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Is your sister simply eccentric or does she have a mental disorder? Is your friend going through a rough patch or a mental breakdown? Is your loved one just really emotional or mentally ill?
How can you tell?
Unless you’ve had formal training, (and even sometimes then) it gets dicey, you need to use caution when attempting to analyze a loved one’s behavior. But based on observations from experts, there are certain signs that can indicate a loved one might be struggling with some form of mental illness.
Symptoms vary and range from mild to severe, but generally revolve around mood, personality and personal habits. Common warning signs include:
- Lengthy sadness, depression
- Ongoing social withdrawal
- Extreme fear, anxiety or paranoia
- Continuous irritability
- Radical changes in eating and sleeping habits
- A noticeable difference in self-care
- Suicidal thoughts/threats
The good news is, most people with mental illness live full and normal lives with proper treatment. This typically involves a combination of counseling, support groups and medication. The trick is to get help before the illness progresses to a point that causes additional harm.
Some believe a person needs to hit rock bottom before getting help, but that’s not always the case. There are steps you can take to ensure they get the proper treatment, such as:
- Intervene: You might need to consider arranging an intervention. The goal of this step is to help your loved one see they have an issue and need treatment. Along with others close to them, you’ll explain in a loving way your concerns about their behavior and suggest professional help.
- Get Professional Support: It might be necessary to hire a therapist to meet with you and your loved one to discuss the concerning issues. This could be part of the intervention process or a mutually agreed-upon meeting. The therapist can advise the appropriate next steps.
- Follow Through: If your loved one agrees to get treatment, encourage them in this process. They may need reminders to take medication or assistance in locating a support group.
- Be Safe: If your concerns include worries about potential violence, don’t try to handle the situation alone. If you, your loved one or anyone else might be in danger, don’t hesitate to call the police, emergency room or local social service agencies who are equipped to handle crisis situations.
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