A common stereotype of mental illness is of someone speaking to imaginary beings or acting irrationally in public, not considering the effects of their behavior. Although these can be indications of a mental health problem, some other signs of mental illness are not so visible and may be hidden beneath a charming smile and clever conversation.
Mental health issues exist everywhere and affect all kinds of people, from the most to the least apparent cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five people will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder at any given time. They also suggest that half of us will experience a mental health problem at some point. With so many people experiencing mental health issues, it helps to be able to recognize the signs and know what to do if someone needs help.
Common Mental Health Issues
Considering the alarming statistics, we must approach mental health problems with empathy, compassion, and, most importantly, education. First, it’s essential to consider that there are many different types of mental health issues. Some of these have a significant genetic component, meaning they’re present since birth or are hereditary, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia. Some can develop throughout life and have a prolonged influence on behavior, such as personality disorders. Others can also develop throughout life but have an episodic or limited impact on a person—meaning they can come and go under different circumstances and even be overcome completely. However, if untreated, they can have a significant widespread effect on a person’s well-being.
Here are some common mental health disorders you should know about:
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States of America, as nearly two-thirds of people diagnosed with mental health conditions have anxiety. This is an emotional state in which you have thoughts or ideas that make you feel nervous, uneasy, or scared or prevent you from concentrating on your everyday tasks. Types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This is when a person experiences chronic and excessive worry that’s out of proportion to the actual stressors in life. There may also be physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. In severe cases, people can experience panic attacks that seem to come out of nowhere but originate from fear-based thoughts in their minds.
- Panic disorder: Occurs when someone has regular panic attacks and other symptoms such as sweating, trembling, or shortness of breath during periods of extreme anxiety. People with this disorder may also avoid places where they’ve had previous episodes because they’re afraid it will happen again.
- Social anxiety disorder: People with social anxiety disorder feel intensely worried about being judged by others for their appearance and performance at work, school, or other activities where there’s a chance for social interaction. They might also avoid these situations altogether if possible because their discomfort makes them feel physically ill just thinking about them.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes extreme sadness and loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy. Depression can be biologically based or situational, but you should never feel bad or ashamed about having it. Depression affects millions of people every day, but this doesn’t mean they’re weak or damaged. It simply means they’re human beings living with a health condition that can be treated and, in many cases, permanently healed.
An eating disorder is characterized by abnormal eating habits, which can cause or be related to physical and psychological problems. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. People with eating disorders may experience extreme weight loss or gain as well as changes in their physical health and body shape.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after someone has gone through a traumatic event. The trauma could be from several sources, including war, abuse, and accidents. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, severe anxiety, and feeling “on edge” all the time.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
SUD is a condition where individuals can’t stop using a substance despite its adverse effects. This usage is described as uncontrolled and intense, to the point where it interferes with their capacity to function in daily life, and they can’t stop using the substance even if it’s causing or will cause more problems.
7 Common Signs of Mental Health Disorders
Being diagnosed with a mental health disorder is hard. But it is also difficult to take the first steps to recovery. Healing begins with recognizing the signs that indicate you might have a problem and looking for help to get a diagnosis. Signs of a mental health issue could look like:
1. Difficulty sleeping
Disrupted sleep or sleep deprivation could show up in different ways. Having trouble falling asleep, waking up and being unable to fall asleep again, or waking up unusually early in the morning could be a sign of a mental health issue, such as anxiety.
2. Excess sleeping
Anything in excess can be harmful, whether too little or too much. Excess sleeping, the opposite of difficulty sleeping, could also signify a mental health issue, such as depression. It could mean your body is exhausted or burnt out, maybe after not doing much during the day, though it is primarily looking to rest. Or it could be a sleeping disorder that requires medical attention.
3. Low energy
People facing mental health problems often experience tiredness and low energy. It may sometimes be harder to focus, follow discussions, or think on your feet when you feel this way. It can even happen that you no longer have enough energy to participate in activities you usually enjoy. Consider talking to your doctor if you lack the energy to get out of bed, shower, or do any routine and relatively easy activity.
4. Loss of joy without apparent reason
Sadness is part of life, and it’s normal to have a bad day occasionally. However, suppose you feel unhappy without experiencing any recent loss or going through any significant life changes and no longer enjoy engaging in activities you used to love. That could be an indicator that something is wrong with your mental health.
5. Irritability or being more emotional without apparent reason
Just like sadness, experiencing anger, irritability, feeling snappy or frustrated, and any negative emotion is absolutely normal. However, these feelings can be a sign of a mental health problem when they occur more frequently and are triggered by simple situations. Some mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, make emotional self-regulation harder. This can make a person more sensitive or reactive than usual.
6. Change in appetite
Someone struggling with mental health may also experience a lack of appetite or engage in binge eating. This could be because the person has a distorted body image or lacks the energy to eat, or because binge eating comfort food offers temporary relief from negative thoughts and emotions. If you notice someone’s weight has drastically changed over a short period, it may be time for them to look into mental health treatment.
7. Becoming physically ill or declining health
Mental health issues can also cause physical health problems, such as stomachache, accelerated heart rate, dizziness, headache, or even a cold. When physical symptoms appear suddenly or after an emotional situation and have no other known medical explanation, they may indicate that your mental health is compromised.
It’s Ok to Ask for Help
Feeling down doesn’t mean you’re defective. It only means that you’re going through a difficult time and may be dealing with a mental health problem, which is common and treatable. Talking to your family or friends can help if you are struggling mentally, but the best treatment is to speak to a specialist. If you think you may be experiencing a high-impact disorder or recognize any of these signs in yourself, reach out to a medical health expert as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Irene Rondón is a Venezuelan writer with experience in both English and Spanish. Besides writing blogs, she also enjoys copywriting for branding and marketing, such as branding proposals, email campaigns, websites, and more. When she’s not writing blogs and copy, she’s writing songs and working on her music project, or finding delicious recipes with the best superfoods to cook for friends and family.
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