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Mental health: What's normal, what's not
Understanding what's considered normal mental health can be tricky. See how feelings, thoughts and behaviors determine mental health and how to recognize if you or a loved one needs help.By Mayo Clinic staff
What's the difference between mental health and mental illness? Sometimes the answer seems clear. For instance, a person who hears voices in his or her head could have schizophrenia. A person who goes on a frenzied shopping spree or starts an ambitious project — such as remodeling the bathroom — without any plans might be having a manic episode caused by bipolar disorder.
In some cases, however, the distinction between mental health and mental illness isn't so obvious. If you're afraid of giving a speech in public, does it mean you have a mental health condition or a run-of-the-mill case of nerves? If you feel sad and discouraged, do you have the blues, or is it full-fledged depression?
Here's help understanding how mental health conditions are identified.
Why is it so tough to tell what's normal?
It's often difficult to distinguish normal mental health from mental illness because there's no easy test to show if something's wrong. Mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated based on signs and symptoms, as well as on how much the condition affects your daily life. Signs and symptoms can affect your:
- Behavior. Obsessive hand-washing or drinking too much alcohol might be signs of a mental health condition.
- Feelings. Sometimes a mental health condition is characterized by a deep or ongoing sadness, euphoria or anger.
- Thinking. Delusions — such as thinking that the television is controlling your mind — or thoughts of suicide might be symptoms of a mental health condition.
What is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a guide published by the American Psychiatric Association that explains the signs and symptoms that mark more than 300 types of mental health conditions. Mental health providers use the DSM to diagnose everything from anorexia to voyeurism and, if necessary, determine appropriate treatment. Health insurance companies also use the DSM to determine coverage and benefits and to reimburse mental health providers.Next page
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