Early Recognition of Mental Health Problems
By- Dr. David Prescott
Early Recognition a Key to Effective Mental Health Treatment: In mental health treatment, as with all of health care, early recognition and treatment is increasingly seen as critical to reducing the suffering associated with psychiatric disorders. The logic is simple enough. The earlier you detect a problem and do something to fix it, the less that problem will impact your life. But, while that logic makes sense to most of us, knowing exactly what to look for may be a little more difficult.
When Do You Cross the Line to Needing Professional Attention? Obviously, this is a difficult question and the answer varies from person to person. Two questions that I like to ask in helping someone decide include:
1. Is this bothering you to the point where you want more support or would like it to have less of an influence on your life?
2. Has this problem started to interfere with your life and the things you used to be able to do? That is, are you now unable to accomplish things that you used to accomplish because of the problem?
Here are some early warning signs of common mental health and addiction problems. As with any health problem, if you are in doubt, talk to a psychologist, mental health professional, or your family doctor.
Early Signs of Depression: Most people know that depression involves recurrent sadness, hopelessness, and lack of energy. It is common to have these feelings for a couple of days every now and then. Signs that the depression may be more serious include:
• 2 consecutive weeks of feeling sad or hopeless.
• In teenagers and some adults, rather than feeling depressed, feeling mostly irritable or short tempered.
• Missing school, work, or significant family events because you feel too sad or don’t have the motivation that you used to have.
Early Signs of Schizophrenia or Psychotic Illnesses: The onset of schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterized by disorganization in thinking, excessive suspiciousness or paranoia, or in some cases hallucinations, is typically in the late teens or early twenties. However, warning signs are often present long before the formal onset. These include:
• Withdrawal from friends or family
• Difficulty concentrating, confusion, jumbled thinking
• Suspiciousness, fearfulness or mistrust of others
• Changes in the way things look or sound, seeing or hearing things that aren't there
• Odd thinking or behavior; feeling odd, like something is wrong
Early Signs of Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. The hallmark of each of these problems is debilitating anxiety that leads to avoidance of people and activities. Early signs of anxiety disorders include:
• Repeated episodes of panic (feel like you can’t breathe, like you may be about to die, short of breath). Single episodes of panic are somewhat common and may not indicate a disorder.
• Avoiding important activities (school, work) or situations (going to the store) because of anxiety or fear of an anxiety attack.
• Losing more and more time to activities designed to reduce or cope with anxiety (spending time alone, engaging in checking things or doing things over that you have already done).
Early Signs of Drug or Alcohol Dependence: Often, drug or alcohol dependence start off as recreational drinking or drug use. Early signs of drug and alcohol abuse or dependence include:
• Frequent episodes of binge drinking (4 or more drinks for women, 5 or more for men)
• Missing school or work due to drug or alcohol use or feeling hungover.
• Spend increasing amounts of time using substances or with people that drink/use drugs with you.
How do I seek help? Seeing a qualified mental health professional, like a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, or licensed social worker is a good start. Help may include counseling, medication, or a combination of the two. If you don’t know a mental health professional, your primary care doctor is often able to make a recommendation.
For More Help:
Acadia Hospital www.acadiahospital.org
In Maine Dial 2-1-1 for agencies that provide counseling.
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Early Recognition of Mental Health Problems
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