Effects, Signs, & Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders, which can be referred to as mental illnesses or mental health concerns, affect how a person feels, thinks, and behaves. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health conditions affect 1 in 5 adults in the United States in a given year. 

These conditions aren’t the result of a singular event, but rather the combination of causes that may include genetics, lifestyle, and environment. When you have a mental health concern and don’t have the right support, it can significantly detract from your quality of life. 

Fortunately, professional help is available. At East Tennessee Behavioral Health, we provide inpatient and outpatient services for people who are living with mental health concerns. 

Signs & Symptoms of a Mental Health Disorder

Mental illness affects everyone differently, but there are some common symptoms of mental health disorders that tend to affect people who are struggling with these conditions. 

The most frequent mental health disorder signs and symptoms include: 

  • Inability to feel joy 
  • Diminished self-confidence 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Inability to get quality sleep 
  • Feeling worthless, empty, or hopeless 
  • Changes in weight or appetite 
  • Frequent outbursts of anger 
  • Strong compulsion to engage in risky behaviors 
  • Loss of interest in things that were previously enjoyable 
  • Stomach pains or digestive problems 
  • Headaches or muscle pain 
  • Uncontrollable feelings of worry or panic 

Though it’s unlikely that a person would experience most of or all these mental health disorder symptoms, reaching out for help at the first signs of concern can make a major difference. With the right type of professional support, you can significantly improve your outlook. 

Mental Health Disorder Causes & Risk Factors

There is no single cause of mental health disorders, but there are some factors that can increase your risk for developing one of these conditions. Common mental health disorder causes and risk factors include: 

  • Family history of mental illness 
  • Inheriting certain genetic features 
  • Childhood adversity, such as being neglected or abused 
  • Preexisting chronic medical conditions 
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse 
  • Exposure to a traumatic life event 
  • Major life changes, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, or divorce 
  • Exposure to large amounts of stress 

Mental Health Disorder Statistics

As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports, nearly 20% of the adult population in the United States, or around 52.9 million people, are living with a mental illness. 

Here are some other revealing mental health disorder statistics: 

  • In 2020, 25.6% of women received mental health services, compared with just 14.6% of men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
  • Women were also more likely to have taken medication (21.2%) for their mental health than men (11.5%) and more likely to have received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional (12.1% to 7.9%) in the past 12 months, per the CDC. 
  • Approximately half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14, and 75% present before age 24, according to NAMI. 
  • NAMI reports that 1 in 20 U.S. adults suffer from a severe mental illness each year. 

Effects of Mental Health Disorders

Left untreated, mental health disorders can do a great deal of damage to a person’s psychological, physical, and emotional well-being. Though the impact can vary widely from person to person, common mental health disorder effects include: 

  • Difficulty finding or maintaining employment 
  • Financial hardship or homelessness 
  • Strained relationships with loved ones 
  • Increased sense of isolation 
  • Substance use or addiction 
  • Physical health problems due to a lack of self-care or reckless behavior 
  • Constant thoughts of hopelessness 
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors 

By reaching out for professional support, you can set yourself up to stop negative ramifications that may already be in motion. You can also minimize your risk for future effects of mental health disorders. 

What Happens If My Mental Health Disorder Symptoms Return?

The path to healing from a mental illness isn’t short, and it isn’t always linear. At some point along the way, you may find that the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder have returned.  

This doesn’t mean that you have failed. The skills you learned during your time receiving professional intervention can prevent these temporary setbacks from becoming lasting obstacles on your journey toward better health. 

By working with a team of qualified professionals, you can understand your symptoms and learn how to reduce stress and anxiety. These experts can provide you with the tools you need to respond in the healthiest manner if your symptoms return. 

If you’re still struggling, you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your care team. They can help you work through areas of need and set you back on the road to better health.  

This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at East Tennessee Behavioral Health. 

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