Human Services of Faribault & Martin Counties
Mental Health Overview  

What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a collective term that refers to all of the different types of mental conditions, including those that affect your mood, your thinking, and your behavior. To be classified as a mental illness, a condition must cause distress in your life and reduce your ability to function in one or more areas of your life, such as at work, in relationships, or in social situations.

A mental illness is technically considered a disorder rather than a disease because it is classified by descriptions of signs and symptoms that are open to interpretation. In general, what is considered a mental illness comes down to the severity of the signs and symptoms, how long they have lasted, and how much they impair your ability to function in your daily life.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can very greatly depending on the particular disorder and your age, among other factors. Symptoms also can be related to emotions, thoughts (cognitive), behavior, or physical issues.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Drastic changes in behavior and emotions.

  • Sudden change in grades at school or productivity at work.

  • Inability to concentrate at school or at work.

  • Seeming to have withdrawn, is confused and/or isolated.

  • Inability to function in daily life related to self care, money management, meal preparation, housekeeping or
    personal hygiene.

  • Lost interest or pleasure in self care, activities/hobbies or sex.

  • Engaging in self destructive behaviors, including alcohol/drug abuse or self abuse.

  • Socially disruptive behaviors.

  • Difficulty in dealing effectively with stressful situations.

  • Bizarre thought disorder; seeing/hearing things that are not there, believing things that are not real.

Helping a Loved One

If you have a loved one who you think may have symptoms of mental illness, have an open and honest discussion about your concerns. You may not be able to force someone to seek professional care, but you can offer encouragement and support. If he or she has harmed himself or herself, or is seriously considering doing so, take him or her to the hospital or call for emergency help.


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