Symptoms of mental illness?
Originally Published: October 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 13, 2010
What are some signs of mental illness? I know that this is a pretty general question, but I need all the info you can give me.
It's important to understand that any one sign or symptom, on its own, doesn't always point to mental illness. In fact, based on the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision ("the DSM-IV"), all diagnosable mental illnesses depend on the presence of multiple signs and symptoms coming together in just the right way during a certain period of time. It's also necessary that the signs and symptoms seem linked to problems in the person's life.
In general, patterned behaviors, thoughts, and/or emotions that cause people (or others around them) lots of distress signal the possibility of mental illness.
The severity of any sign or symptom of mental illness can vary quite a bit between people. Individuals may feel their symptoms rise and fall depending on various factors, like stressors, for example. Furthermore, mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. In other words, signs and symptoms of mental and physical health can affect one another.
Only trained mental health professionals can make diagnoses. These professionals look for multiple types of evidence (e.g., physiological, behavioral, self-reported, etc.) before diagnosing a mental illness. If you or someone you care about would like to seek mental health care, there are resources. At Columbia, there's counseling at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) — call x4-2878 for an appointment. Most other colleges and universities have counseling centers also. Furthermore, anyone can log into the National Institute of Mental Health's Getting Help: Locate Services, which offers more information on finding a counselor close to you. People with health insurance can contact their plan to find out about benefits and providers.
As you can see, there's a lot to consider while pondering signs and symptoms of mental illness. If, after reading this, you find yourself wanting more information, you might want to check out the Emotional Health archives. Also, mental health providers can be great sources of information.