What Is Mental Illness? Symptoms of Mental Illness

Mental illness is a condition that affects one’s thinking, feeling, or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. 

Having a mental illness does not mean someone is violent, dangerous, or unpredictable. By learning more about mental illness, you can start to erase the stigma associated with it.

How many people are affected by mental illness?

One in five adults experiences mental ill-health every year. Many of these individuals will also experience physical health problems as well. Almost half (48%) of people who need treatment for a mental health problem say they do not get enough help (NHS Digital Report, February 2017).

However, despite most societies suffering from increasing levels of stress and depression amongst their citizens, there is still a reluctance to seek help, with only 25% of people who need mental health treatment receiving it (NHS Digital Report, February 2017).

The number of children and adolescents that suffer from mental ill-health may be as high as one in ten (Royal College of Psychiatrists).

What are common symptoms of mental illness?

symptoms of mental illness

  • Symptoms vary depending on the type of mental illness. People often experience feelings such as depression, stress, anxiety or anger.
  • Mental illnesses can affect your state of mind with symptoms including feelings that others are out to get you or thoughts that you are worthless or guilty.
  • You may hear voices saying mean things about you which other people cannot hear.
  • Sometimes people have delusions where believe something is real when it isn’t, such as believing that someone is following you or has you bugged.
  • There can be confused thinking and it can seem like your thoughts are racing.
  • People might feel extremely afraid without any obvious reason or hear screams or see things that aren’t there.

How do mental illnesses affect sufferers?

Mental illness can make it much harder to cope with day-to-day life and often costs people their jobs and relationships.

People with mental health problems may go for longer without living a full and satisfying life (Royal College of Psychiatrists).

Most mental illnesses start when we are children or young adults; others begin in later adult life.

Some conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis, and manic depression occur across the whole age range.

What might cause mental illness?

Mental health problems are usually caused by a combination of things, including our genes, our upbringing, and life experiences. Other factors include alcohol or drug misuse, stressful events such as losing your job, relationship problems, or having financial difficulties.

There is evidence to show that traumatic childhood experiences can result in depression later on in life and research suggests that there is an association between early-life adversity and social anxiety disorder.

However, it should be noted that these studies do not give conclusive answers about how strong these associations are. It has also been suggested that their effect may increase with age, which could be due to increasing social demands.

How is mental illness diagnosed?

Your GP may ask you questions about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life. If he or she thinks you could have a mental illness, you’ll normally be referred to either another doctor or specialist mental health services for an assessment. This should be carried out within three weeks, but in an emergency, it will happen sooner.

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