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Common signs of mental illness

Accepting and dealing with a mental illness is difficult, especially when it affects a loved one. With a vast array of treatment options and plenty of trained professionals available, identifying a problem and accepting the impending challenges account for the hardest part of the battle.

If you suspect that someone in your life may be struggling with a mental illness, but don't know where to begin, know that you're not alone. While signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, there are several broad indicators that can signify some type of struggle.

The following symptoms for each age group could be warning signs of a deeper issue, according to the Mayo Clinic:

Adults: Prolonged depression, sadness, irritability, excessive fears, worries and anxieties, social withdrawal, anger, delusions, inability to cope with daily problems or activities, denial of obvious problems, substantial changes in eating or sleeping habits, substance abuse and confused thinking.

Young adults and pre-adolescent children: Substance abuse, inability to cope with problems, changes in sleeping and eating habits, complaints of physical pain, defiance of authority, theft, vandalism, petty crime, fear of weight gain, prolonged negative mood, and/or frequent anger outbursts.

Younger children: Frequent nightmares, persistent temper tantrums, persistent disobedience, hyperactivity, poor school performance and excessive anxiety.

If someone in your life displays these symptoms, they may be suffering from a larger problem or an undiagnosed mental illness. While you will need a physician's help to correctly diagnose the illness, you can read about the symptoms of common mental illnesses in preparation for approaching your loved one.

Common Mental Illnesses and Disorders

Depression: One of the most common mental illnesses, depression occurs in more than one in 20 Americans over the age of 12 at any given time, as announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Its visible symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, overeating or under-eating and excessive sleeping.

Psychological symptoms, when shown outwardly, include frequent switches from sad to calm to happy; talking about death; making comments about being worthless, hopeless or helpless; giving away treasured possessions; tying up loose ends or sporadically visiting or calling loved ones.

Variations of depression include other mood disorders like mania and bipolar disorder, and manifest with many of the same symptoms. Depression and mood disorders carry a high risk of suicide. If your loved one displays these symptoms, do not delay in getting help.

Anxiety disorders (PTSD or OCD): Post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are two of the most common anxiety-based mental illnesses.

According to the Mayo Clinic, persons suffering from PTSD will typically relive their traumatic event, avoid situations that remind them of the event and display excessive emotion or affection in everyday life.

Persons suffering from OCD will engage in the same activities over and over, such as washing, cleaning, counting, maintaining order or checking things repeatedly. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable with help from trained professionals.

Addiction Disorders: Substance abuse as characterized by alcohol or drug addiction is a serious issue.

Individuals who hide their drinking, drink in order to relax, continue drinking despite blatant issues or danger, or need a drink to get through the day, should seek help immediately.

According to the Mayo Clinic, those addicted to drugs will become pre-occupied with making sure they have the drug, go to great lengths to get it, spend money they don't have on buying it or rely on the drug to get through daily life. These addictions are treatable. Drug and alcohol abuse centers can treat your loved one and put them on the path to recovery.

The first step in helping your friend or family member battle their disorder is acceptance and diagnosis. Once you recognize the symptoms, you'll be in a position to help them overcome the disorder, which often requires the care of a licensed pyschiatrist or mental health professional.

If you or a loved one live near Greater Indianapolis, Angie's List provides listings for Indianapolis psychiatrists who may be able to help diagnose and treat a mental illness.


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