Who Is Most Vulnerable To Mental Health Issues?

Who Is Most Vulnerable To Mental Health Issues?

by Dr Emma Gray - 7th February, 2013

Causes and Treatment For Mental Health Problems; Key Considerations.

Western societies greatly exaggerate the difference between humans, dividing us into the ‘haves’, ‘have nots’ and ‘have lots’, with the ‘have nots’ being at greater risk of physical and mental health problems including anxiety (including generalised anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, stress and panic attacks), depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder) and of being either the perpetrator or victim of certain types of crime, the consequence of which for this group is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This socially constructed division when coupled with early childhood experiences of parental neglect and criticism, conditional love and unrealistic expectations (i.e. the parent that pushes the child to achieve as a way of coping with their own low self esteem, confidence and sense of inadequacy) creates a direct pathway to psychological and emotional problems that more often than not can only be resolved with the help of a skilled mental health practitioner, ideally either a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist trained in evidence based treatments including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Individuals are not born with psychological and emotional imbalances or problems and they do not live their lives in a vacuum, they are a product of their environment. Therefore when we are considering the reason that anxiety and mood related problems (e.g. depression) have developed we must always look at the experiences of the sufferer and the messages that those around them are giving. Mental health problems like eating disorders (including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are ways of coping with the overwhelming emotions that stressful and invalidating early (and ongoing) environments have on individuals so it is essential that these are also consider in the development of treatments for these psychological problems.

Evidence based therapies (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [CBT]) should always be considered as the first line treatment and delivered by a trained practitioner (ideally a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist). It is only if therapies with a robust evidence base, proven to work and facilitate the resolution of a problem over the longer term, fail to bring about the relief of symptoms that other therapies should be considered.

In summary, the key factors when treating psychological problems including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related mental health problems (e.g. sleep disturbance, panic attacks, low self esteem and confidence, addictions)are to ensure that there is a consideration of early and current experiences and that treatment is an evidence based therapy delivered by a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


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