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How to spot signs of mental illness?

Updated at: Sep 18, 2017
Mental Health
Written by: Ariba KhaliqPublished at: Sep 18, 2017
How to spot signs of mental illness?

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms of mental illness for an extended period of time, it’s time to seek professional mental health support.

Life can be challenging. Death in the family, end of a relationship, mid-life crisis- anything can affect our emotional and mental well-being. While some mental health issues can be triggered by stressful events in life, many of them can just come out of nowhere.

Well, life has its own ways; we don’t really have a control over what it might bring our way. When life causes a mental illness to us or to a loved one, it often becomes difficult to distinguish between a ‘normal reaction’ to a tough situation, and ‘trouble signs’ that indicate a mental problem.

If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms below for an extended period of time, it’s probably time to seek or suggest professional mental health support.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness

The American Psychiatric Association describes that the following signs indicate development of a serious mental condition.

Loss of confidence-
One of the most devastating effects of mental illness is that it robs people of their self-confidence and positive feelings of self-worth. As a result, people struggling with a moderate or serious mental illness may make comments like, “I’m worthless,” or, “It would be better for everyone if I wasn’t here.”

An unusual drop in functioning- Especially at school or work, such as quitting sports, failing in school, or difficulty performing familiar tasks; those unsuccessfully coping with mental illness may have trouble staying on topic during a conversation, or might be unable to explain their ideas properly.

Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity- In many cases when people develop a mental illness they will suddenly stop participating in activities that were very important to them in the past.   They may also go out of their way to avoid social gatherings with friends and family, preferring to spend more time on their own.

Excessive use of drugs or alcohol- Instead of seeking professional help, many people battling a mental illness will try to mask their symptoms by ‘self-medicating’ and using large amounts of drugs or alcohol.

Uncharacteristic, peculiar behaviour- Thoughts that would not be considered appropriate to discuss with friends and family, or a pursuit of fantasy in an effort to avoid daily life could signal instability.

False beliefs, delusions or hallucinations- While not everyone with a mental illness experiences these symptoms, they are common in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene-
If small concerns are sending you or a loved one into an emotional tailspin, or if you find it difficult to get out of bed and get to work or to run errands, something more serious may be going on.

Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings”- If someone you know seems depressed without any change for over a week, he or she might be suffering from moderate or more serious depression.  Likewise, a long period of being excessively happy and energetic, in combination with a lack of sleep, racing thoughts and sped-up activities, could be signs of bipolar disorder.

Suicidal Thoughts- If a loved one starts making comments about suicide, such as, “I should probably kill myself,” or, “It would be better if I just died,” you need to take it seriously and seek medical help immediately.

Most human reactions and experiences help us cope and move on from life’s traumatic experiences. But when these emotions remain unchanged over time and start to interfere with day-to-day tasks and overall well-being, they could be signs of mental illness.

If you're concerned about your mental health or a loved one's mental health, don't hesitate to seek advice.


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