From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Selena Gomez/Facebook 

Recently, 26-year-old pop star Selena Gomez had been reportedly seeking mental health treatment at a US facility after going through an “emotional breakdown.”

Selena was hospitalised twice in the past few weeks for a low white blood cell count. The star has lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to be hyperactive and attack normal healthy tissues. According to Dr Belmont, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. People with chronic illnesses like lupus, are more likely to become depressed and anxious because no one likes that feeling. In fact, The John Hopkins Lupus Centre, found that one-third of patients with lupus show symptoms of depression and anxiety.


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During the second hospital stay, Selena had a panic attack brought on by anxiety and depression.

The news comes just weeks after the “Wolves” singer took to Instagram on Sept 24 to announce that she’ll be unplugging from social media. She wrote: “Mood lol (I was looking at myself in the mirror -like an i****t!) Update: taking a social media break. Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember- negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”

In addition to taking a step back from the media limelight, Selena is also taking charge of her health by undergoing dialectical behaviour treatment at the mental facility in Arizona. The treatment incorporates mindfulness and communication, amongst other things, to help people cope.

Selena may be a celebrity, but millions of people worldwide go through similar struggles with mental health. In Singapore alone, about 10 per cent of the population suffers from anxiety and depressive disorders. Out of this, 0.9 per cent suffer from generalized Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).


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Seeing Selena talk so candidly about her anxiety is so important because it helps to normalise mental health and break the unfortunate stigma that often times obfuscates the struggle of so many with mental health issues. The former Disney star’s message is loud and clear – anxiety can affect anyone and everyone – and there’s no shame in admitting to it and more importantly getting help for it. Here’s what you need to know about anxiety.


More than just the feeling of fear

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It’s normal to experience emotions like anxiety and fear when faced with day-to-day stresses or problems. However, when these emotions become persistent, excessive and irrational, they may interfere with the way a person leads his or her life, ability to work, and ability to cope with the demands of life or relationships. When this happens, anxiety becomes a disorder.


Anxiety can manifest in various forms

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If an individual has anxiety, he or she could suffer from the following conditions:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): Those with GAD tend to worry excessively about health, money, family or work even when there is no reason to.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Individuals with OCD have persistent and intrusive thoughts which are resisted at the cost of mounting anxiety.
  • Panic disorder with agoraphobia: These panic attacks (characterised by sudden attacks of fear, breathlessness, a choking sensation, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and fears of losing control or going insane) can occur anytime and lasts about 10 to 20 minutes each time.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This condition often affects those who have been through extreme trauma caused by war, natural disasters and assault.
  • Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder): Social phobia is classified by an extreme anxiety and self-consciousness in everyday social situations.


Women are twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that women are more prone to anxiety. It’s not known why women are more likely to have anxiety, but the researchers suggest that it could be due to differences in brain chemistry between the two genders.

Other risk factors include individuals from the low socio-economic strata, middle-aged persons, those who have gone through negative life events such as relationship failures, job loss or illness of a loved one and those who are anxious by nature.


Looks are deceiving

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In the early stages of anxiety, it will not affect normal life. According to the Singhealth website, an office worker who has anxiety, for example, may still be able to step into the office, but his productivity might be marred. Only severe forms of anxiety disorders can disrupt daily activities.


Don’t be afraid to seek help

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If the anxiety is disruptive, see a doctor. The doctor will take a series of blood tests to rule out physical issues like hyperthyroidism, as well as use a diagnostic tool like an electrocardiogram to exclude cardiac conditions.

Depending on the severity of the anxiety disorder, doctors may prescribe different classes of medication like anti-depressants. Psychotherapy is also very helpful for those with anxiety. Sessions may include cognitive behaviour therapy which helps you to recognise and control your fears, modify your mindset, or desensitise you to anxiety triggers.

If you think you may have the symptoms of mental illness or want to find out more, you can visit sites like Singhealth and the Institute of Mental Health. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or know someone who is thinking about suicide, you can contact the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800-221-4444 for help.

The above medical information is from Singhealth, Singapore Association for Mental Health, Institute of Mental Health, Centre For Psychological Wellness and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.