Am I Mentally Ill? Characteristics of Common Mental Illnesses

am i mentally illWith all the stressors of everyday life, it can be difficult to separate symptoms of mental illnesses from everyday anxiety and paranoia. Most people will exhibit some of the symptoms of many different mental illnesses throughout the course of their life – but this does not mean that everyone is mentally ill. In many cases, a certain number of symptoms must be present for a certain amount of time before a patient can be properly diagnosed.

Depression

If something goes wrong in life, such as losing a big competition, suffering through heartbreak or losing a loved one, many people can spiral into depression. While many symptoms of depression can pop up when life throws us curveballs, there are people who suffer from these symptoms without some sort of catalyst. Think about a previous heartbreak or loss of a pet; think about how you felt on that day and the weeks or months afterwards. Now imagine feeling like that constantly, even when nothing goes wrong. In order to be diagnosed with depression, you must be exhibiting at least three of these symptoms for an extended period of time:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Chronic fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of helplessness and worthlessness
  • Either excessive sleeping or common insomnia
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Either overeating or lack of appetite
  • Feeling of being empty, anxious or sad
  • Easily irritated
  • Thoughts of suicide

There are two different types of depression: major depression and chronic depression. Major depression severely interferes with the patient’s ability to function in every day life. They find it difficult to eat, maintain relationships, work, and participate in hobbies that they once enjoyed. Chronic depression is characterized by two or more years of a depressed mood, although this depression is less severe than major depression. Those with chronic depression are constantly down, although it doesn’t affect their everyday life as severely.

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Anxiety

am i mentally illTrying to get good grades, figure out what your career path will be, who you’re going to marry and where you’re going to end up in life is enough to give anyone debilitating anxiety. It’s very common to feel anxiety when you’re facing the unknown. While many people experience anxiety on a weekly or even daily basis, those with generalized anxiety disorder suffer from it even more severely. Imagine trying to enjoy a nice day in the park, yet your senses are alert for danger for no particular reason. In order to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you must have these symptoms:

  • Constantly worrying for no particular reason
  • Trembling, sweating or having hot flashes while worrying
  • Constantly feeling on edge or restless
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing tensed muscles
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

At least three of these symptoms must be present for at least six months before you can be properly diagnosed. Anxiety is an umbrella term that houses other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and other specific phobias.

  • Panic disorder is characterized by the repeated experience of panic attacks. In many cases, feelings of anxiety persist between attacks. These attacks come out of nowhere and are usually not caused by any particular experience.
  • Those with social anxiety disorder suffer from a persistent fear that they will embarrass or humiliate themselves in a social setting. They may realize that they have an irrational fear of social interactions, but they cannot do anything to assuage their anxiety. This can severely affect their ability to hold a job, maintain relationships or complete school.
  • Specific phobias may be something that you are familiar with. Are you terrified of dogs, or spiders, or swimming in the ocean? Those who suffer from specific phobias have a constant fear of running into that which they are afraid of, so much that they often may refuse to leave their house in fear of running into their phobia. Even if the person recognizes that the fear is unreasonable, they cannot shake the nervous feeling.

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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression. These mood swings can last for days, weeks or even months, and are much more extreme than slight shifts in mood that humans experience on a day to day basis.

Mania is defined by extreme feelings of creativity, euphoria and energy. Often the feeling is so wonderful that many people don’t attribute it to any sort of mental disorder. Unfortunately, these feelings can quickly spiral out of control. Manic episodes can quickly lead to excessive gambling, physical fighting and reckless sex. Those in a manic state may feel invincible, leading to many bad decisions that can negatively affect their relationships, careers and even life. Bipolar depression is much like major depressive disorder, with feelings of worthlessness and helplessness combined with an overwhelming sadness and fatigue.

Bipolar disorder is separated into three distinct types: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cycloclythmic disorder. Bipolar I is the most intense form, with symptoms that are much more severe than the other two types. Mania is most common, although in most cases also includes at least one episode of depression. Bipolar II is less severe, with one or more episodes of depression alternated with hypomania – a less severe type of mania. Often people with Bipolar II disorder are misdiagnosed with depression, due to the fact that hypomanic episodes can feel normal. Cycloclythmic disorder consists of recurring mood swings between hypomania and mild depression. Those with cyclothymic disorder are not free from symptoms for more than two months at a time.

Do you feel as though you are suffering from constant mood swings?

Am I Mentally Ill?

Do you fit the symptoms of any of these common mental illnesses? Even if you have experienced many of these symptoms at various points in your life, you cannot be diagnosed with any of the above disorders without experiencing a handful of symptoms for an extended period of time. Do you feel as though you are constantly depressed, anxious, or fluctuate between mania and depression? If you are worried about the state of your mental health, you should consult a professional. A therapist can help determine whether the symptoms you are experiencing are part of normal everyday emotions or are the result of an underlying disorder. If you do have a mental illness, there is help out there for you. If you or a loved one is suffering from any of these symptoms, don’t wait to contact a professional and start the path to recovery.