• MedPsych Integrated

Living Life on the Edge - Does Risky Behavior Signify an Adventurer or Signs of a Mental Illness?


Some people seem to be adventurers taking life's obstacles and turning them into challenges that can be overcome with a powerful will. This trait has long been admired by others, and many famous explorers, artists and other risk takers see their ability to transcend everyday living into success as proof that they are different from the norm and have special talents that others don't. Is there such a thing as positive risk taking? Many mental health experts say yes. Risk Takers or Symptoms of Mental Illness? How should the world judge those who continuously are living life on the edge? Are they adventurers unafraid to take risks, or could their actions be symptoms of someone suffering from a mental illness? Here's what a Raleigh psychiatrist has to say on this matter. Defining Risky Behavior from Normal Behaviors Psychiatrists often must define risky behaviors from normal behaviors when determining if someone has an underlying mental illness. There are some common areas of life that are looked at for possible risk factors that might indicate an untreated mental illness or emotional disorder. In general, these risk factors are looked for in the following areas:

  • Biophysical

  • Psychological

  • Social

  • Spiritual

Biophysical Risk Factors A family history of mental health problems, complications during pregnancy or birth or a personal history of some type of brain injury that was traumatic are some possible risk factors in the biophysical sphere. Additionally, other risk factors may include excessive or illegal use of drugs and/or alcohol, lack of sleep, poor nutritional status and some chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or stroke history, hypothyroid disorders and a number of other health conditions that are known to impact the brain like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's. Psychological Risk Factors Any type of severe, chronic or prolonged stress situations can be possible psychological risk factors. These can include:

  • Legal problems

  • Financial strain

  • Loss of a job

  • Divorce or other close relationship losses

  • Poor academic grades

  • Low self-esteem & a negative mindset

  • Traumatic incidents like rape or abuse

  • Military deployment to traumatic war zones among others

One thing to note is that a stressful life event can even be something positive like beginning a new job, graduating from high school or moving. Social Risk Factors There are many psychological event overlaps with a person's social connections and status. Some possible risk indicators here include:

  • Abuse currently, recent or as a child

  • Deep relationship losses like death, divorce or moving away from friends

  • Involved in bullying behavior or being bullied

  • Poor friend or other relationship choices

  • Unhealthy friendships or close relationships

  • Suffering from discrimination

  • Few friends or not enough good stable ones

  • Being poor

  • Poor communication and/or social related skills

  • Isolated

Spiritual Risk Factors Spiritual related risk factors include feelings of being horribly bad or somehow insignificant due to not living up to religious standards. Constant or intermittent doubts about current or past religious or other spiritual beliefs especially if those beliefs once ran deep. Getting into unhealthy spiritual relationships such as with cults or a deeply traditional religious lifestyle. Having grandiose feelings and beliefs with regards to religious practices and beliefs. Understanding that Age Can Influence Risky Behaviors Most parents of teens come to the realization that this age group tends to be overly emotional with peer pressure often contributing to a teen's otherwise not normal behaviors. Boys take longer to develop their full adult brains and emotional status, but girls too can be overly dramatic, may engage in risky behavior to impress their friends and may exhibit poor self-esteem and make poor judgments. What Parents Can Do to Promote Positive Risk-Taking Behaviors If all of this sounds scary and complex, mental health experts point out that parents can do a lot to promote positive risk-taking types of reactions and behaviors if they see their child exhibiting concerning behaviors. All of those before mentioned risk factors can be turned into a positive behavior. Some things to try include:

  • Encouraging exuberant children and teens to join a sports team that models positive social peer challenging

  • Ensure teens get enough rest and eat well

  • Open communications with your kids and encourage positive role models and mentors

  • Help kids develop a strong support system

  • Intervene if behavior has become unsafe to the child or to others

Contact Medpsych Integrated at https://www.medpsychnc.com for professional psychiatry services in Raleigh, NC.

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7780 Brier Creek Parkway Suite 306

Raleigh, NC 27617

Phone: 919-582-7272

Fax:  919-582-7274 OR 877-745-2672

The content on this website is for general information and educational purposes only, and is not intended to substitute professional services.

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