8 Normal Behaviors That Mimic Mental Health Symptoms



1.     A mismanaged sleep schedule can look like a sleep disorder.

Kids don’t want to end the fun and head to be when they are told. Teens and twenty-somethings routinely prefer to stay up until 2am and sleep until noon. Adults stay awake late watching television or staring at a smart phone screen for few extra minutes of pre-slumber recreation. Whatever the reason for delaying bedtime, voluntarily staying awake later is not the same thing as insomnia. Before you head to the doctor asking for a sleeping pill, ask yourself if you need to change some sleep habits.

2.     Intense Moods can appear to be depression or bipolar disorder symptoms.

Let’s face it, everybody gets moody. Kids get moody when they fail to get enough sleep, or sometimes when they eat junk too much food. With the all the brain changes and social adaptation that occurs during the pre-teen and teen years, the span of moods can be wide. Even adults get moody when stress takes over, or when we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Before you start diagnosing yourself or a family member with a mood disorder, consider everyday moodiness as a possible cause.

3.     Fear and Worry about new experiences can emulate an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a part of life. Every time we face change, we tend to get nervous and anxious. When lots of things are changing at once, it’s common to feel overwhelmed. Anxiety is common with big life transitions, and that’s not always a sign of big trouble. Before you seek treatment for anxiety, ask yourself if you’re going through a major life event that might explain the anxiety, and consider whether it might abate with time.

4.     Poor self-direction/motivation can be mistaken for A.D.D. or even depression.

Kids have undirected energy and sometimes can’t sit still. Teens are not necessarily highly motivated at school. Young adult children can have a sense of impassioned drive, but that’s often not the case. Adults have trouble getting organized, or motivated to take care of the tasks that need to be done everyday. Everyone struggles with overcoming chaos and putting life in order. Before seeking treatment for low motivation or self-direction, consider whether you might be doing well enough.

5.     Unwise choices can look like personality disorders, or bipolar disorder.

People learn through experience, and the lack of experience may lead you or your loved ones to some problematic choices. Questionable choice-making is often simply part of the learning process. Before deciding that there’s a more serious problem, look for evidence that learning is the fruit of struggle. If learning is taking place, it may not be so worrisome to make a bad decision.

6.     Substance experimentation can look like addiction, or the substances themselves can create symptoms such as mood changes or psychosis.

Experimenting with substances often begins in the teen and young adult years. Substance use is not always addictive, especially when early intervention and guidance steer young people away from continued use. While any substance use needs to be addressed in some way, not everyone who experiments with substances is ready for rehab. Before seeking an addiction diagnosis, trying steering away from substances altogether.

7.     Impulsive action can appear like serious mood or personality dysfunction.

People may make quick decisions, when more thought would have been advisable. Jumping in without thinking or planning can lead to trouble, but it’s not always a clear sign of a mental health condition. Before pathologizing impulsivity, work on tools for thoughtful, patient action.

8.     Inaccurate assumptions can look like poor judgment, a sign of mental illness.

Wrong assumptions can occur for a variety of reasons. Youthful exuberance and lack of experience can lead to making wrong assumptions. Miscommunication and misunderstandings can lead to apparent judgment problems as well. Before worrying about the wrong assumptions being a sign of mental illness, take a look at the root causes.

Posted on September 4, 2017 .