October is recognized as National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, which makes this month a great time to check in with your knowledge on the statistics, signs, and symptoms of mental illness, plus to reflect on your own mental health.
October 10, 2013 is specifically set up as the day for mental health screenings. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression October 10, and the entire month of October, is a great time to find out what you are living with and what you can do to reduce the effect depression, and other mental illnesses are having on your life.
You can begin the process by checking out www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org. With the online tools and self-assessments, you can find out your mental health status, and what further information or help you may need, for yourself or for a loved one.
Statistics on Mental Health
According to the National Institute on Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov), each year 26.2% of all adults living in the United States are suffering from symptoms that could be diagnosed as a mental illness. 22.3% of these mental illness cases are classified as severe, which means that almost 6% of our country’s adult population is feeling the effects of depression, anxiety, a personality disorder, a mood disorder, bipolar disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, schizophrenia, or a combination of mental illnesses that need to be treated.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness
Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings.
Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex.
Fatigue and decreased energy.
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping.
Overeating, or appetite loss.
Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts.
Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
More than a fear of speaking in public or a first date.
Last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated.
Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread.
Drugs and alcohol are being used to self-medicate.
Other Mental Illnesses:
Bipolar Disorder is characterized by intense “mood episodes” where a person drastically goes from a sad, down, and depressed state, up to overly excited and overly joyful state.
Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed when a person demonstrates 5 of the following symptoms:
Extreme reactions to abandonment, whether real or perceived.
A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation).
Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self.
Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating.
Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting.
Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days.
Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom.
Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger.
Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has 3 clusters of symptoms:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms
2. Avoidance symptoms
Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience.
Feeling emotionally numb.
Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry.
Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past.
Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms
For other mental illnesses not listed here, check for symptoms at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/index.shtml.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When anyone is suffering from a mental illness, proper identification and treatment is necessary for management of symptoms and to prevent an illness from getting worse.
Dual diagnosis is also a concern. The symptoms of two mental illnesses can be affecting the same person. Someone will clinically diagnosable depression may also be self-medicating with alcohol to the point where a trained professional could dually diagnosis this individual with depression and alcohol dependence (which is the same thing as alcoholism.) In many cases of Borderline Personality Disorder, an eating disorder can also be diagnosed along with substance abuse disorders. In these examples, and many other possible combinations of disorders, getting treatment for all symptoms, at the same time, is of the utmost importance.
This month, let’s each take this opportunity to learn more about mental health and to check in with ourselves, and one another, to ideally decrease the number of people who are living with a debilitating and untreated mental illness.
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