Most people know it’s a good idea to see the dentist for a toothache or a doctor for the flu, but many of these same people allow signs of mental health problems to go unchecked in themselves and others. This decision to ignore mental health is often unintentional. Perhaps you aren’t aware of how many people are affected, don’t understand the subtlety of the symptoms or have been influenced by the unhealthy stigma that those with mental health symptoms should “power through” to show strength.
In truth, mental health conditions affect a large percentage of the population, many of whom are undiagnosed. These conditions can have signs that are easily missed or attributed to other causes, leaving the person affected to push through each day and ignore the discomfort and frustration. Recognizing mental health warning signs early can ensure swift treatment, improving outcomes and allowing anyone with these conditions to have greater control over their lives.
How Common Are Mental Health Issues?
If you’ve never faced the diagnosis of a mental disorder, it can be easy to assume that the issue is limited in scope and doesn’t affect you. Even if you know someone with a mental illness, there are likely a few others in your circle who either chose not to disclose their condition or are among the many who live without a diagnosis. Perhaps you’ve struggled in some area of your life and wondered whether your mental health is a contributing factor.
In the United States, around 1 in 5 adults live with some degree of mental illness. This translates to over 40 million adults who cope with the daily challenges brought on by these disorders.
This number jumps to 1 in 4 when looking at adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18. The high volume of people experiencing mental health symptoms suggests that most Americans are affected by these conditions in some way.
Recognizing the Signs of Mental Health Problems
One of the major complications of identifying mental health disorders is the frequency with which they present as other conditions. In many cases, a person faced with mental health warning signs may postpone seeking appropriate care because the symptoms can point to something else.
This issue is further complicated when you consider that diagnostic tools for mental health issues rely on self-reported symptoms rather than a definitive lab test. If we examine a few common mental disorders and the diagnostic criteria, it’s easy to see how you may attribute symptoms to something other than mental health.
- Depression: The CDC reports that 8.1% of adults over 20 years old experienced depression between 2013 and 2016. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, concentration issues, fatigue, irritability, weight loss, muscle pain and sleep disturbances.
- Hypothyroidism symptoms: fatigue, sadness and concentration issues
- Type 2 diabetes symptoms: weight loss and irritability
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: sleep disturbances and muscle pain
- Anxiety: Anxiety disorders affect around 18% of adults and often present with feelings of impending doom, rapid breathing and increased heart rate. Malaise is a medical condition that involves uneasy feelings and may indicate an underlying health issue. Rapid breathing and a raised heart rate can be attributed to heart problems or the heart’s response to a serious medical condition.
- ADHD: The hyperactivity and reckless behavior associated with ADHD is often met with the belief that the individual lacks care for others. Difficulty in social interactions, such as talking over others and inappropriate comments, can be misconstrued as poor manners.
These shared warning signs can sometimes lead a general practitioner down the wrong diagnostic path, ignoring mental health possibilities and delaying necessary treatment. It’s also important to note that many people may share some symptoms but to a much lesser degree. Due to this, someone with depression may be encouraged to “change their perspective” or “kick themselves out of it.” This can reinforce the narrative that the person is failing by choice and needs to try harder.
When Should You Be Alarmed?
Early detection of mental health issues allows you, or someone you know, the opportunity to prevent the condition from worsening and greatly improves financial and housing stability. It also has a positive impact on the overall cost of care and can prevent patients from attempting to self-medicate through substance abuse. Knowing when to solicit help is a critical component in addressing signs of mental health problems.
Mental illness warning signs can be difficult to identify because they are often things we all experience in our daily lives. It’s normal to feel anxious or sad sometimes. However, when those feelings begin to affect your ability to function or are accompanied by irrational and intrusive thoughts, it’s time to consider mental health conditions.
Even common mood swings can be a symptom when they happen at regular intervals and seemingly without cause. It’s important to rule out any underlying medical conditions initially, but definitely, don’t ignore mental health as a potential factor.
Seeking Help Is Critical
If you are experiencing the warning signs of a mental health condition, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. This can be more difficult if you see possible symptoms in someone else because some may be resistant to therapy options. Remember that therapy is beneficial even for those who don’t have a mental disorder, and critical self-evaluation is healthy for everyone.
Making the decision to explore treatment options offers the opportunity to understand your disorder. This can relieve you of any guilt you may feel about the impact symptoms have had on your life. Accepting treatment after a diagnosis can help you take your life back and ensure you don’t become one of the 20-25% of homeless individuals with severe mental illness.
Mental illness also plays a large role in criminal behavior, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. Establishing a relationship with a qualified professional ensures you have the support you need to maintain your quality of life and prevent negative outcomes.
Treatment provides resources to give you confidence as you navigate your life with your new diagnosis. It can be powerful to finally understand the cause of your frustrations, but it can also be confusing to weave the information into your identity. Having an ally who understands your experience can help ease this transition.
FHE Health Can Help
If you’ve detected possible early warning signs of mental illness in yourself or others, FHE Health has the staff and experience to help you take your life back. Our counselors are available at any hour to provide compassionate guidance toward a future with you in control of your destiny.
We offer full-service mental health rehabilitation programs to ensure we can meet all your needs. Call our helpline at (833) 596-3502, and we’ll develop a customized treatment plan to get you back on the road to recovery.