Updated: Jul 18
Mental health disorders are common and can affect anyone, no matter their age. It’s believed that as many as 54 million Americans suffer from a mental disorder every year. It can be difficult for families to accept that a loved one has a mental illness. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder, know that there are many resources available to help.
What is Mental Illness?
No doubt you’ve heard a lot about mental illness, but how much do you really know about it? A mental illness is a disorder that affects the thoughts and behaviors of an individual and can make it difficult to cope with day-to-day life. There are currently over 200 different types of mental illness. Some produce more mild symptoms, while others can be more severe and debilitating.
Common forms of mental illness include:
You may start to notice personality or mood changes in someone you love. They may also change their habits or seclude themselves from social interactions.
Mental illness can be caused by severe stressors, including death, divorce or job loss. It may also be caused by a genetic component, chemical imbalance, or a combination of all of these. Fortunately, with proper treatment, those with a mental illness can often learn to cope with their disorder and lead a healthy life.
The Warning Signs
It can be challenging to determine whether someone you love is dealing with mental illness, particularly in young children and teens. Here are some of the most common symptoms.
Adults and Teens
Persistent sadness or irritability
Extreme anxiety or fear
Having extreme emotional highs and lows
Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
Inability to cope with daily life
Older Children and Pre-teens
Vandalism, theft or defying authority
Intense or unpredictable mood swings
Outbursts of anger
A change in sleeping or eating patterns
Inability to manage responsibilities at school or home
Poor school performance
Extreme fear or anxiety
Changes in sleeping or eating habits
Frequently being disobedient or angry, or throwing temper tantrums
Mental illness affects everyone, not just the individual. Families can find the support and care they need through both family and individual counseling.
How Can Your Family Physician Help?
Not only is your family doctor likely to be the first medical professional who identifies that an individual is experiencing the symptoms of a mental illness, but they may also be able to provide referrals, help you build a treatment plan, or even have a mental health professional on staff. Never hesitate to bring up any unusual symptoms you or a loved one are experiencing with your primary care physician – even if those symptoms are mental, not physical!