We have been taught to pay attention to signs that our physical health might not be at the level it should be and take action. However, when it comes to mental health, we are not always clear on what potential red flags we need to be aware of. Knowing the warning signs of a possible mental health disorder can lead to early treatment, and a better prognosis.
You are tired and depressed – but do you have clinical depression? Your close friend is often feeling stressed and overwhelmed – but is it related to an anxiety disorder? Your partner can’t seem to focus – do they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? As discussions around mental health continue to become more open and accepted, it is common to begin to question what is “normal” behaviour and what might be related to a mental health condition.
Understanding some of the key differences between normal variances in emotional responses to stress and symptoms of an underlying health disorder can help clarify what’s behind these feelings, and what type of action you should take in order to get your mental health back on track.
First Things First: What is a Mental Health Disorder?
A mental health disorder is a condition that affects your feelings, moods, and behaviour. For about 50% of people, symptoms of a mental health disorder will be evident by the age of 14, and about 75% will have an established condition by the time they reach 24.
The causes of mental health disorders are linked to a variety of factors, including family history, genetics, individual brain chemistry, life experiences, and environmental exposure to stressors, alcohol, drugs, or toxins before birth. Additionally, other situations can increase the risk of developing a mental health disorder, which include:
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Shared family history of mental illness
- Brain injury
- High-stress life events, such as divorce or loss of a loved one
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Chronic medical conditions
- Previous mental illness
- Isolation or few close relationships
Mental health disorders can have serious negative impacts on a person’s quality of life, affecting one’s ability to form healthy relationships, hold down a job, and relate well to the world around them. Left untreated, mental health disorders can also take a physical toll, and contribute to heart disease, weakened immunity, and other medical issues. This is why knowing the warning signs of a mental health disorder and seeking treatment early is essential in maintaining good health.
Warning Sign 1: Showing Symptoms Linked to Mental Health Disorders
Understanding what some of the general symptoms of mental health disorders are can be a good first step in beginning to assess whether this may be behind what you or a loved one is experiencing. While there are many types of mental health disorders, all with specific sets of symptoms, there are some broad indicators that not all is well mentally. These can include:
- Rage, either unexplained or excessive
- Disorganised thoughts, confusion
- Extreme emotions, either heightened or depressed
- Loss of interest or motivation
- Substance abuse or behavioural addiction
- Hallucinations (may be tactile, visual, or aural)
- Having thoughts, perceptions, or ideas that don’t align with reality
- Lack of care to personal hygiene and grooming, or cleanliness in living space
- Significant changes in sleeping or eating habits, or sex drive
- Feeling persistently sad or irritable
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Worrying or fear that is out of proportion
- Unexplained, chronic physical ailments
- Suicidal thoughts
It is important to note that many of these symptoms can also be linked to other issues – changes in medication, periods of unusually high stress, or major life events can also impact feelings, behaviour and mood. However, if you’re noticing some of these symptoms accompanied by the other warning signs listed below, it may be time to seek out a professional opinion.
Warning Sign 2: Behaviours and Feelings are Disruptive to Daily Life
Any time someone’s behaviour, feelings, or moods are causing lasting and significant problems in their life, this should be an immediate sign that a mental health condition could be at play. For example, it is one thing to have a quick temper, but another if the outbursts are often resulting in the termination of employment or personal relationships. It is normal to check the locks before bed, but is it part of a routine that cannot be altered no matter the circumstances? Anxiety is certainly a part of life, but is it preventing you from getting your work done or engaging socially with friends?
If someone’s efforts to manage what they might refer to as “habits,” “issues,” or “personality quirks” are unsuccessful, this can indicate that what is happening is beyond individual will, and is related to an underlying mental health disorder that needs professional treatment.
Warning Sign 3: There is No Apparent Reason Behind the Feelings and Behaviours
If you’ve just been through a tragic or traumatic event, it is normal to feel different waves of intense, new emotions. For example, grief at the loss of a loved one can bring deep, uncontrollable feelings of sadness and anger. While it is important to closely monitor mental health during these times and reach out for support if needed, strong emotional responses to such life events are often part of the healing process as we reconcile what has happened.
If you or someone you love are feeling extreme emotions, or cycling between emotions with no apparent stimuli, then this can be a possible sign of mental illness. Paying attention to potential triggers for a change in moods and behaviour, as well as whether the shifts seem cyclical, can help a professional be able to discern what might be going on.
Reaching Out: Treatment for Mental Health
Today there are a number of treatments available for those living with a mental health disorder. Ranging from psychotherapy, to support groups, to medications, to alternative care, professionals can help their clients decide which method or combination of methods might be most effective.
Treatment settings can also vary, with people typically considering either outpatient or inpatient care. While outpatient care is usually close to home and can be easily worked around busy work and family schedules, inpatient or residential treatment offers full, focused attention to the mental health disorder in an environment free from stressors and triggers. If you are considering seeking treatment, it can be helpful to talk to a mental health specialist to weigh your options and decide what is best for you and your unique needs.
Healing Minds at The Dawn
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab we offer a Mental Wellness Programme for individuals displaying moderate symptoms and who are diagnosed to still be in the early stages of a disorder. Our programme has been specially designed to help clients feel better almost immediately, gain a deeper understanding of their symptoms, and learn skills to effectively manage their condition. We work with each client to develop a personalised treatment plan that targets not just the mind, but the body as well, incorporating proven wellness practises such as yoga, meditation, and fitness training along with the latest technologies and effective psychotherapeutic techniques.
To learn more about how we can help create a treatment plan that works for you.