Hey, all! I apologize for the delay in this series. We’ve had sickness, and houseguests, and you name it! But my burden for increasing awareness and understanding of depression and mental illness weighs on my heart (in a good way).
So today, let’s dive into how to recognize if you or a loved one is experiencing a mental illness, such as depression.
Are you just “under the weather”? Tired? Baby blues? Or is it something more? Discerning if your symptoms are actually caused by a mental illness or something else can be more difficult than you’d think sometimes. But it is best to be aware of the common “calling cards” of these disorders so you can pinpoint what’s happening more easily.
Each mental illness has unique makeup, and therefore, different symptoms, but there are some common things that tend to show up:
- worry or fear that is excessive
- Feeling overly sad or “low”
- Problems concentrating and learning or just general confusion
- Mood changes that seem extreme, even “highs” that feel somewhat euphoric
- Irritability or anger that lasts or is intense
- Shutting down and avoiding friends or any social situation
- Having a hard time relating to others or even understanding their feelings
- Tiredness, low energy, changes in sleep patterns
- Increased hunger or a lack of appetite
- Noticeable changes in libido
- Reality doesn’t quite always seem right – delusions or hallucinations
- Lack of insight – doesn’t notice the change in own feelings, behavior, personality
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Headaches, stomach aches, other “aches and pains” that persist without a cause
- Thoughts of harming self
- No longer able to perform daily activities or manage daily problems or stress
- Fear of weight gain that is overly intense or uncharacteristic concern with appearance
There are also marked symptoms to look for in children as their behavior is usually more telling. For the most part, children do not know how to verbalize what they are feeling and thinking:
- Notable changes in academic or school performance
- Fighting or defiant behavior, or excessive worry/anxiety
- Increase in bad dreams
- Increased aggressiveness
- Temper tantrums – more numerous than before
If you think you have more of these than you should or you have a couple to a greater degree than is normal, REACH OUT! A trusted friend or supportive spouse is a great start. One of the things about depression and mental illness is that it alters your cognitive filter…you know, that thing that helps you identify thoughts as crazy or not crazy. A good, reliable friend can help be that filter for you in a non-judgmental way. Hear me – YOU are not crazy…you just need a little help.
Your primary care physician (regular doctor) is a good next step. He or she can help with a diagnosis and get you the right kind of help. Being aware of the signs and symptoms above can aid you in this conversation. The diagnosis is the necessary first step as only then can your provider develop a plan for you…tailored to you.
There is NO “one-size-fits-all” treatment for mental illness. But there are, again, common approaches. These include medication, talk therapy (counseling), and possibly life style changes.
The NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) HelpLine can assist in finding services and supports in your area as well: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to interact with a crisis specialist.
If you, or someone you care about, needs immediate help…do not delay. Call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255
Join me next Wednesday. I’ll be sharing about things I’ve learned in my years living with chronic depression that have helped me along my recovery and kept me stable. Call them tips if you’d like…these are things that helped me and tend to be helpful to others. Maybe a couple will spark for you or your loved one. Again, mental illness is NOT a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing.
Thanks for joining me 🙂