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Help raise awareness of mental health

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Mental Health Author: Ryan M. Engdahl, PhD, LP

Do you know the signs of a mental health condition? You know someone who has experienced it — one out of five American adults has and they may not be easy to recognize.

Every mental health condition has its own symptoms, but common signs may include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • 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 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 (lack of insight)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)

Behavioral symptoms in young children are the most obvious because they don’t know how to identify and talk about their thoughts and emotions.

Symptoms may include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (fighting to avoid school)
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Acting out, opposition, defiance or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Where to find help

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, one option is to reach out to your primary care provider. Treatments for mental health conditions vary by diagnosis and by person. There’s no “one size fits all” option. Treatment may include medication, counseling (therapy), social support and education. Your primary care provider can help you take the first step.