With all of the advances in science, research, and medicine, we’ve managed to control and even eradicate many diseases that once disabled or killed millions. We have medications that can help cure practically everything. Despite with these strides, one area of health still lags behind. Although awareness has spread, mental health still has a stigma to it. Even with research and new forms of therapy, mental health is something that is still largely misunderstood. People are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Medications for mental disorders are tricky to use and require a great deal of trial and error to get the dosages right. These same medications also have side effects that can be long lasting or permanent. People hide their symptoms and illness for years, afraid to come forward. But the beginning of this journey starts with understanding the array of symptoms that could pinpoint to any number of issues. How do you know you are having mental health issues? I’m going to look at some of the most common signs that could indicate a mental health problem. I’m not advocating self-diagnosis, but by being aware of these symptoms, someone who is suffering can go to a doctor and get the help they need. Hopefully, this article and others like it will continue to provide information and knowledge on an issue that affects so many.
15. Changes In Sleeping or Eating Habits
One of the most pervasive signs across all age groups is changes in daily habits such as sleeping too much or too little as well as excessive weight loss or gain. Although these can occur with other illnesses as well as from stress, if these symptoms persist for an extended period of time or interfere with your daily life, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor. These changes are classic symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression. Depression, as well as other illnesses, can have physical symptoms as well as mental and emotional ones. It’s always a good idea to see a doctor if you or someone you know starts showing any of these signs.
14. Unusual Feelings or Demonstrations of Anger
Everyone has moments when their anger takes control. Getting cut off in traffic, not getting the promotion, breaking a very expensive phone you just paid off are just a few of the many reasons that will cause an outburst of anger. We’ve all been there. But frequent outbursts of anger or a constant simmering anger that cannot be explained should definitely be considered a warning sign. Depression and bipolar disorder are two mental illnesses that can throw a person into a deep seated feeling of anger or resentment that to many others would seem irrational. These feelings are not imaginary and shouldn’t be discounted. If someone feels these sudden or prolonged feelings of anger, they should definitely seek out professional help.
13. Unexplained or Unusual Changes in Behaviour
We all have habits and traits that we are known for, so it’s good to notice when our behaviour is unusual. When someone who is generally prompt and courteous starts showing up late and becoming incredibly irritable or snappish, it can be a symptom of something bigger. We all have days when we aren’t at our best, but sudden, unexplained changes or prolonged, unusual behaviour patterns should be noted. If this occurs, it’s a good idea to get to a doctor and make sure that these changes aren’t signs of something more serious. It could be signs of an undiagnosed mental illness.
12. Changes in Ability to Handle Responsibilities
Even the most organized, high energy, and efficient person on the planet will have a day when things go sideways. Things get lost, chores don’t get completed and tasks may be overlooked. But ongoing changes in someone’s ability to handle their daily responsibilities can be a sign of something deeper. A person with a mental health issue might lose track of time, lack focus and energy or just have no drive to complete even the most mundane tasks. If these changes become frequent or sustained, it could be a small part of a bigger problem. Don’t let these changes go unchecked. It could be something serious but readily treatable.
11. Inability to Cope
This is a big one. Life can throw some pretty bad hurdles at us. We deal with loss, turmoil and trauma. Some cope with this better than others. But an inability to cope with even the smallest of disturbances is a symptom of certain mental disorders ranging from clinical depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The chemical imbalances from these disorders rob people of the ability to cope with the daily roller coaster of life. With proper treatment and therapy, these coping skills can be learned. But for someone who isn’t diagnosed, the inability to cope with trauma and turmoil can be brutal. If you know someone who just can’t cope with problems or daily activities, perhaps recommend that they get evaluated.
10. Social Withdrawal
There are days when I just want to stay home and curl up with a book. I just don’t want to deal with people or the outside world. It’s a normal feeling for most people to occasionally crave solitude. But one sign of a possible mental health issue is an obvious and total withdrawal from social activities. It becomes almost impossible for someone with mental health issues to handle social situations. They may find themselves avoiding get togethers, cancelling plans and only going out when absolutely necessary. If you find yourself avoiding contact with people you generally want to be around or making excuses to not run errands, you may be displaying a symptom of a mental health issue.
9. Abuse of Substances
This paragraph is not advocating drug or alcohol use. But the consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs has long been a societal norm. It’s quite common for adults to get together for drinks as a night out. But the abuse of substances is a trait for many mental disorders. When someone with an undiagnosed mental health issue turns to substances such as alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to mask symptoms, it can be a major problem and possibly lead to addiction. Many people find that these substances help diminish symptoms of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder just to name a few. If you find someone you know suddenly abusing substances they normally wouldn’t, they may be trying to cope with an undiagnosed mental disorder.
8. Extreme Emotional Mood Swings
Highs and lows in our emotions are a normal part of life. Our emotions can fluctuate because of hormonal changes, stress, and environmental factors. But mental illness can cause extremes in this routine cycle. Someone dealing with this may find themselves feeling an almost reckless manic high and then plummet to a deep depression that robs them of any desire to do anything. These extremes can happen over days or even hours. It takes this unwilling victim on an emotional roller coaster that will leave them feeling dazed, exhausted, and confused. If you notice that your emotions are reacting in a way that is similarly extreme, it could be an indication that something more is going on.
7. Difficulty Perceiving Reality
This symptom is among the most severe. Some mental illnesses deprive a person of the ability to understand or recognize reality. They may not understand what is going on around them. They may build fantasies and delusions so real to them that it becomes impossible for them to distinguish between actual reality and delusion. Delusional thinking is a trait of some manic bipolar disorders and schizophrenia to name just two. If you know someone that is having trouble perceiving reality or is living in a delusional state, they need to see a professional. It is a symptom of a mental illness that will require therapy and possible medication to treat.
6. Physical Symptoms With No Apparent Cause
Many mental health disorders can have physical symptoms. For instance, fatigue, headaches, chronic pain, stomach aches and other symptoms that show up with no obvious cause can be part of an underlying mental disorder. People with clinical depression often suffer from headaches, body aches and fatigue. If you have started noticing physical symptoms that can not be traced to a physical illness, it might be a good idea to see a mental health professional and be checked for any issues. Although mental illnesses cause primarily mental and emotional symptoms, they can manifest physically as well. Don’t suffer with these symptoms in silence.
5. Anosognosia – When Your Illness Stops You From Seeing It
One insidious sign of a mental disorder is the actual inability to see changes in behaviour, feelings or personality. This is one reason many people don’t know they are dealing with an actual illness. They may not even be aware of any changes. It may take a friend or a loved one to make them realize something is wrong. This symptom is the single largest reason that many people with schizophrenia and bipolar will refuse treatment. They don’t even see that they are experiencing problems. It may even come down to having the person hospitalized in order to properly diagnose. This is a tricky symptom to deal with.
4. Inability to Understand or Relate to People
Some disorders can actually make it difficult for someone with mental illness to understand or relate to others. They may not have an understanding of social relationships or they may not have developed coping skills. Due to chemical imbalances, hormonal issues or physiological differences in the brain itself, people with some personality disorders just don’t understand or relate to people in the way most others do. It can cause stress, misunderstandings, anxiety and other issues. People with a severe form of such symptoms may not ever feel comfortable in a typical day to day routine that most take for granted.
3. Hyperactive Behaviour
This is a common symptom in children and teens. Children with mental illness are still learning to explain their emotions and may not be able to tell someone what they are experiencing. Their symptoms tend to be more behavioural. Children with disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may demonstrate it with hyperactive behaviour such as the inability to sit still or focus. This symptom is usually the first one to be noticed. It’s usually the first thing that parents and teachers notice too, which hopefully results in an appointment with a professional that can help them understand the cause.
2. Tantrums and Disobedience
Another key indicator of an underlying issue in children is excessive tantrums and disobedience. Children go through phases of disobedience as they test limits and boundaries. This is natural as they learn, but severe or continual disobedience as well as excessive tantrums can indicate a deeper, bigger problem. These symptoms in children may be an undiagnosed mental illness. They act out in such a way to demonstrate what they are feeling because they may not be able to describe it. If you see a child that doesn’t normally act out suddenly start throwing tantrums or refusing to listen and cooperate, they may be struggling against something they just can’t explain yet, but can definitely feel.
1. Suicidal Thoughts
This is the big one. The undeniable sign of a possible mental illness is suicidal thoughts. We have all, at one time or another, felt a depression that leaves us not even wanting to get out of bed. We deal with tragedies that can temporarily incapacitate even the strongest of us, but these are not the thoughts I’m talking about. To someone with a mental illness, the constant little voice inside their head tells them that it’s hopeless and that it would be better for them to just kill themselves. This is a major symptom. If someone mentions suicidal thoughts to you, or if you yourself are experiencing them, talk to someone right away.
Mental illness is a hard subject to discuss. With very few physical signs, you never know if someone is suffering from it. It has a huge stigma and is still severely misunderstood. These fifteen signs are only a few of the many forms mental illness can take. Never underestimate how these illnesses can manifest. And never hesitate to get help.
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