What You Need to Know About Mental Illness
Many people with a mental health disorder don't get treatment. They may think it won't
help. Or they don't recognize the symptoms. Others may not be able to afford or access
treatment. The social stigma of mental illness also stops people from getting help.
This often means symptoms that get worse. In some cases, it leads to suicide.
Mental illnesses are as real as diseases, such as heart disease or cancer. Understanding
that mental illness isn't a weakness or a character flaw helps people get help.
Some of the more common mental health problems include:
Anxiety and panic disorders
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Mental health problems may be passed down through the family. Or they can occur because
of abnormal brain chemistry, substance abuse, or in response to traumatic events or
an abusive environment. In other words, a mental illness isn't the fault of the person
Learning symptoms of mental illness can help you recognize when you or a loved one
need help. Symptoms include:
Feeling sad, burned out, or useless. Everyone feels down from time to time. But if that emotion continues for more than
2 weeks and you also have feelings of guilt and hopelessness, it could mean you're
depressed. Severe and persistent symptoms are what distinguish depression from normal
sadness and mood changes. Other symptoms of depression are sleep problems and loss
of self-esteem. And not enjoying things you once did.
Ongoing worries and fears. People who have unrealistic or extreme anxiety and worry about life circumstances
could have an anxiety disorder.
Sudden, intense anxiety, fear, or panic. Heart palpitations, chest pain, feeling smothered, dizziness, trembling, and faintness
can be signs of panic disorder.
Unexplained physical symptoms. Ongoing physical symptoms can signal emotional upset or stress overload. These symptoms
include headaches, stomachaches, and chronic pain (especially backaches) with no clear
Chronic fatigue and lack of energy. When your body can't handle emotional overload, it can shut down. Feeling too tired
to do the things you used to love can be a sign of emotional distress or depression.
Staying away from other people. Spending all your time alone instead of with friends or family could be a sign of
stress overload, depression, anxiety, or a social phobia.
Intense mood fluctuations. A sign of bipolar disorder could be behavior that varies between high energy, reduced
need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality, to depressive behaviors. These include
sadness, low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. During
the high energy period, or mania, high-risk behaviors, such as gambling, overspending,
drug abuse, and high-risk sexual activity can occur. Suicidal thoughts can also occur.
The length of time between cycles varies by individual. And so does the seriousness
of the cycles.
Other symptoms of mental health problems include:
People who have emotional disorders don't have to suffer alone. They can get effective
help. It's very possible to heal the mind with therapy and support services. Don't
be afraid to ask for help. It's a sign of strength, not weakness.