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Exploring Mental Health Conditions|depressed woman|woman sleeping on couch during the day|woman with eating disorder|upset woman|people consoling each other

Health & Wellness

Mental Health Conditions: Warning Signs, Early Diagnosis, and Treatment

As the medical community makes further advances into the study of human life and good health , the connections between physical and mental health become increasingly apparent. There was a time when mental health was a taboo subject and getting qualified help was tantamount to running off and joining the circus.

Not only has the science of mental health made dramatic progress since this time, but the stigma associated with mental health has been all but lifted. Today, we are much better about exploring the possibilities of mental illness and the connections between mental health and the capacity to live an optimal life. 1

Mental health today is a major concern with the international suicide rate climbing by 60% over the last 50 years. 2 Modern lifestyles and social demands have now filtered down to younger members of society. Children, teenagers, and young adults are operating with premature thought processing because the brain is not even fully formed until the age of 25. 3

Increased awareness of the need to care for the mind leads to greater liberty and mental freedom for those suffering conditions to step forward and seek help. Early treatment is crucial in catching mental health conditions before their pervasive effects begin to interrupt social relations, professional positions, and even good health.

depressed woman


Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Issues


Mental health is a lot like physical health in many ways. For example, the common cold affects everyone and is not a sign of poor health. But, over 5 devastatingly bad colds in a year can be a sign the physical health is low and maybe professional health is needed. 4

Much in the same way, people have thousands of different ways of acting and reacting to the ups and downs that life brings to everyone. But, when do thought processes and behaviors become signs of mental illness? In all honesty, there is no simple answer for this and psychologists and psychiatrists will invest years and small fortunes into gaining a better perspective on this question alone.

But, there are some telltale signs that someone is struggling with a mental illness and we will explore 9 important things to look out for in the following section.

It is important to remember that mental conditions are highly individual and none of these signs should be used to diagnose yourself or your friends and loved ones. Actually, some of these symptoms may just be benign personality traits. But, if you notice dramatic behavioral changes or more than one of the following symptoms, it may be a good time to seek mental health assistance.

Persistent Feelings of Worry and Anxiety


It is natural to be worried and concerned in this tumultuous modern age, but stress and anxiety is something to keep close tabs on. In a perfect world, stress would be experienced occasionally and quickly reversed. Too much stress can begin to cause physical symptoms of anxiety, like tapping fingers, shortness of breath, headaches, heart palpitations, and bowel conditions.

Depression or Decreased Motivation


Sadness is another condition common to all but when the individual seems or feels powerless to escape the doldrums, this could be a sign that little help is needed. Depression can cause appetite loss, irritability, boredom, emotional outbursts, and a lack of interest in things that one normally finds captivating. If symptoms like this persist for more than a few weeks, it could be depression.

Emotional Outbursts


People will be happy, sad, angry, passionate, and empathetic all the time. But, when these emotions are let loose with wanton abandon in moments of anger, excitement, sorrow, fear or distress, it could be a sign of poor emotional health and the need for attention.

woman sleeping on couch during the day


Irregular Sleep Habits


One of the primary places where poor mental health will manifest itself is in sleep habits. It takes a quiet, peaceful mind to enjoy high-quality restful sleep. Things like stress, depression, and anxiety often make themselves apparent in the wee hours of the night when one is left with nothing but their mind. Sudden changes in sleeping habits, either sleeping too much, too little or with erratic schedules can be indicative of mental illness.

Weight or Appetite Changes


Another place the conditions of the mind have full sway is over the regularity of the appetite. Stress is the “fight or flight” energy-mode that prepares the body for action and inhibits the appetite. This is contrary to the “rest and digest” energy-mode that allows for optimal appetite and digestive functions. When eating habits begin to change weight gains and losses are often the result.

Sudden Social Withdrawal


Some people are naturally what the Germans call “einzelgänger” and prefer a life of solitude to the high-excitement of social scenes. But, even the lone wolf needs their special connections to share life, keep the crisis in perspective, and feel a part of humanity. When a person suddenly begins to withdraw from their social life, it could be due to some emotional or mental struggles. Refusing to join in regular social activities accompanied by anxious or depressive behavior is a symptom that something could be amiss.

Substance Abuse


Addictive disorders are one of the most common types of mental illness. It is common to think of drugs, alcohol, and painkillers to be the primary addictive substances, but the threat is much larger. Even innocuous things like shopping , sugary-foods, caffeine, and online gambling can begin to affect the mind and regular life. There is a point where the balance must be found for good mental health to be cultivated.

Feelings of Guilt and Self-Loathing


When plagued with thoughts like “I’m so stupid”, “Why did I do that?” or other self-deprecating notions, some might think self-criticism is common to all. The truth is using negative tones and sharp words when faced with failures and natural human error is a sign that self-esteem is low and emotional states are highly vulnerable. In conditions like this, the mind is very susceptible to depression and self-damaging thoughts.

Subtle Changes in Behavior, Performance or Personality


Sometimes mental health conditions are well-hidden behind professional exteriors, positive attitudes, and disciplined commitment. But, their effects can still be felt in more subtle changes in thinking, performance in various areas of life (professional, academic, athletic, etc.) or even just thought processes and perspectives. Again, mental health is not always about “fixing” a problem, sometimes it can help to fine-tune thought processes and re-examine health levels for optimal performance. 5 , 6

6 Common Types of Mental Illness


The mind is the central processing unit for the way we view and perceive our world and react accordingly. When it is suffering an illness, our behaviors and psychological patterns can be altered to any degree. Some of these mental illnesses are fairly common and even predominant in western society, others are not quite as common.

The medical community generally refrains from making any distinctions between which are the “common” or “uncommon” mental illnesses. But they do tell us that the risk of Stendhal Syndrome, which can cause anxiety in the presence of fine art and picturesque natural surroundings, is so rare that most mental health physicians will never see such a case. 7

Mental health experts go on to extol early diagnosis and treatment in addressing any of the common types of mental illness. 8 , 9

woman with eating disorder


1. Eating Disorders


Emotions, experiences, and attitudes all impact eating habits and weight levels. A large number of factors contribute to the formation of the two major eating disorders. This includes genetic predisposition, psychological conditions as well as physical and social factors. 10

  • Bulimia nervosa

  • Anorexia Nervosa


2. Personality Disorders


Personality disorders is a term given to a variety of non-standard personality traits that can cause issues with close relations and begin to affect performance in academic and professional surroundings as well. These disorders are characterized by thinking patterns and behavioral patterns that are very different from society. Personality disorders include paranoias, antisocial disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and more. 11

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies personality disorders in clusters: 12 , 13

Cluster A Personality Disorders – Bizarre, eccentric, odd

  • Paranoid

  • Schizoid

  • Schizotypal


Cluster B – Dramatic, erratic

  • Anti-social

  • Borderline

  • Narcissistic


Cluster C – Anxious, Fearful

  • Avoidant

  • Dependent

  • Obsessive-compulsive


upset woman


3. Anxiety Disorders


Anxiety disorders can cause an individual to think and behave in ways that are not appropriate for the situation and this can greatly affect day to day life. The symptoms of anxiety disorders typically include the racing heart, sweaty palms, erratic breathing, and lightheadedness. These are typically caused by environmental, developmental, genetic and psychological conditions. 14 , 15

  • Phobias

  • Panic Disorder

  • General Anxiety Disorder

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder


4. Addiction and Impulse Control Disorders


10% of Americans suffering from mental illness have addictions and impulse control disorders. 16 Sometimes these activities are only harmful to the self, as in alcohol and substance abuse. But other times they can include violent outbursts, theft, and arson. Chronic stress and feelings of neglect and traumas can increase the risk of addiction and impulse control disorders. 17

  • Kleptomania

  • Pyromania

  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder –– road rage, domestic violence, tantrums, etc.


5. Psychotic Disorders


Psychotic disorders are characterized by distorted awareness and thought processes. They will often believe they are seeing, hearing, feeling or otherwise experiencing things despite all evidence to the contrary. These delusions and hallucinations can be caused by more serious health conditions such as brain tumors, as always early diagnosis is key to recovery. 18

  • Schizophrenia

  • Post-Partum Psychosis


6. Mood Disorders


Mood disorders directly impact the way a person feels and experiences elements of their life, such as places, people and situations. This can often lead to great fluctuations between emotional extremes. It is estimated that 10% of the population experiences a mood disorder during the year. Those suffering from mood disorders may also be irritable, lethargic, restless or isolated. 19

  • Depression

  • Bipolar


people consoling each other


Increasing Awareness of Mental Health Conditions


The important thing to take away from this concise overview of mental illness is that awareness and increased mental health is the final goal. By taking a healthier approach to the topic, more people will be encouraged to step out from the confines of mental illness and seek help.

Photo credits: AfricaStudio/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com, VGstockstudio/shutterstock.com, Photographee.eu/shutterstock.com, Chanintorn.v/shutterstock.com, Chinnapong/shutterstock.com

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