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9 Signs You Might Be Going Insane

October 21, 2009

Something doesn’t feel right.

Maybe you’ve been depressed—crying at the drop of a hat, not enjoying things that used to make you happy. Or you feel overwhelming anxiety, the kind that makes you think your heart might beat right out of chest. Or perhaps it’s a little scarier than that, and you’ve started seeing things that aren’t there.

The bad news: something’s up. The good news: you’re not going insane.

Insanity is actually just a legal term to describe abnormal mental patterns and behaviors (as in not-guilty by reasons of insanity). Your symptoms could indicate any number of diagnoses. Most of them decrease with treatment, including psychiatric attention and medication.

If you’re concerned by your feelings or behavior, you may be struggling with one of the following common psychiatric illnesses:

  1. Schizophrenia

  2. Schizophrenia

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

    People with this disorder hear and see things that aren’t there, making it difficult to identify real experiences.

    The top three symptoms of schizophrenia are:

    • Delusions

      The most common schizophrenia symptom, delusions are ideas you believe firmly that aren’t based in fact. For example, you may believe someone is spying on you or plotting against you. Psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers defined the three main criteria for an idea to be considered a delusion:

      • Certainty (held with absolute conviction)
      • incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
      • impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre or patently untrue)
    • Hallucination

      A hallucination is a perception that isn’t provoked by a stimulus. You may associate hallucinations with seeing imaginary things—like people who aren’t actually there—but you can also experience the symptom in ways that aren’t visual.

      You could have auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, or olfactory hallucinations, such as smelling rotten flesh. Another type, known as a hypnagogic hallucination, involves seeing or hearing things just as you fall asleep.

    • Paranoia

      Paranoia—baseless or excessive suspicion or others—isn’t always pathological. Everyone gets paranoid from time to time. The psychiatric symptom is far more severe; it usually involves delusions about other people’s intentions.

      Approximately one-third of delusional thoughts in schizophrenia patients cause paranoia.

  3. Bipolar Disorder (also known as manic depression)

    Bipolar

    Two main symptoms characterize bipolar disorder: alternating periods of intense highs (mania) and lows (depression). The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 5.7 million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder, totaling 2.6 of the US population over 18.

    The top three symptoms of bipolar disorder are:

    • Mania

      Mania entails increased energy, enhanced mood, and difficulty sleeping. Manic people often feel so high of life they believe they’re invincible, and as a result, exhibit poor judgment—spending excessively, or engaging in sexual acts with many partners, for example.

      Hypomania—which only lasts a few days, as opposed to a week or longer—can be just as dangerous. It also involves rapid talking, decreased need for sleep, and inflated self esteem.

    • Depression

      Depression as a psychiatric symptom is more severe than sadness or anger. Signs include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, irritability, or isolation; fatigue, apathy, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable; sleep and appetite disturbances; social anxiety; and self-loathing.

    • Suicidal thoughts

      It all starts with suicidal ideation—thinking about the idea of suicide, and possibly making a detailed plan. Some people ideate without intending to pull the trigger; they’re just depressed enough to consider the possibility of taking their life.

      Research shows 30–70% of all suicide victims suffer from major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or bipolar disorder. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, read the Mayo Clinic’s advice on staying safe. You don’t have to die or live in pain—there is a way out.

  4. Dementia Disorders

    Dementia

    Dementia is an impairment of intellect, memory and personality. Alzheimer’s—the most well-known form of dementia—affects 5.3 million Americans, many over 65 years old.

    Other causes of dementia include: complications of chronic high blood pressure, blood vessel disease, or previous stroke; advanced Parkinson’s disease; Huntington ’s disease; and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

    The top three symptoms of bipolar disorder are:

    • Memory Loss

      Although memory loss is one of the most common signs of dementia, it is not isolated to this condition. Trauma, drug or alcohol abuse, or an infection may also be to blame.

      Memory loss only qualifies as a diagnostic criteria if affects your daily living—you forget how to do things you’ve done many time before, like tying your shoes, or you can’t keep track of things that happen from one day to the next.

    • Personality/mood changes

      In the early stages of dementia, people often exhibit dramatic changes in personality. An outgoing person may suddenly become withdrawn, or a shy person may make bold choices.

      Research indicates personality changes aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s, which could facilitate early treatment.

    • Time and place disorientation

      People with dementia often get lost in familiar places, on their own street for example. They may also have difficult remembering how they got somewhere, or how they can get home.

      If this is your key symptom, you could be struggling with multiple personality disorder, also known as dissociative identity disorder. Sufferers have alternate personalities that function independently of each other—meaning you could wake up in a park and not remember how you got there or what you did along the way.

As you may have ascertained, mental illness encompasses a vast range of conditions. Even if you have clear symptoms, it’s impossible to diagnose yourself by reading—especially since your mind is where the problems all began!

If you believe your mental state has declined in some way, visit a licensed mental health professional for diagnosis. You’re not crazy—but it would be crazy to suffer in silence from an illness that can improve with treatment.

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