Mental illness is an epidemic that has grown to prominence in almost every corner of the world. Mental illness is a broad term that covers a range of different conditions that are characterized by disruptions in thinking, mood, or behaviour. This can range from severe and debilitating symptoms seen in disorders like schizophrenia, to milder symptoms like anxiety and insomnia.
With the higher prevalence of mental illness in today’s world, there are many theories as to why people are increasingly afflicted by it. A complex interplay of social, cultural and environmental factors is thought to contribute to this rise, including increased stress, the decreased stigma surrounding mental illness, and the pervasiveness of technology.
The Rise of Technology and its Effects on Mental Health
One theory which could explain why mental illness is becoming more prevalent is the rise of technology and its effects on mental health. The omnipresence of technology and the constant stimulation it provides is thought to be ‘rewiring the brains’ of the younger generations. Some studies have shown that young adults are developing the same neural pathways that are associated with addiction. The dramatic increase in smartphone and social media use has been linked to an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression. These technologies are designed to stimulate and activate the pleasure/reward centres of the brain and can lead to thoughts and behaviours linked to addiction.
The pervasive exposure to screens at night can directly suppress the release of melatonin in the brain and lead to insomnia and other types of sleep disorders. The effect of technology on mental health is a serious proposition which warrants further investigation and research.
Unrelenting Academic Expectations
Another possible reason why mental illness is becoming more prevalent, especially in youths, could be that the drive for academic excellence has been taken too far. The educational environment in many Asian countries has been increasingly stressful. From late-night tuition classes to a flurry of extra-curricular activities, the drive for families and students to achieve academic excellence can inadvertently result in excessive pressure on students and parents. This is likely to have contributed to the increased prevalence of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mental disorders in young people.
An increasingly isolated and individualistic society
Another reason to explain the rise of mental illness may be that our society is becoming increasingly isolated. In many parts of the world, there has been a general decline in the importance of community and a move towards an individualistic society. This may translate to reduced social support and decreased ability of people to connect with each other. This has resulted in an increase in feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The decreased stigma surrounding mental illness
With increased public awareness and reduction of stigma surrounding mental disorders, more people are seeking help earlier and more proactively compared to the past. The increased emphasis and training in mental health in the healthcare community has also resulted in doctors becoming more familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of common mental disorders. This is a positive step in the right direction because early detection and treatment lead to better mental health outcomes. This has contributed to the increase in the prevalence of mental disorders in parts of the world where it has been underdiagnosed in the past.
A myriad of reasons can possibly explain the rising prevalence of mental illness. This is something that can affect anyone of us, regardless of our circumstances. Efforts in public education and the de-stigmatisation of mental illness can encourage people to seek help earlier and more proactively, so that they get the help they need.
If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from a mental disorder, don’t wait to seek help. Most mental disorders are highly treatable. Reach out to us at Private Space Medical. We will journey alongside you or your loved one, through the process of treatment and recovery.