Mental Health: What’s Normal, What’s Not

Many people who have mental health conditions consider their signs and symptoms a normal part of life or avoid treatment out of shame or fear. If you’re concerned about your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek advice. With appropriate support, you can identify mental health conditions and explore treatment options, such as medications or counseling. What’s the difference between mental health and mental illness? Sometimes the answer is clear, but often the distinction between mental health and mental illness isn’t so obvious. For example, if you are 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?

Why is it 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 the difference. Also, primary mental health conditions can be mimicked by physical disorders.  Mental health conditions aren’t due to a     physical disorder and are diagnosed and treated based on signs and symptoms, as well as on how much the condition affects your daily life. For example, a mental health condition can affect your:

  • Behavior – Obsessive hand-washing or drinking too much alcohol might be a sign of a mental health condition.
  • Feelings – Sometimes a mental health condition is characterized by a deep or ongoing sadness, euphoria or anger.
  • Thinking – Delusions – fixed beliefs that aren’t changeable in light of conflicting evidence – or thoughts of suicide might be symptoms of a mental health condition.

How do mental health providers diagnose mental health conditions?

A mental health provider will work with you and your loved ones to assess your symptoms, including when they began and how they’ve affected your life. Your mental health provider will ask about:

  • Your perceptions – How much your signs and symptoms affect your daily activities can help determine what’s normal for you. You might realize that you aren’t coping well or that you don’t want to do things you used to enjoy.
  • Others’ perceptions – Your perceptions alone might not give you an accurate picture of your behavior, thoughts or ability to function. Other people in your life can help you understand whether your behavior is normal or healthy.

Your Employee Assistance Program provides free and confidential assessment and counseling services. If you are interested in learning more about your benefits, call BHS at 800-245-1150 to speak to your dedicated Care Coordinator.