Symptoms Of Mental Illnesses: Debunking Common Myths

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When you think of mental illnesses, chances are that the first thing that comes to mind is one of these common myths. But did you know there are many more potential symptoms for a variety of different conditions? In this article, we debunk each myth and provide some helpful tips about what to do if you notice any warning signs and feel like your mental health is at risk.

What are mental illnesses

Mental illnesses are serious, but not as uncommon as many people think. People who suffer from mental illnesses can still be successful in life and recover if they receive treatment. It is important to understand the symptoms of mental illnesses and what they can be treated with. The first step in treating a mental illness is recognizing it and seeking help.

What are Mental Illnesses?

Mental illnesses are medical problems that affect the brain, which control thoughts, emotions and behaviors. They are caused by both genetic and environmental factors; which include:

• Stress and anxiety (caused by external situations)
• Brain changes from trauma or injury ( caused by external factors)
• Prenatal damage to the developing brain

There are several different types of mental illnesses, which all have similar symptoms. These include: depression (a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy and changes in sleeping and eating habits), anxiety (extreme worry and fear that affects behavior), bipolar disorder (a mood disorder with periods of depression followed by periods of mania or excitement), schizophrenia (delusions and hallucinations) and eating disorders (such as bulimia and anorexia). A person with a mental illness may also experience paranoia (a feeling of being persecuted), as well as thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are the three most common mental illnesses.

What is a psychiatric emergency?

Psychiatric emergency is the term for a crisis situation that arises due to severe psychiatric symptoms. Severe symptoms can be sudden and unexpected, causing extreme distress to both yourself and those around you. E.G.: if you have a sudden episode of mania or psychosis, if you have feelings of overwhelming desperation about your mental health, or suicidal thoughts. How to tell when you need help? The symptoms and intensity of your mental illness may be different from those around you and the severity may increase suddenly. It is common for the first signs of mental illness to occur during adolescence or early adulthood, but it can also manifest in childhood. A psychiatric emergency is an extreme situation that requires urgent treatment due to the risk of harm to yourself or others. Signs of psychiatric emergencies include:

• Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts which could lead to death;
• Risks to other people such as threatening them or harming them;
• Violent actions against yourself or others.

What do I do if there is no-one around me that can help?

If you find it difficult to reach out for help and don’t know what else to do, try these steps:

• Make sure you are safe (i.e. call the police or lock yourself in a room). Then, write down what you are feeling and thinking about.
• Seek medical help: go to your nearest hospital and tell them that you need urgent mental health treatment. They will give you a referral to a psychiatrist for assessment.
• Your GP can also refer you directly to specialists at the Maudsley Hospital (Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience), Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RY. You will be assessed by a psychiatrist. They will ask you questions about your mood, thoughts, and behaviour.
• Please also make a copy of this leaflet and give it to your doctor or therapist. This explains Bipolar Disorder and how it can be treated in more detail.
• Talk to your relatives, friends and work colleagues about what has happened and how you are feeling; if anyone is concerned for your safety, encourage them to call the police or ask a family member to check on you daily.

What is a mental illness diagnosis

Mental illness is not just a label. A diagnosis doesn’t tell the whole story; it’s just the beginning. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a list of all mental disorders, but these diagnoses are created to help doctors and psychiatrists administer treatment, not to help you understand your own experience with mental illness.

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