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Mental illness is hypernym that encompasses a wide range of distinct diagnosable mental health ailments, disorders, diseases, and conditions, and is characterized by a “clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior… [and] it is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.” Mental illness can present in a variety of ways, and it can be challenging to tell the difference between expected behaviors and potential signs of a mental health condition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the manual that is most commonly referenced and used by mental health clinicians for the assessment and diagnosis of mental illness, as it is an aggregate of all recognized mental health disorders. Although each mental illness has distinct characteristics, there are several general warning signs of which to be aware. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides the following list of common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling overly sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits (e.g., 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 do not exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior, or personality
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes

Everyone is unique and will show symptoms differently, often in direct relation to age, biological makeup, and type of mental health disorder. More than a decade of research has shown that early intervention can often minimize or delay symptoms, reduce the severity of an illness, and improve prognosis.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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