The first full week of October marks Mental Illness Awareness Week. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness, and since it doesn’t get talked about much, it can be difficult for people to spot mental illness in themselves and their loved ones. That’s why we’ve put together this list of common mental illnesses and their symptoms. Check it out.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. These disorders affect 40 million American adults, or approximately 18 percent of the population. In Canada, it’s estimated that a quarter of the population will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime.
Examples of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
These conditions are characterized by an abnormal fear or dread response due to certain stimuli or situations. Individuals with anxiety may also suffer from physical symptoms such as sweating and rapid heartbeat. Anxiety is a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders are so severe that they interfere with normal functioning.
Depression is a type of mood disorder commonly grouped with anxiety disorders because people who have one of these mental illnesses are at higher risk of the other. In the United States, depression is the leading cause of disability for individuals ages 15 to 44, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
There are several forms of depression, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression among many others.
Depression occurs when persistent feelings of sadness affect your daily life. Symptoms of depression can include:
- Loss of interest
- Trouble sleeping
- Thoughts of suicide
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Mood swings
Similar to depression is bipolar disorder. It’s another type of mood disorder characterized by extreme mood swings from mania to depression. It can lead to risky behaviors and suicidal tendencies. It also results in changes in sleep and behavior. Symptoms of bipolar disorder include periods of extreme happiness contrasted with symptoms of depression. Each state can last for weeks, months, or even years before patients flip-flop to the other.
Eating disorders can also be tied to anxiety. These are disorders that involve extreme emotions and behaviors related to food and weight. Common eating disorders include the following:
Anorexia patients view themselves as being overweight despite being extremely thin. This leads to unusual eating habits like avoiding food or weighing their food before eating it. They may also obsessively check their weight and engage in other techniques for losing weight, such as vomiting, using laxatives, or exercising excessively. This can lead to serious medical conditions like low blood pressure, anemia, thin bones, and infrequent periods.
Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia because it involves a fear of weight gain. However, bulimia is characterized by behavior of binge-eating and purging, such as through the use of laxatives or vomiting. This can cause sore throat, swollen glands, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, kidney and intestinal problems, and severe dehydration.
Binge Eating Disorders
Binge eating is unlike anorexia or bulimia because patients do not obsessively purge their bodies following a binge. However, they do tend to experience guilt or shame about their eating habits, which leads to further binge eating. These patients may have anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders, and they tend to be overweight or obese, which increases their risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness, consult a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis and recommendations for your treatment options.