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, Seek a Medical Diagnosis

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 a 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 the mental health condition 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. 

Finally, Mental Health America offers an online Screening Tools assessment quiz that may be of help as an initial step, as well as the one provided on the website of Psychology Today

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