How do you define and qualify an individual as suffering from mental health problems ?

I think it is a tough question because understanding brain functioning is a universal and lifelong debate. But I always hear that suffering from at least one kind of mental health problem is part of being a human being. Everyone is affected on way or the other and most of the time people don’t even know. I am curious to read how people define and qualify someone as suffering from mental health problems. Thank you

Super User Asked on October 8, 2018 in Mental Health.
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5 Answer(s)

Like you said, Olivier, it is indeed a tough one, and if we are to consider the conventional signs and symptoms, it may turn out that we all have mental health problems! However, in most cases, these signs and symptoms (being too common) have come to be accepted into our society today, and they are seen as normal, not until they develop severe illnesses, make it impossible for someone to work or live  normal life or simply become a threat to life, do we actually start to think of it as a Mental Health Problem or disorder, and start to seek help.

There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events. As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these. With proper care and treatment many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder.


In Adults, Young Adults and Adolescents:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance use

In Older Children and Pre-Adolescents:

  • Substance use
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities – at home and/or at school
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In Younger Children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

These however only point towards a possible serious mental challenge. When they interfere with normal life, and working of a person, then one can be qualified as one with a mental problem. Thank you!

Regular User Answered on October 9, 2018.
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Thanks Gerald for the detailed reply, you said everything I wanted to 🙂

Sometimes, a doctor will analyse what you are facing, and what is happening with your life to determine (qualify you) as someone with a mental problem, but in most cases, its prudent not to wait until then. Signs and symptoms (as given by Gerald above), are one of the quickest ones by which one can tell, their onto a journey to a mental challenge.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Let me share any possible causes and any risk factors that may be of help to anyone reading:


Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:

  • Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
  • Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression.

Risk factors

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing mental health problems, including:

  • Having a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, with a mental illness
  • Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one’s death or a divorce
  • An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes
  • Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head
  • Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or being assaulted
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Being abused or neglected as a child
  • Having few friends or few healthy relationships
  • A previous mental illness

Mental illness is common. About 1 in 5 adults has a mental illness in any given year. Mental illness can begin at any age, from childhood through later adult years, but most begin earlier in life.

I hope this can help someone.

Regular User Answered on October 9, 2018.
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Read through your responses, Fred & Gerald, and I am scared to say you are right, because that would qualify me as someone with Mental Health Problems 🙂 I mean we all face these signs, right? How about we say that One is qualified to be with Mental Health Problems when a Psychiatrist does a thorough analysis, and declares them so? I would say, a doctor would have to qualify someone as one with mental health problems, simple as that.

Regular User Answered on October 9, 2018.
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Pauline, being Mentally ill once in a while is like catching a cold or flue (for minor aches) though may result in serious complications if not treated in time. So, its not so worrying as such unless someone really has serious disorders affecting their day to day work, you can expect a little illness once in a while and that’s okay. Like you said, we all face it, seek help, and get better soon after. No worries 🙂

Regular User Answered on October 9, 2018.
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Aaha… reassuring, thanks Fred!

Regular User Answered on October 9, 2018.
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