Is my behavior typical or is it a sign of mental illness? What's going on with me?

Any mental health condition can be truly debilitating, and getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan.  Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose a mental illness.  A mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, to assess symptoms and make a diagnosis. The manual lists criteria (among them, feelings, behaviors and duration of symptoms) in order to officially classify as a mental health condition. 

First, Rule Out Underlying Medical Causes

One thing to keep in mind – it is very important to rule out any underlying physical medical issues that may be causing or contributing to one’s symptoms.  If you or your loved one has not been examined by a primary care physician, it is important to begin there.  At times, symptoms associated with mental health conditions may be related to or worsened by an underlying medical condition.   

Mental Health Symptoms/Diagnosis

It’s important to understand your diagnosis.  NAMI’s Know the Warning Signs page provides initial guidance on how to tell the difference between what are expected behaviors vs. what may be the signs of a mental illness.  Learning more about mental health conditions and treatment options can help you to better establish a treatment plan that works for you.  Being well-informed allows you make decisions about finding a mental health professional and which treatment settings may be most effective in helping you achieve wellness. 

Screening Tools

Mental Health America offers online mental health screening tools for numerous mental health conditions on its website, including depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, PTSD, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and more.  Screening tools are also offered in Spanish.

Psychology offers online screening tools for many common mental health conditions on its website; they also offer screeners for excessive gaming, internet addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Psychology Today website offers a quick, online mental health screening tool to evaluate whether you show symptoms of the most common mental health disorders.

The Attention Deficit Disorder Association website offers an online screening tool for adult ADHD.

Families for Depression Awareness website offers an online screening test for depression and bipolar disorder.

Trauma offers a screening tool for dissociative disorders. 

The National Eating Disorders Association offers an online screening tool for ages 13 and up to determine if it’s time to seek professional help.

SexHelp offers a free, basic online screening tool (and a more in-depth, low-cost tool) on its website to help people identify whether their sexual behaviors are cause for concern.

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