What are the signs and symptoms?

A mental health disorder is a condition that substantially affects a person’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. The negative impacts caused by a mental health problem can accumulate and begin to hinder a person’s ability to relate to others and function from day to day. On top of that, mental illness refers to a wide range of specific conditions, and each individual case will have a set of unique experiences.

In order to make any progress in diagnosing a mental health disorder, it is crucial to identify the behavioral, emotional and psychological symptoms that distinguish one condition from another. Pinpointing these telltale signs early can also translate to significant differences in a treatment’s prognosis and outcomes.

Common disorders and their symptoms

  • Bipolar Disorder: Also known as manic-depressive disorder, this condition is characterized by swinging episodes of intense mood and energy, critically affecting one’s functional capability in performing everyday tasks. These sweeping states of emotion and activity can range from immense excitement to intense sadness.
    • Manic episodes are defined by aggressively fast speech patterns, a lack of sleep, the inability to maintain focus and restless, impulsive behavior which can lead to multiple, simultaneous activities.
    • Depressive episodes consist of noticeably diminished interest or pleasure in most to all daily activities, drastic changes in appetite and weight, prolonged feelings of fatigue and recurrent thoughts of worthlessness, death or suicide.
    • There are also distinctions between bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder. These subdivisions and their diagnosis criteria vary in the severity, frequency and duration of one’s shifts in mood and energy.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders include bouts of extreme behavioral disturbances such as stress and fear and disproportionate emotional reactions to real or perceived imminent threats. The all-encompassing symptoms include restlessness, heart palpitations, nausea and muscle tension. The specific disorders are as follows:
    • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) consists of prolonged and persistent feelings of worry and anxiousness lasting six months or more. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, unease and frequently clenched fists or jaws.
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition developed from excessive trauma, usually triggered from a traumatic event in the person’s life. Therefore, signs of this disorder include an avoidance of triggering situations or memories of the traumatic stimulus.
    • Panic disorder includes bouts of extreme anxiety due to prompting situations such as separation or other stressful situations, usually resulting in intense and incapacitating states called panic attacks.
    • Specific phobias are intense responses of stress and fear associated with a specific object or situational stimulus. Treatment may vary depending on the particular fear and there are cases of having multiple phobias.
  • Depressive Disorder: Depression is a debilitating condition that affects a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. The defined list of criteria that constitutes having the disorder includes a subjective report of low self-esteem and mood, significant deficits in interest or pleasure for activities, drastic shifts in appetite or weight, chronic sleeping problems, persistent fatigue, observable psychomotor dysfunction and recurrent thoughts of worthlessness, death or suicide. This category of disorder includes but is not limited to:
    • Major Depressive Disorder: In the case that symptoms impact a person’s life more intensely and acutely, this major type of depressive dysfunction is displayed by the severe onset of saddened and psychologically lethargic symptoms that last over two weeks, also known as major depressive episodes. If these episodes become persistent, the full-blown disorder has most likely developed.
    • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): Compared to the marked mood shifts of major depression, dysthymia is a much more long-term condition that can range from two years to the entirety of someone’s life. Although the number of symptoms may be fewer, this variant is by no means a weaker disorder. Problems eating, sleeping, concentrating, performing activities and other psychological disarray may occur, and if left untreated, these dysfunctions can pile up and incapacitate an individual over time.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: The characteristic symptoms of OCD are the presence of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and persistent thoughts, images or urges. These thoughts can range from feelings of contamination to violent or horrific ideas. Compulsions, or rituals, are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that are usually in response to the person’s particular obsessions. The individual feels driven to perform these acts, such as washing or counting according to personal rules that must be applied rigidly.
  • Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a characteristically amorphous disorder that includes a wide spectrum of types and severities. Fortunately, commonalities between cases are associated with certain cognitive and behavioral features. The first is the existence of persistent, illogical ideas that are not swayed by conflicting evidence, also known as delusion. Hallucinations are similarly illogical perceptions, displayed both aurally or visually, that involuntary occur within a person’s mind. Overall, an individual’s thoughts can be highly disorganized. Behavioral symptoms include similarly disorganized motor activity, catatonic demeanor, repeated or stereotyped actions and a host of forced facial arrangements.

Other general symptoms of mental disorders

  • Irrational fears
  • Frequent irritability
  • Extreme or rapidly changing emotions
  • Social isolation
  • Trouble sleeping or restlessness
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • A significant shift in diet or appetite
  • Thoughts of helplessness or suicide

If you think you have any of these symptoms it is important that you find help as it may indicate you are struggling with a mental health disorder.

Advances in the technological and mental health fields have resulted in more effective response services and treatment programs. Getting the support you deserve is just a simple call or click away. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, California Mental Health Helpline is here for you. To reach a member of our team please call 855-559-3923 for more information.

Do you think you have any of these symptoms? It could be serious.