In order for mental health concerns to be considered a disorder, the individual usually must present “significant distress or disability in social, occupational, or other important activities” (DSM 5). These vast changes in functioning can look different depending on the person, the environment, and the disorder. For this post, we are going to focus on what the impairment in functioning can look like. Usually, it means there is a significant and negative change from how one functioned previously, to now. There are different areas of life that these impairments can show up in like school, social settings, and other important activities.
Big differences in how someone interacts with others can indicate a problem. For example, if someone is really outgoing and generally a happy, positive person and they become withdrawn and start avoiding social situations for an extended period of time -that might indicate a problem. These changes in social functioning can also take place around family members. Big changes in the way someone communicates might mean the individual is experiencing a problem.
Additionally, major changes in how one functions or performs at work and/or school can indicate a problem. If someone who typically enjoys school and gets good grades starts having a lot of trouble concentrating and begins performing poorly on quizzes and exams, this also might indicate a problem. Complete loss of interest in doing things that were once enjoyable might mean a problem is present.
With all of this said, it’s also important to note that as people grow up, they can develop and change into new ways of behaving. It is certainly possible that someone grows out of activities that were once enjoyable. As one matures, they might lose interest in past activities. Additionally, just because someone has made changes to the way they function in various situations doesn’t automatically mean they have a mental health problem. Impairments in functioning can be indications of a mental health problem, but the presence of these changes doesn’t automatically mean one has a mental health concern.