Mental health disorder encompasses a wide range of mental conditions that affect an individuals mood, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. On the contrary to what many people believe, mental health conditions are not rare, but widely prevalent among Americans. Just as people suffer from physical illness, they are equally prone to have mental health issues.
An estimated 26% of Americans 18 years and older — one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders.
Some of the most common mental health disorders include anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), and schizophrenia. Such disorders can significantly disrupt an individual’s ability to function normally, interfere with their ability to work, study, or even prevent them from maintaining a quality of life, affecting their overall well-being.
According to Medicinenet, the five major warning signs of mental health disorders are as follows:
- Anxiety or excessive paranoia.
- Chronic sadness or irritability
- Extreme mood fluctuations
- Isolation or social withdrawal
- Drastic changes in eating or sleeping pattern
Usually, it’s not a single change, but a combination of signs and symptoms, which may vary, depending on the mental disorder and severity of the condition.
When to seek professional help
The following signs, as stated by the American Psychiatric Association, are not aimed at diagnosing mental health disorders, but rather to provide adequate information about your concerns. If several of the following are noticeable, it is advisable to seek help from a mental health professional.
- Sleep or appetite changes: Dramatic changes in sleep and appetite pattern or negligence of personal care
- Mood changes: Drastic or rapidly shifts in emotions or depressed feelings
- Withdrawal: Sudden social withdrawal and loss of interest in cities enjoyed previously
- Drop in functioning: An unexpected decline in performance at school, work or social activities(drop in grades, loss of interest in sports or difficulty in performing familiar tasks).
- Cognitive impairment: Problems with cognitive functions like memory or logical thought, concentration and speech that are difficult to explain
- Increased sensitivity: Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, smell or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating conditions
- Apathy: Loss of drive or interest to participate in any activity
- Feeling disconnected: A feeling of being detached from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality(when everything seems unreal and kind of dream; often seen in people struggling with severe trauma, anxiety, depression)
- Illogical thinking: Abnormal or exaggerated beliefs about one’s powers to explain meanings or control or impact events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
- Nervousness: Anxiety or being suspicious of others or a strong timid feeling
- Unusual behavior: Bizarre, odd, abnormal behavior
“One or two of the above symptoms alone cannot predict a mental health disorder, but may suggest a need for further investigation. If a person is experiencing many symptoms at one time and the symptoms are creating serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, they should consult a physician or mental health professional. High priority should be given to people with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others and they need immediate attention and intervention,” According to the American Psychiatric Association.
There are certain factors that raise a person’s chances of developing mental health disorder. Some of them are:
- A history of mental illness within family
- Severe psychological or physical stress due to difficult situations in life such as financial difficulties, unemployment, loss of a loved one, or a divorce
- Traumatic events such as sexual violence, war
- Childhood experiences of bullying, abuse, or neglect
- Chronic health conditions, especially diseases that cause chronic pain, and illnessesthat disrupt quality of life, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia.
- Traumatic injury to the brain
- Alcoholism and/or drug abuse
Don’t hesitate to seek help if you or someone you know needs help. Learning more about your mental health is a crucial first step. Identifying warning signs can help you know if you need to seek professional help.
With @School, it is now possible to identify individuals at risk with a wide range of psychological screening assessments. Our professionals can help with better treatment planning, thereby minimizing or preventing the risk of an individual developing a diagnosable mental health disorder.
You can also reach out to your primary care doctor or state/county mental health authority for more resources.