At least one in five adults suffers from a mental health condition, which means that around 65 million adults in the US alone are suffering. This could be anyone; a friend, a family member, or a significant other. What are the signs of mental health conditions, and how do you determine if your loved one is suffering from one?
It’s important to monitor any symptoms carefully and get the necessary help if you believe the person is a danger to themselves or other people. Conditions such as depression can often lead to suicidal thoughts, and with suicide rates climbing every year, that’s a tragedy we all need to focus on reducing. Here’s how to tell if a loved one is suffering from a mental health condition.
Mental health conditions come in many varieties, and can each have their own unique symptoms. In order to cover all of them, we’d need more than just one article, so we’re going to cover some common conditions instead. These conditions affect millions of people all over the world every year.
Depression: Depression is a condition that affects millions of people each year. Major depression can cause depressive episodes, withdrawal from friends and family, loss of appetite, suicidal thoughts or reckless actions, and much more. It’s estimated that at least 17 million adults in the US have had at least one major depressive episode in their lives, with the age range between 18-25 being the most affected by this disorder.
Anxiety Disorders: It’s estimated that this group of conditions affects anywhere between 30 and 40 million adults in the US each year. This includes conditions like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), SAD (social anxiety disorder), phobias, OCD, and more.
While major depressive disorder is considered to be an anxiety disorder, we’ve included it as a separate consideration for its impact on society.
Symptoms for each disorder can often vary greatly depending on the individual and the severity of the condition, but for the sake of general awareness, here are some common symptoms associated with anxiety disorders (including depression).
- Sudden, major appetite changes
- Constant worry or stress
- Lack of self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts/actions
- Reckless behavior
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Constant head and body aches
- Inability to focus
- Inability to find joy in favorite activities or people
- Withdrawal from friends, family, school, etc.
- Erratic decisions or behavior
- Flashbacks or frequent nightmares
- Irrational fear of certain places or things that trigger memories
These symptoms are just a few that you may encounter with a loved one. Never ignore someone who says, “I need to talk to someone.” because it could very well mean the difference between life and death in the case of severe depression. We have a tendency to downplay certain issues, but the truth is, mental health is one of the most important parts of a happy, healthy life, and should never be ignored.
There are plenty of treatment options and public resources for handling mental health conditions. The important thing to do is to be empathetic with the victim. Remember that no one asks for a mental health condition, or purposely brings it on themselves. Often, these conditions are linked to genetics, trauma, or other factors that are entirely out of the victim’s control.
Watch for the symptoms listed above. If you notice a combination of these symptoms persisting for several weeks, it’s a good idea to ask if your loved one is ok. Understand that there’s still plenty of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health, and your loved one may feel ashamed to talk about it.
Let them know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that you’re there to offer a non-judgmental ear. You can also contact parents, counselors, school officials, or your local NAMI resources for more help and treatment options.
Try to avoid statements like “it could always be worse” or “look at the bright side”. Thes aren’t empathetic statements and can actually cause the victim to become more upset. Be gentle and understanding, and if you notice a sharp decline in their mental health or something serious like talk of suicide, get help immediately.
The unfortunate truth about mental health is that it’s not taken as seriously as it should be on a worldwide basis, but we can change that by showing empathy towards loved ones. Look for symptoms, and don’t be afraid to ask if your loved one is ok.
Once they understand you’re not going to judge them, they may very well open up to you and to the possibility of getting help. We hope this guide helps you and your loved ones navigate the challenges of mental health conditions!