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How do I know if I have a mental health condition?

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Understanding what is considered “normal” mental health can be difficult. For example, when does nervousness turn into a phobia? When sadness turns into depression, which is a serious condition? A mental health professional can help you find out if you have a mental health condition. If so, treatment can help you feel better. People can recover from mental health conditions.

How do I know if I have a mental health condition?
If you are experiencing a change in your thoughts, behaviors, or mood that interferes with your work or relationships for more than 2 weeks, you may have a mental health condition. It can be difficult to tell if you have a mental health condition if you feel sad, anxious, or have other strong emotions most of the time. Many mental health conditions appear at a young age, usually before the age of 25.

Symptoms of a mental health condition can include extreme anxiety most of the time, feelings of hopelessness most of all, or alcohol or drug abuse.

If you have questions about your mental health, talk to your doctor or nurse, a mental health professional, or a loved one for help. If you have health insurance, this type of medical care may be referred to as “behavioral health” by your insurance plan. Many insurance plans call problems with drug or alcohol use “substance abuse services.”

Are mental health conditions medical problems?

Yes. Many mental health conditions are medical problems and they can have a great effect on your life as physical problems. Researchers know that the brains of people with mental health conditions work differently from others. Some mental health conditions are linked to higher or lower levels of certain chemicals in the brain. Events such as violence, abuse, and other traumatic experiences can make mental health conditions worse or difficult to control.

Many people with mental health conditions may be embarrassed to talk to a counselor, doctor or nurse about mental health or think it is a sign of weakness. However, mental health conditions are health problems just like physical illnesses, and seeking help when you really need it is a sign of strength. If you are concerned about your mental health, feel free to speak to someone or seek help .

What are the symptoms of a mental health condition?

Talk to a mental health professional if you experience:

  • Lack of interest in the things you used to enjoy
  • Crying fits
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Major changes in your diet or sleeping patterns
  • Inability to cope with problems or daily activities
  • More anxiety than usual about events or situations
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sudden changes in your personality, for no apparent reason
  • Inability to stop thinking about certain ideas or memories
  • Sadness for more than 2 weeks
  • Thoughts about suicide (call 911 if you are in immediate danger)
  • Alcohol or drug abuse, or illegal use of prescription drugs
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Violent behavior, or a lot of hatred or hostility
  • Hearing voices or seeing things that other people do not hear or see

How are mental health conditions treated?

Treatment for a mental health condition depends on the specific condition and how serious it is. Your doctor, nurse, or therapist may prescribe medication, or your doctor or nurse may refer you to therapy; both options can also occur. In very rare but serious cases when your life is in danger, such as a suicide attempt, you may need to stay in a hospital or other treatment center.

There are also different types of therapy for different types of mental health conditions. For example, phobias (fears of specific things or situations that cause a person to avoid daily activities) are treated differently from depression. Certain types of therapy can teach you skills to think or act differently.

Other types of supports that can help you include building life skills (such as finding a job or place to live), learning how to control your thoughts, eating healthy foods and exercising, finding a new community (such as a place of worship or a group of hobbies) and join support groups.

Sources: Sathyanarayana Rao, TS, Asha, MR, Ramesh, BN, Jagannatha Rao, KS (2008). Understand Nutrition, Depression, and Mental Illness . Indian Journal of Psychiatry.
Correll, CU, Detraux, J., De Lepeleire, J., De Hert, M. (2015). Effects of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers on the risk of physical illness in people with schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder . World Psychiatry.

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