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Adult behavioral health problems

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If you're not sure what the problem might be, review the common symptoms to see if any of them sound like you or your loved one.

Common symptoms of adult behavioral health problems

If you aren't sure what the problem might be, review this list of typical symptoms to see if any of them seem familiar. This is not an accurate diagnostic tool, but can provide a rough indication of where you should see a behavioral health care professional.

You might have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD, also known as ADHD for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) if you:

  • Are easily distracted by sights and sounds
  • Don't pay attention to detail
  • Don't seem to listen when spoken to
  • Make careless mistakes
  • Don't follow through on instructions or tasks
  • Avoid or dislike activities that require longer periods of mental effort
  • Lose or forget items necessary for tasks
  • Forgetful in day-to-day activities
  • Restless, fidget and squirm
  • Talk excessively
  • Interrupt others

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Your may have an anxiety disorder if you experience:

  • Worry or dread
  • Obsessive or intrusive thoughts
  • Sense of imminent danger or catastrophe
  • Fear or panic
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Ambivalence
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating, especially the palms
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing or blushing
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or faintness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Shaking
  • Choking sensation
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach
  • Tingling sensations
  • Nail biting or other habitual behavior

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Bipolar Disorder often includes:

  • Dramatic mood swings ranging from elated excitability to hopeless despondency
  • Extreme changes in energy and behavior
  • Periods of highs that include:
    • Persistent and inexplicable elevation in mood
    • Increased energy and effort toward goal-directed activities
    • Restlessness and agitation
    • Racing thoughts, jumping from one idea to another
    • Rapid speech or pressure to keep talking
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Decreased need for sleep
    • Overconfidence or inflated self-esteem
    • Poor judgment, often involving spending sprees and sexual indiscretions
  • Periods of lows that include:
    • Prolonged sad, hopeless, or empty mood
    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
    • Decreased energy or fatigue
    • Trouble concentrating, remembering, making decisions
    • Restlessness or diminished movements, agitation
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Unintended weight loss or gain
    • Thoughts of death or suicide with or without suicide attempts

These same symptoms might be a sign of depression.

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Symptoms of depression include:

Symptoms can change over time and may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Feeling tired
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping, waking up too early, or oversleeping
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Thoughts of death or suicide with or without suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Physical symptoms that defy standard diagnosis and do not respond well to medical treatments

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Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are:

  • Obsessions – unwanted, repetitive and intrusive ideas, impulses or images
  • Compulsions – repetitive behaviors or mental acts usually performed to reduce the distress associated with obsessions

Common obsessions include:

  • Persistent fears that harm may come to self or a loved one
  • Unreasonable concern with being contaminated
  • Unacceptable religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
  • Excessive need to do things correctly or perfectly

Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive checking of door locks, stoves, water faucets, light switches, etc.
  • Repeatedly making lists, counting, arranging, or aligning things
  • Collecting and hoarding useless objects
  • Repeating routine actions a certain number of times until it feels just right
  • Unnecessary re-reading and re-writing
  • Mentally repeating phrases

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Those with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) show negative, angry, and defiant behaviors much more often than most people of the same age.

The cause of ODD is unknown. Like other psychiatric disorders, ODD results from a combination of genetic, family, and social factors. Children with ODD may inherit chemical imbalances in the brain that predispose them to the disorder.

Risk factors include:

  • Sex: Male
  • Age: Childhood and teen years
  • A parent with a mood, conduct, attention deficit, or substance abuse disorder
  • Marital conflict
  • Child abuse
  • Inconsistent parental attention
  • Low socioeconomic status

View more information on ODD

If you have experienced some kind of trauma, you might experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms fall into three categories:

  • Re-experiencing of the event
    • Dreams/nightmares
    • Flashbacks
    • Anxious reactions to reminders of the event
    • Hallucinations
  • Avoidance
    • Avoiding close emotional contact with family and friends
    • Avoiding people or places that are reminders of the event
    • Loss of memory about the event
    • Feelings of detachment, numbness
  • Arousal
    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Anger and irritability
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Being easily startled

Physical symptoms may also occur such as:

  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

People with PTSD may also abuse alcohol or drugs.

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Beware of Postpartum Depression:

Symptoms usually occur within 6 months after childbirth, and may last from a few weeks to a few months. Symptoms range from mild depression to severe psychosis. Postpartum depression is different than "baby blues", which is a mild form of depression that occurs within a few days after childbirth, and lasts up to a week.

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Episodes of crying or tearfulness
  • Poor concentration, memory loss, difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Feelings of irritability, anxiety, or panic
  • Restlessness
  • Fear of hurting or killing oneself or one's child
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Obsessive thoughts, especially unreasonable, repetitive fears about your child's health and welfare
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

More serious symptoms associated with postpartum depression that may require immediate medical attention include:

  • Lack of interest in your infant
  • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Loss of contact with reality

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Schizophrenia could be the problem if:

Symptoms usually start in adolescence or early adulthood. They often appear slowly and become more disturbing and bizarre over time.

Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things/voices that are not there
  • Delusions – strong but false personal beliefs that are not based in reality
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Disorganized speech – lack of ability to speak in a way that makes sense or carry on a conversation
  • Catatonic behavior – slow movement, repeating rhythmic gestures, pacing, walking in circles
  • Emotional flatness – flat speech, lack of facial expression, and general disinterest and withdrawal
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Poor hygiene and self-care

Associated conditions include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Substance abuse (of drugs, caffeine, nicotine)
  • Self injury, including suicide

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