Sourced by: Choma Magazine ( – HIVSA Project

It’s been said that one in three South Africans experience mental illness, yet there are many people who suffer in silence. Because there is a stigma around mental illness, some people are afraid to talk about it and so they never get the help they need. Do you know anyone who has a mental illness choma? Or do you think you might have one yourself?

Mental illness isn’t necessarily something that you can see and so not many people recognize how important it is to treat. However, just like physical illness, mental illness requires treatment. Having a mental illness is not wrong or shameful so no one should be afraid to talk about it. Getting the help you need will help you to live the life you deserve.

To help you understand mental illnesses choma, here are the most common mental illnesses in South Africa.

Major depressive disorder 

Major depressive disorder (MDD) – also known as major depression, clinical depression or unipolar depression – is a disorder where the person feels low all the time.

People who suffer from MDD usually struggle with concentration, anxiety, experience feelings of worthlessness (sometimes having suicidal thoughts), sleep too much or have trouble sleeping.

Treatment: Once a healthcare professional has diagnosed you with MDD, they would recommend treatment such as an antidepressant. They would also suggest psychotherapy, behavioral or cognitive therapy, or talk therapy, to help you deal with your emotional state.


Claustrophobia is the fear of small spaces. While it is normal to feel scared when you’re trapped or if you’re in a small space and there is danger, if you’re claustrophobic you would feel fear even if there is no real danger.

When you’re claustrophobic you go out of your way to avoid small spaces like lifts, public toilets, shop changing rooms and tunnels. People who are claustrophobic also often experience panic attacks when they are in situations where they feel trapped.

Symptoms of a panic attack include dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pains.

Treatment: Some people who are claustrophobic simply try to avoid places that might bring on panic attacks. If you’re claustrophobic or if you’re suffering with panic attacks, speak to your doctor who could help you with medication and/or recommend a mental health professional who could help you recover.

Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a disorder where your moods are severely affected. People with bipolar disorder often experience extreme highs (full of energy, overjoyed, feelings of being invincible), known as manic episodes and extreme lows (feeling sad, depressed, hopeless), known as depressive episodes.

Treatment: People with Bipolar disorder are usually treated with mood-stabilising drugs and/or antipsychotic drugs – which are drugs meant to control the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

Treatment: Antipsychotic medication is usually prescribed for someone with Schizophrenia. This medication is used to help control the symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Eating disorders 

Eating disorders relate to extreme disturbances in eating behaviour, and include anorexia (where someone stops eating entirely because of body dysmorphic behaviour; they have an unhealthy body image), bulimia (a person with bulimia also has an unhealthy body image and a desire to lose weight. Overeating through binge eating is usually followed by self-induced vomiting or not eating at all) and binge-eating disorder (where someone eats an unusually large amount of food and can’t stop eating).

Treatment: Depending on your type of disorder, treatment could include a combination of psychological counseling, nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medication.

Mental Illness, in whatever form, should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know might be struggling with a mental illness, visit SADAG (The South African Depression Group).

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