Learning to recognize the early signs of mental illness can reduce their severity. Formal therapy can help individuals deal with these issues while working towards a healthy future. Mental health problems can include a variety of conditions. Trying to distinguish normal and predictable behaviour from early signs of potential mental health problems is not always easy. There is often no established way to screen for a person’s mental health problems.
Identifying early signs of mental illness in adults
Early signs and symptoms of mental health problems can vary depending on the specific illness, individual circumstances, and other environmental factors. These problems often affect how a person feels, thinks, and behaves. Although these features are specific to adults, some features may overlap with younger groups as well. Possible early symptoms in adults may include:
- Inexplicable sadness
- Distractibility or difficulty concentrating
- Extreme fear, anxiety, or strong feelings of guilt
- Severe mood swings or violent ups and downs
- Away from friends and family
- Extreme tiredness, low energy, or trouble sleeping
- Inability to cope with everyday problems and stress
It is usually not a single sign but can be a group of signs that indicate a psychological problem. These symptoms can also manifest physically. This can include stomach pain, back pain, headaches, and other types of pain.
Identifying early signs of mental health problems in older children and adolescents
It is important to note sudden changes in thinking and behaviour, especially in older children and adolescents. These outbursts or behavioural inconsistencies may indicate a deeper problem. Early signs that teenagers and older children may be developing mental health problems include:
- mixed thinking
- chronic depression (sadness or irritability)
- You experience strong emotional ups and downs
- Social exclusion
- Inability to cope with increasing problems and daily activities
- suicidal thoughts
- Many unexplained physical ailments
Sometimes adults can compare a teenager’s behaviour to their behaviour at that age. This is not ideal these days as social norms are changing; the process can make parents anxious and detached from their children.
It should also be noted that the above symptoms are not the result of recent drug use or another medical condition, but rather should be self-reported and considered possible indicators of mental health issues. However, drug use problems can indicate psychological problems.
Identifying early signs of mental health problems in young children
Young children can also develop psychological problems. Psychiatric symptoms tend to be more emotional in children because they are still learning to recognize and talk about their feelings and emotions. Early signs of mental health problems in children may include:
- Mood swings: Look for feelings of sadness or lethargy that last for at least two weeks, or severe mood swings that cause problems in family or school relationships.
- Strong emotions: Beware of overwhelming fear for no apparent reason. Sometimes this can manifest as palpitations or shortness of breath. Overwhelming anxiety can be so intense that it interferes with your child’s daily activities.
- Difficulty concentrating; pay attention to the child’s ability to concentrate. If they can’t concentrate or sit still, they may have a mental problem.
- Unexplained weight loss: Sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives may be due to an eating disorder.
- Physical symptoms: Children with mental health problems may experience headaches and stomach aches associated with sadness or anxiety, which are common in adults with similar problems.
- Physical harm: In some cases, psychological problems can cause children to self-harm or injure themselves. It can be seen as cutting or burning, as well as other subjectively painful actions. These children may also have suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Children with only one of the above symptoms are less likely to experience mental health problems than children with three or more of the above symptoms.
Mental health problems affecting adults, young people, and children
Children and adolescents can have the same mental health problems or conditions as adults, but they may manifest in slightly different ways. Children, teens, and adults can have many of these conditions, including:
Children with anxiety disorders (such as OCD, PTSD, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder) experience anxiety as a persistent problem that constantly interferes with their daily activities. It is normal for a child to show some anxiety, especially during growth stages and major life changes. However, anxiety disorders can occur when anxiety and stress become excessive and make it difficult for a child to function properly.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
This mental health condition often includes symptoms related to concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour. Some children with ADHD may have all three categories of symptoms, while others may have only one of them.
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating are serious and life-threatening conditions. Children can be so preoccupied with food and weight that they can’t focus on anything else.
Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder can cause a child to be constantly sad or have extreme mood swings. These mood swings are much more serious than children usually express.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that causes people to detach from reality. According to the Mayo Clinic, it occurs most often in teens and early twenties.
Causes and risk factors for mental health problems
There is still much to discover in mental health. However, most mental illnesses are thought to be caused by a number of genetic and environmental factors, including:
Mental health problems are more common in people with blood disorders who also have a history of mental health disorders. Certain genetic predispositions can increase the risk of developing mental health problems, and certain environmental conditions can cause it.
Environmental exposure before birth
Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory diseases, toxins, alcohol or drugs in utero has in some cases been linked to future mental health problems. brain chemistry
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that send signals to the rest of the brain and body. When the neural networks that contain these chemicals are disrupted, the overall function of the neuron’s receptors is altered, leading to depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, one in five American adults suffer from mental illness in any given year.
Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing mental health problems, including:
- blood relatives with mental illness
- going through a stressful situation, such as financial problems, the death of a loved one or a divorce
- You have a chronic health condition
- Brain damage due to severe trauma (traumatic brain injury)
- A traumatic experience, including military conflict or assault
- Alcohol and drugs abuse/misuse
- Grew up with abuse or neglect
The effects of mental health problems can be short-term or long-term. It is also possible to experience several mental disorders at the same time. For example, a person can have both a substance use disorder and depression.
Seeking mental health care at the right time
Mental health problems can develop into mental illnesses when persistent symptoms cause repeated stress and affect a person’s functioning. It’s important to seek help, especially if you have questions about your mental health.
Mental disorders are a common problem; millions of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness in any given year. It is usually the parent’s job to identify these warning signs in their child.
Even after you are aware of the early signs of a mental health problem, it can be difficult to distinguish the signs of a problem from normal behaviour. Concerns about negative social stigma, the use of certain drugs, and the cost or difficulty of entering treatment may also prevent individuals and parents from seeking help.
Mental problems and complications
Mental illness is the biggest cause of disability. If left untreated, these disorders can cause serious emotional, behavioural, and physical problems, such as:
- Unhappiness and inability to enjoy life
- Conflicts with family and friends
- Social distance and withdrawal
- Problems with excessive use of alcohol or other substances
- A generally weak immune system
- Heart disease and other diseases
There is no guarantee that mental health problems can be prevented. But taking steps to manage stress, build resilience and promote healthy self-esteem can help manage negative psychological symptoms.
Watch out for warning signs. If your symptoms get worse, talk to your doctor or therapist to find out what could be causing these problems and possible solutions.