The American Psychiatric Association (APAdetermines how to diagnose mental illness. Their rules are published in what’s called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Every ten or so years, The APA integrates a vast amount of professional opinions and studies in order to update the DSM. The fifth and most recent addition of the DSM, was published in 2013. Only a qualified professional can equate symptoms of mental illness as described in the DSM, with observations of a person sitting in front of them. But no one wants it to come to that point.

The best way to treat mental illness is to watch out for a prodromal period, that is, to locate preliminary symptoms, and treat them, before he illness fully develops, and becomes a seriously degrading issue for life.

Generally, functionality is a measure of mental health. Functionality means being able to independently, comprehensively, care for oneself. This is not just physical hygiene, but regular socialization with friends (on occasion in public), kind deeds for others, completing one’s duties at a reasonable quality as an employee and/or student, and otherwise being as responsible as one’s setting requires.

On the other side of the coin, isolation is a measure of mental illness. In excess, it implies a fundamental disconnect with the world of humanity. And it makes people very, very sick.

The American Psychiatric AssociationNational Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), and Mental Health Americaoffer a more superior guide to warning signs of mental illness than this website ever could.

These may point to low functionality:

  • Feeling troubled or somehow disconnected for no apparent reason
    •  Perhaps anxious, depressed, upset, or just abnormally ambivalent
    • As an offshoot, being blamed by others for these feelings
  • Frequent crying, overwhelming stress
    • This can really chafe at the mind if not addressed, people lose their humanity if they feel no one is supporting them
  • Relying on psychoactive drugs for relief
    • Alcohol is big here
  • Lack of satisfaction in helping others
    • This goes along with the disconnect, no real warm feeling in working with or for others
  • Hypervigilance tends to follow this
    • Essentially, obsessive analytical thinking
    • “Paralysis by analysis”
    • There is infrequnet, or no, “sliding” into the social aura while with others
  • Agitation, easy to upset
    • Going from calm to angry for a trivial reason, or for no reason
    • Oftentimes, this leads to…
  • Lack of healthy relationships
    • They could be hostile or plainly abusive, physically and/or verbally
    • Some of these include a cycle of fights and sex
    • Oftentimes they’re one-sided: one friend always calls first to do things, is non-verbally required to continually prove herself
  • A feeling of unrealistic importance
    • These usually start off with a relatively sudden arrogance and disrespect of others
      • Yet it may spiral, if not treated, into thinking one a billionaire, having a super-genius IQ, or having supernatural powers
  • A feeling of unrealistic persecution
    • Preliminary symptoms could include always having drawn curtains or  always using the Tor browser
      • On the other end, people think the government is poisoning their food,  or the CIA is always watching through hidden cameras

These indicate high functioning:

  • Maintaining physical hygiene
    • Examples include regularly bathing, shaving, washing clothes, flossing, and brushing teeth
  • Freely leaving one’s property
    • This indicates a feeling of safety in the community, the antithetical idea behind isolation
  • Freely socializing
    • The person is confident in being herself/himself and wants to stay connected to others
  • Constructive hobbies
    • These may include reading, exercising, and going to movies
    • Having a well-rounded routine, habits that target the mind, body (as firstly indicated), and spirit, as well as those that involve others, keeps one healthy
  • Sleeping a healthy amount 
    • Sleep is so important, yet society doesn’t understand the degree to which it can make, or break, someone.
  • Eating nutritiously
    • Reliance on high levels of sugar and/or saturated fat in foods with empty calories, is both a damaging addiction and can lead to malnutrition, a serious disorder
    • This also means eating enough, but not too much
  • Having a regular job or going to school
    • The productive routine improves our surroundings and (in the case of school) the future of society
    • Additoanlly, we feel better about ourselves if we are able to do these things
  • Freely offering to help others, and doing so when asked
    • This indicates a care for others without any expectation of collaterall, highly sophisticated and humanistic deeds, and actions which (if habitual) make us happy the same as giving ouselves a more selfish reward
  • Being on good terms with family members
    • Family offers a unique quality of support
    • In some ways, our family members know us best
    • Feuds within families lead to very grim and cynical feelings
  • Having someone whom you trust to spill your heart out to
    • Not everyone has a significant other all of the time, or one to which they can do this, but honest communication of feelings re-asserts oneself as deserving the intimacy that others offer, and at worst usually only is mildly disturbing to the recipient
    • Second-best may be a therapist whom one is comfortable enough talking about how they feel about a third party, someone whom can help navigate and help the patient appropriately disclose these feelings to the one they feel so intimately about
    • Conclusively, we humans need to express such emotions. The one who is able to, is much better off. Bottled-up, and they can tear one up from the inside
  • Not spending much time in boredom, before doing something of substance
    • There’s a saying which escapes me, something about boredom being the devil’s playground
    • If we stop moving, if we don’t do much, our body in a very primitive sense thinks its ready to die.
    • People who are active for most of the day spend nights much mroe satisfied
  • Otherwise working towards one’s higher goals in life, one’s dreams
    • Having immediate, medium, and long-term goals has us something to work towards
    • It’s never too late to dream of being better, in some fashion
    • Goals motivate us to stay functional, and those who have them, become more satisfied and wise in the future

If a mental illness is suspected, it’s very important to have an honest, open conversation with the person’s close family and friends about what would be the best way to proceed. One’s insurance almost definitely has mental health coverage. A lot of people go to therapists to see if they need therapy and/or medication. You may put it similar to: “We just want to make sure you’re okay, to ascertain that everything’s all right. If the therapist says you’re fine, then we’ll stop bugging you. If not, then we’ll go from there. But you’re going to be okay.”

On that last sentence, it’s very important to offer support conducive to a positive mind-state. The “self-fulfilling” prophecy, though not put in those terms, is a long-standing psychological belief.

Source: Ben Komor, Dr. Howard Feinstein, Dr. Theodore Papperman, Dr. Colin Dauria, http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net, http://www.abeautiful.world/