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Published on May 25, 2021

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

Have you ever had chills, a stuffy nose, a sore throat, a cough, or perhaps even a fever? More than likely you must have experienced at least some of these symptoms at one time or another in your life. You knew that you were sick, perhaps with a common cold, maybe the flu, or possibly a viral infection of some sort.

Either way, no matter what the diagnosis might have been at the time, you didn’t feel well, and therefore, you probably took some form of action to help alleviate the symptoms so that you could feel better, perhaps some medicine, followed up with maybe a little chicken noodle soup, a glass of orange juice, and some bed rest. Nevertheless, when it comes to seeking treatment for symptoms of mental illness, there seems to be a big difference between the way that we look at healing the body and the mind.

First of all, there are some common stigmas associated with mental illness. People, in general, seem to have a hard time admitting that they are having a problem with their mental health.[1]

We all want our social media profiles to look amazing, filled with images of exotic vacations, fancy food, the latest fashion, and of course, plenty of smiling faces taken at just the right angle. There is an almost instinctive aversion to sharing our true feelings or emotionally opening up to others, especially when we are going through a difficult time in our lives. Perhaps it has something to do with the fear of being emotionally vulnerable, open, and completely honest about our true inner feelings—perhaps we just don’t want to be a burden.

Additionally, throughout history, many people with mental illness have been ostracized and subjugated as outcasts. As a result, some may choose to avoid seeking help as long as possible to elude being ridiculed by others or presumably looked down upon in some way. Furthermore, rather than scheduling an appointment to meet with a board-certified psychiatrist, many people find themselves self-medicating with mood-altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol to try and cope with their symptoms.[2]

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We all want to have a sound mind and body with the ability to function independently without having to depend on anyone—or, for that matter, anything else for help. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, you may just have to find the will and the way to reach out for help before the symptoms become unmanageable.

Lastly, although we may all have the ability to gain insight into any given situation, it’s almost impossible to maintain a completely objective point of view when it comes to identifying the depth and dimension of any of our own symptoms of mental illness given the fact that our perception of the problem may in fact be clouded by the very nature of the underlying illness itself. In other words, even though symptoms of mental illness may be present, you may be suffering from a disorder that actually impairs your ability to see them.

As a professional dual-diagnosis interventionist and a licensed psychotherapist with over two decades of experience working with people all over the world battling symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse—combined with my own personal insight into the subject, perhaps now more than ever—I am confident that you will appreciate learning how to recognize a variety of symptoms associated with some of the most common types of mental illness.

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent flashbacks and nightmares associated with previously experienced or witnessed life-threatening or traumatic events.[3] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • recurrent and unwanted memories of an event
  • flashbacks to the event in “real-time”
  • nightmares involving the trauma
  • a physical reaction to an event that triggers traumatic memories
  • avoiding conversation related to the traumatic event
  • active avoidance of people, places, and things that trigger thoughts of the event
  • a sense of hopelessness
  • memory loss related to traumatic events
  • detached relationships
  • lack of interest in normal daily activities
  • feeling constantly guarded
  • feeling as if in constant danger
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • being easily startled
  • insomnia
  • substance abuse
  • engaging in dangerous behaviors

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent unwanted thoughts followed by urges to act on those thoughts repeatedly.[4] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • anxiety when an item is not in order or its correct position
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if doors have been locked
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if electronic devices and appliances have been turned off
  • recurrent and frequent fear of contamination by disease or poison
  • avoidance of social engagements with fear of touching others.
  • hand-washing
  • counting
  • checking
  • repetition of statements
  • positioning of items in strict order

3. Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent depressed mood that impairs the ability to function. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

4. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that may be characterized by uncontrollable mood swings ranging from severe depression to extreme mania. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

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Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • easily distracted
  • racing thoughts
  • exaggerated euphoric sense of self-confidence
  • easily agitated
  • hyperverbal
  • markedly increased level of activity
  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

5. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a thought disorder characterized by a breakdown between beliefs, emotions, and behaviors caused by delusions and hallucinations.[5]  The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • delusions with false beliefs
  • hallucinations with a false sensory perception
  • disorganized thought with a meaningless unintelligible pattern of communication
  • disorganized behavior with catatonic appearance, bizarre posture, excessive agitation
  • flat affect
  • lack of eye contact
  • poor personal hygiene

6. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat and excessive exercise. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • extreme loss of weight
  • emaciated appearance
  • eroded teeth
  • thinning hair
  • dizziness
  • swollen extremities
  • dehydration
  • arrhythmia
  • irritated skin on knuckles
  • extreme food restriction
  • excessive exercise
  • self-induced vomiting
  • excessive fear of gaining weight
  • use of layered clothing to cover up body imperfections

7. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight due to a distorted body image where large amounts of food are consumed and then purged. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • self-induced vomiting
  • consuming abnormally large amounts of food with the intent to purge
  • the constant fear of gaining weight
  • excessive exercising
  • excessive use of laxatives and diuretics to lose weight
  • food restriction
  • shame and guilt

Final Thoughts

From bipolar disorder to bulimia, major depression to dysthymia, there is a mental health diagnosis to fit any combination of symptoms that you may be experiencing. There are also a variety of corresponding self-assessment tests circulating all over the internet for you to choose from.

However, if you are looking for a proper diagnosis, I strongly suggest that you make an appointment to meet with a well-trained mental health professional in your community for more comprehensive and conclusive findings. Similar to cancer, early detection and treatment may significantly improve the prognosis for recovery.[6] And like I said, it’s impossible to be completely objective when it comes to self-diagnosing the condition of your own mental health or that of a loved one.

Furthermore, although the corner pharmacy may have plenty of over-the-counter medications that claim to help you fall asleep faster and even stay asleep longer, at the end of the day, no medication can actually resolve the underlying issues that have been negatively impacting your ability to sleep in the first place.

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Just like in business—and in the immortal words of Thomas A. Edison—“there is no substitute for hard work.” So, try to set aside as much time as you can to work on improving your mental health. After all, you are your most influential advocate, and your mind is your greatest asset.

More Tips on Mental Wellness

Featured photo credit: Sydney Sims via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Evan Jarschauer

Professional Mental Health Interventionist & Licensed Psychotherapist

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Published on May 19, 2021

How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19

How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19

How unpredictable our lives indeed are? In the last year, life, as we know it, has snowballed at a rapid rate into the unexpected, uncertain, and unimaginable chaos it is today. So much has changed for people across all walks of life since March 2020, and with the skyrocketing daily cases reported in India’s second wave and the accompanying rise in deaths, it looks like we have a long battle ahead of us. It’s becoming harder to imagine a life after COVID-19.

The widespread nationwide lockdowns, system-wide complacency, and the lack of healthcare infrastructure have caused irreversible damage and unimaginable horrors. Markets are crashing, and businesses are floundering. Families struggling to find necessary medical intervention or just to keep food on the table are bitter realities we are forced to face today.

But there’s an invisible crisis unfolding that’s hardly spoken about. While everyone is busy dealing with the gross physical consequences of the pandemic, there is a hidden impact that could cause a heavier toll over time. That is the crisis of deteriorating mental health during the pandemic—a concern that’s only worsening with negligence as the battle against COVID-19 prolongs.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Everyone

The current pandemic could leave generations mentally scarred for the rest of our lives. Frontline workers who took the oath to treat the ill to the best of their abilities face trauma like no other. From dreaming of saving lives to triaging and deciding who gets to live, these COVID warriors will carry a heavy emotional burden even after the pandemic.

For our parents, this is a fearful time. COVID-19 and the news of death all around them act as a constant reminder of their own mortality. The world they knew and the people who gave them familiarity is shrinking.

On the other side, it is a lethal cocktail of overwhelm, anxiety, fear, and insecurity for the younger working-class professionals. Most professionals are at the edge of their sanity with endless paranoia about job loss and its consequences. The fear of what tomorrow will bring and the uncertainty make them lose their sleep today.

And for those reasonably secure about their jobs, there’s a constant sense of overwhelm, dread, lack of inclination, focus, and concentration to deliver on their responsibilities. How much does what most of us do as work really matter when there are more pressing life-threatening issues to worry about?

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For entrepreneurs and risk-takers, the pandemic is a grim reminder of the fragility of their enterprise. The levels of uncertainty, the mounting pressure to support their employees and suppliers, continuously changing statutory rules and regulations—all leave a business owner gasping for air as they run around and manage multiple responsibilities with little or no support.

For children growing up in this climate, their innocence is lost much earlier than it should have. Children mature faster in these times. Moreover, children today are growing up wholly cut off from peers and could grow up to be even lonelier a generation than today’s Gen Z.

Young adults with a memory of a pre-covid world are in no better position as they struggle with the uncertainty of their future life after COVID-19. With universities shut, job market opportunities slim, and continuous peer pressure thanks to social media, the last 12 months have been taxing for these youngsters.

We Are in It for the Long Haul

While no one can say how many more waves COVID-19 has in store for us, the emotional toll of this pandemic is becoming costlier with every passing day. Vaccines might buy us some time in the interim. However, it looks like COVID-19 is here to stay for a few years until scientists find a foolproof cure for all possible virus mutations.

In the meantime, emotional resilience is the need of the hour. Adults need to be continuously mindful of their mental health and take action or preventive steps to damage control and provide necessary love, attention, and emotional support to near and dear ones to limit the consequences.

How to Mentally Prepare for a Life After COVID-19

Here are a few ways we could build emotional resilience and better prepare ourselves mentally for life after COVID-19.

1. Acceptance of the New Reality

To begin with, all of us need to grieve the loss of life as we knew it and bury the dreams of what we had planned for the next few years. We need to confront the new reality and accept it totally. Complete acceptance requires letting go of thoughts like “what if,” “I wish,” “if only,” “it should be,” or “must have been.”

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We need to accept our new reality as is—a reality filled with uncertainty, fear of infection, and a sketchy future. A lot of us believe acceptance as meek, passive, and an act of the weak, but it’s quite the contrary. Acceptance requires tremendous courage to face the harsh realities of the current circumstances.

2. Process It, Don’t Numb It

We all love running away from our emotions. We’d rather overlook, neglect, ignore, or numb the feelings because, let’s be honest, we don’t know how to deal with them.

Today, we are dealing with a tsunami of emotions, and we have no idea where to begin. How does one work through the pile without crumbling under the weight of all these emotions?

And so we look the other way. We pretend that these feelings do not exist. We binge-watch Netflix, or worse, turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. But that doesn’t resolve it. It’s only temporarily forgotten like the waves crashing and receding back to the ocean. But the waves return, and so will these emotions—they will come back and come back with more force than ever.

So, don’t neglect it, process it. Share what you’re feeling with friends and family who can provide a non-judgmental ear. If not, reach out to mental health helplines, counselors, and therapists to process the emotions and ease the pain.

3. Seek and Provide Emotional Support

Make sure to check in with how your loved ones are doing. Go a few steps beyond “How are you doing?” to really know if they are doing okay. Ask them how their mental health is in these times. Are they sleeping okay? How are they coping with the uncertainty and fear?

If they open up to you, hold space and lend a listening ear without judgment. Don’t rush to share your stories or offer unsolicited advice. Let them know you’re there for them and that it’s okay to seek professional help if they cannot cope.

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However, remember that this is not a one-way street. While you make yourself available for your loved ones, make sure you seek help and support when you need it. Don’t try to be a super savior neglecting your needs.

Like Bill Wither’s song goes:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong,
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long, Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride, If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill, Those of your needs that you won’t let show.”

4. Stay Connected With Your Tribe

I firmly believe in the power of the collective. Whatever your tribe is—whether it’s a subgroup of work colleagues, an art class gang, workout buddies, fellow entrepreneurs in a networking group, or the extended family of friends and cousins—support and seek support from the collective and find some solace during these times.

There’s a great relief in knowing you’re not alone, particularly when we are distanced from the people we love and restricted from doing things we love.

Leverage technology to at least keep the conversations going. Zoom sessions to the rescue! Be it creating art together or coming online to break a sweat and burn those calories, make sure to stay connected with your tribe, especially as you envision life after COVID-19.

5. Make Time to Create Moments of Joy

While the battle against the virus might feel disheartening, it is essential to cultivate practices that give us joy—whether it is that meditation in the darkness and quiet before the sunrise, that cup of coffee on the balcony, journaling thoughts and emotions, completing a crossword puzzle, a Schitt’s Creek or Office watch party, Facetime video calls with the family, or the weekend zoom game nights with friends.

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Engage in activities beyond the constant COVID talk that give you moments of joy even in these times of crisis. It might be the little things, but they can help preserve your sanity and restore mental balance.

Is It All a Loss?

We all stand to lose something as we defend humanity against this deadly virus. Many of us will grieve the loss of loved ones and seek to fill a void that can never be filled, and almost all of us will leave a part of ourselves behind because life will never be the same again.

As the saying goes, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

But it’s not all bad.

Final Thoughts

I firmly believe that the pandemic will also be a time of awakening, where we finally open our eyes to what truly matters as we long for life after COVID-19.

Maybe, once the pandemic is behind us, we will find more joy in the everyday things we took for granted. The morning rush to get kids ready for school, the commutes to work, boring office parties, conversations by the water cooler, and weekends.

We will probably be more grateful for the freedom to hang out with friends, visit our parents, or take a vacation. We will be more present and create lasting memories from simple birthday celebrations with friends to our big fat Indian weddings. We will love more, laugh more, and cherish more.

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Featured photo credit: Kate Trifo via unsplash.com

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