by Sarah Bond
Living in a Western society, it is considered part of our yearly routine to visit our primary care physician, dentist, and optometrist for yearly check-ups. While the aforementioned doctors are important and play an active role in managing our health, it is crucial that we do not minimize the significance of other medical professionals, such as those in the field of mental healthcare. Unfortunately, there are many people who are living with distressing symptoms without an awareness that they are afflicted with a mental disorder.
A mental illness can be defined as a “health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior (or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning” (NIH, 2005, p. 1). According to the NIH (2005), approximately one in four Americans are known to be impacted by mental illness. Thus, it is likely that either you or someone close to you has suffered from the symptoms of a mental illness in some way. Data indicate that mental disorders account for four of the 10 most predominant causes of disability in America (National Institutes of Health, 2005).
While the symptoms vary in intensity from one person to another, ranging from mild to severe, they cause unnecessary problems for people that can be managed or treated with appropriate care. Thus, it is critical to raise awareness about mental healthcare, so that more individuals will take action and seek the care from mental health professionals that can alleviate unnecessary distress from their daily lives. Although mental disorders each have their own set of specific symptoms, the NIH (2005) has created a list of “general warning signs” that can be used as a guide to help you determine whether someone should seek professional help (p. 1).
“Warning Signs” from the NIH (2005):
- Marked personality change
- Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
- Strange or grandiose ideas
- Excessive anxieties
- Prolonged depression and apathy
- Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Thinking or talking about suicide or harming oneself
- Extreme mood swings—high or low
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behavior
If you or a loved one has experienced any of the previously mentioned “warning signs,” or if you are interested in learning more about your current state of mental health, then contact a local mental healthcare professional. If you are in the San Diego area and would like to speak to a professional at CSAM who specializes in stress and anxiety problems, please contact us.
National Institutes of Health. (2005). The science of mental illness. Retrieved from http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih5/mental/other/copyright.htm