing with a life that’s gone a bit awry, or something more serious.

Early warning signs of a mental health problem

The charity Mind has a list of signs you can use to identify if you’ve got the beginnings of a mental health problem. They include:

  • Losing interest in things you’ve previously enjoyed
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Isolating yourself
  • Seeing and hearing voices
  • Feeling nervous, jumpy and panicky

Don’t freak out if you have one or two of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re getting sick. If you’re feeling stressed already, you might well be reading the list and thinking ‘that’s me! Oh God, they’re going to have me locked up!’

But the fact is we all get sleepless nights, upset, or crazy-energetic sometimes.

It’s only if these feelings don’t go away, or build up into a giant barrier between you and the life you want to be living that it’s time to seek help.

My head is so messed up – how can I feel better?

1) Talk to someone. Anyone you trust. A friend, sibling – anyone you know will listen to you and help you sort out what’s going on in your head.

2) Read our Understanding Depression article and do the NHS Mood Self-Assessment quiz.

3) Talking to a mental health professional can be calming – we promise you won’t end up in a padded room; it’s actually quite hard to get yourself sectioned. Your doctor is the best place to start.

4) Get in touch with SANE for completely confidential emotional support. One in four people suffer a mental health problem at some point – you won’t be the only person dialling their number.

5) Ease off on the partying. By this we mean the drugs – legal or illegal. Comedowns can feel like nervous breakdowns, and that’s the last thing you need.

6) Try and get enough sleep. We’re not really designed to go more than a night without sleep. It’s even common to hear voices and hallucinate after two or three. No one needs that.

7) Get some exercise. Getting your heart rate up releases endorphins that will help you stop worrying for a bit.

8) Make sure you’re eating healthily and drinking plenty. Going without food or water for too long can make your mood plunge.

Why is this happening to me?

The first thing to realise is that it’s totally normal to feel like this sometimes. When you were a kid, you probably thought being a grown-up meant staying up all night and eating chocolate for breakfast. Sounds great, right? Instead, adult life turns out to be more of a malfunctioning rollercoaster, lurching from high to low with no warning.

You might feel on the brink of craziness right now, and those feelings are very real and very scary. But you’re not alone because most – if not every – person your age will feel like this at some point. Since life is changing so fast, it’s likely the feelings you’re having will too. In fact, it’s entirely likely that in a few hours time you might start to feel a bit better. And if not, then help is out there.

Next Steps

  • SANE offers support and information to people affected by mental illness. Call their helpline on 0300 304 7000, open 4:30pm - 10:30pm every day.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015