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Common symptoms of mental illness

There should be a significant change in a person’s usual behavior to consider it as a symptom of illness. For eg: Some persons are talkative by nature. It cannot be taken as over talkativeness which is one of the symptoms of mania. So asking about a person’s usual pattern of behavior is important.

Major symptoms are:

  1. Changes in behavior-quite unusual behavior, causing disturbance to others, smiling inappropriately, crying without any reason, showing gestures when being alone, talking to self, assaultiveness, abusiveness
  2. Changes in speech-over talkativeness, irrelevant talk, shifting topics fast, talking without any connection between ideas or words, incomprehensible speech, decreased talk, no talk at all etc.
  3. Changes in emotional state-uncontrollable anger, tendencies for assault, destructive behavior, abusiveness, unusual ways of communication, happiness without reason, tiredness, sadness, excessive worries, lack of interest, aloofness
  4. Delusions-These are false, fixed and unshakable beliefs of morbid origin which is not shared by people of same cultural, religious or social back ground, and is not amenable to corrections .So a person with delusions will not change his beliefs, even if there are contradictory evidences. For eg : Patient may think that others are trying to harm him or her, but without any logical evidence. Some patients with delusions hold the belief that others are talking bad things about him or her. Some persons will have false beliefs about spouse’s fidelity.
  5.  Obsessions – Obsessional thoughts are ideas, images or impulses that enter theindividual’s mind again and again in a stereotyped form. They are almost invariably distressing and the sufferer often tries, unsuccessfully, to resist them. They are, however,recognized as the individual’s own thoughts.
  6. Hallucinations– Hallu inations are perception without an external stimuli
    • Auditory hallucinations- Involves perceiving sound without auditory stimulus.
    • Visual hallucinations – seeing things that aren’t there.
    •  Olfactory hallucinations- appreciating smells in the absence of an external stimulus for smell.
    •  Tactile hallucinations-perception of taste without a tactile stimulus
  7. Memory impairment, forgetting recent events, inability to concentrate, disorientation with time, place or person
  8. Problems associated with low intelligence
  9. Changes in the level of consciousness
  10. Sleep related disorders-insomnia, disturbed sleep, excess sleep, day time somnolence
  11.  Eating related disorders-lack of interest in food, loss of appetite, starving , unusual eating patterns, increased appetite, not drinking water etc.
  12. Disturbances related to bowel and bladder habits
  13. Problems related with sexual function
  14. Problems related with routine activities, personal care, interactions, scholastic backwardness, school refusal
  15. Inability to handle work related and family responsibilities well.
    The above said changes makes uneasiness in himself or others.
    Due to the variations in behavior, problems may arise at work place, and in social situations

Causes of mental illness

Mental illness is caused by complex interactions of several factors. Various areas of brain, control and coordinate our mental activities. Brain is also part of our body. So brain and its functions are strongly related to the function of other parts of body. So disorders of brain and other body parts can cause mental illness. Mental function is also influenced by many environmental factors also. Thus mental illness may be precipitated by a single factor or more commonly by a complex interplay between biological and various environmental factors.

  1. Biological factors-It has been proved scientifically that genetic factors can cause mental illness. Association of genetic factors with Bipolar mood disorder, Depression and Schizophrenia has been proved by research. Close relatives of a person with mental illness have higher chances to develop mental illness than the general population
  2. Structural and neurochemical changes in brain-There are millions of neurons in our brain. These neurons communicate with one another by neurotransmitters. Adrenalin, Dopamine, Serotonin, GABA are examples for Neurotransmitters. The imbalance of these chemicals can cause dysfunction of brain. Disorders affecting many organs in our body such as Thyroid, Pituitary, Adrenal gland, liver, kidney etc can cause mental and behavioural problems. Mental illness can also be precipitated as a side effect of certain Medicines, drugs, alcohol etc.
  3. Psychological Reasons-Personality disorders, internal conflicts, emotional imbalance, immature ways of handling stressors etc. can adversely affect mental health.
  4. Social and cultural factors
    Man is a social animal. So cultural and social institutions can influence a person’s mental health. Family relations, school, religious institutions influence mental health either positively or negatively.
    Parental conflicts, chronic illness, drug addictions, partiality, overprotection are some of the factors that negatively influence mental health. Poverty, social discrimination, injustice, unhealthy environment are some of the social factors that cripples mental health.
    Influence and importance of these factors on the causation of illness can be varied depending on the type of illness. For eg. In Schizophrenia, Severe depression, Bipolar mood disorder, genetic reasons are more important, and environmental factors mainly modify the course and outcome of illness.