Recognizing mental illness

Recognizing mental illness

General opinion and believe is that mental illness is rare and it happens to few people. It is not true. Mental disorders are common and widespread conditions. Many times, recognizing mental illness is difficult. Conditions like cancer, diabetes, kidney problem, heart problem can be diagnosed. Diagnosis of mental illness depends on the observations, manual and other criteria.

Most families cannot accept the fact that someone in family is suffering from mental illness. It is hard for people to  see the loved one suffering. But, there is always hope and help for such conditions.

A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbance in thought and behavior. It results I an inability to cope up with life’s regular demands, structure and routines.

There are more than 200 classified form of mental illness. It includes:

Depression, ADHD, Anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, borderline personality disorder, Psychosis, Eating disorder, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), Schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia  etc.

There is not any easy test that can let someone detect if there is mental illness. It might have caused by situation related to stress, hereditary or series of events. People feel stressed out due to conditions like cancer, diabetes or chronic pain. Or it might be due to environmental stress, genetics, biochemical disorders in the system or combination of all these. With treatment individuals learn to recover or cope up with emotional disorder.

How to recognize mental illness?

Each mental condition has its own symptoms, but the common symptoms in both adults and adolescents include the following:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Symptoms in younger children is most obvious in their behavior.  Symptoms in children may include the following:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits

Certain health conditions are more often related to mental illness: Suicidal thought, anosognosis, dual diagnosis, self-harm and sleep disorders.

Receiving a diagnosis: Learning, understanding, knowing and observing warning signs can help an individual and immediate family to speak to a professional. As mentioned above unlike other body conditions there is no medical test that accurately diagnose mental illness. The list of criteria in the study manual helps professional to detect and diagnosis.  They will develop a treatment plan based on the diagnosis. Based on the severity of the symptoms they may recommend therapy, medication, life style changes or any other type of treatment including online therapy. After diagnosis, a health care provider can help develop a treatment plan based on these diagnosis that could include medication, therapy or other lifestyle changes. These diagnosis can vary from person to person.

How to cope up with individual who has mental illness?

  • Break the stigma of mental illness. Accept the person and find a way to cure. Talk to mental health professional.
  • Discuss about such behavior of individual with professional help like – quiet or withdrawn from social activities, anxiety, outburst of anger, anti-social behavior. This may help you to develop a strategy for coping.
  • Establish a support network – If you cannot discuss with other family members, find a self help or support group. They listen and might offer advice.
  • Seeking counseling – Therapy is beneficial for both individual and family members. A mental health professional can suggest ways to understand illness better and suggest ways to cope up with.
  • Take time out – Attending constantly on someone who is suffering from mental illness is frustrating and one might get angry. Schedule time for yourself and help yourself to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step. If you know your family has history of mental illness talk to your doctor. Seek support, talk to your friends whom you trust, talk to your siblings or family members. Express yourself. There are people around you who will always listen and come to help.


  • Image credit: Photo by Haidar Rais on Unsplash

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: October 13, 2017

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