Warning signs of mental health issues

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From Metro Creative Services

A 2017 study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that 792 million people across the globe lived with a mental health disorder. If that figure is startling, it’s likely even greater as a result of the pandemic.

Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated that about four in 10 adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. That marked a significant uptick since the summer of 2019, when one in 10 adults reported such symptoms.

The pandemic undoubtedly posed significant challenges that affected the mental health of people across the globe. But those challenges won’t necessarily go away if and when life returns to pre-pandemic normalcy. Nor is there any guarantee that new challenges that pose a threat to individuals’ mental health won’t arise in the years to come. That reality underscores the importance of learning to recognize signs of mental illness in both adults and children.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that each mental illness has its own symptoms, so anyone concerned about their own mental health or the health of a loved one can speak with a mental health professional for more information. In the meantime, the NAMI notes that these are some common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents.

• Excessive worrying or fear
• Feeling excessively sad or low
• Feelings of confusion or difficulty concentrating and learning
• Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
• Prolonged or significant feelings of irritability or anger
• Avoiding friends and social activities
• Difficulty understanding or relating to other people
• Changes in sleeping habits or feelings of fatigue and low energy
• Changes in eating habits, such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
• Changes in sex drive
• Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
• Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality. Some individuals experience a lack of insight known as anosognosia, which NAMI describes as unawareness of one’s own mental health condition.
• Overconsumption of substances such as alcohol or drugs
• Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes, such as headaches, stomach aches and vague and ongoing aches and pains
• Suicidal thoughts
• Difficulties handling daily life, including an inability to carry out activities or handle problems and stress that arises each day
• An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Pre-adolescent children also can experience mental illness, which can manifest itself through these symptoms:

• Changes in academic performance
• Excessive worry or anxiety. Some children may fight with parents to avoid going to bed or school.
• Hyperactive behavior
• Frequent nightmares
• Frequent disobedience or aggression
• Frequent temper tantrums

Individuals who are experiencing any of these symptoms or those who recognize them in loved ones, including children, are urged to contact a health care professional, including their general physicians, who may be able to recommend a mental health specialist. More information is available at www.nami.org.

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