Signs of Mental Illness


Mental illness was something that was a dark subject for many years. If a member of the family was mentally ill, they were either shipped off or kept secluded. It was considered a shame to have a member of the family mentally ill. Thankfully, time and education have removed much of the shame and secrecy associated with mental illness and families can and do seek appropriate help when necessary.

Mental Illness is a Disease

A mental illness is a disease that affects an individual’s ability to cope with the ordinary demands and routines of day-to-day life due to thought and/or behavior disturbances that run from mild to severe. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. A variety of symptoms signal problems, such as changes in personality, mood, personal habits as well as social withdrawal.

There are a number of catalysts for mental health problems. They may be related to excessive stress in a particular situation. Serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease can trigger mental illnesses, which are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Environmental stresses, genetics, biochemical imbalances or any combination of these factors can cause mental illness. The good news is that with proper medical treatment and care many people learn how to cope with the illness and many recover from mental illnesses.

Symptoms of Mental Illness

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a quirky personality and the symptoms of mental illness. It’s important to get help for a loved one suffering from a mental illness, but it may be hard to convince them they’re in need of help. Here are some of the hallmarks of mental illness so you can be sure you’re going in the right direction in urging a family member to seek help.

In an Adult

In an adult, you need to watch for one or more of the following signs:

· Significant change in personality

· Difficulty in coping with daily activities and problem solving

· Strange or grand ideas

· Inappropriate levels of anxiety

· Apathy and lengthy depression

· Sudden changes in sleep or eating patterns

· Periods of exultation followed by depression or apathy

· Drug and alcohol abuse

· Disproportionate displays of hostility, anger, or violence

· Any mention of murderous or suicidal intentions requires immediate attention from a mental health professional

Mental Illness in Children

In children the key is to look for many signs of troubling behavior. If only a few signs of troubling behavior are apparent, it may be helpful to talk to a teacher or concerned clergyman. However, if your child shows several signs of emotional difficulty, it’s best to have him evaluated by a mental health professional.

Signs to watch for are in a child:

· Seems unable to cope with his suddenly overwhelming feelings

· Cries often

· Asks or hints for help

· Appears preoccupied, tense, worried, anxious, sometimes exhibiting sudden phobias

· Fears seem unreasonable and may interfere with schoolwork and daily living

· Has difficulty concentrating on daily tasks

· School performance declines

· Teachers and other authority figures may inquire if something may be troubling your child

· Can’t master schoolwork

· Teachers suggest the possibility of a learning disability

· Loses interest in play

· Exhibits various forms of self-stimulation such as thumb sucking or masturbation

· Has little or no social interaction with peers

· Is fighting

· Begins to earn comments like: “this is an angry or disruptive child.”

· Prefers to be alone

· Displays low self-esteem, minimal self-confidence, and denigrates self

· Develops sleep issues

· When approaching puberty, may act in a sexually provocative manner

· Set fires

Serious warning signs may merit immediate consultation with a pediatrician or a psychiatrist. These symptoms include:

· Talk of suicide

· Child becomes accident prone

· Self-mutilation

· Child may mutilate or kill animals

· Eating habits change to the point that weight is affected

· Ritual behaviors are adopted indicating obsessive-compulsive disorder

· Attacks another child or adult

· Drug or alcohol abuse

· Sexual activity at a very young age

Mental illness is treatable and getting help sooner rather than later can make all the difference in the world to everyone concerned.


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