Mental illness can be harder to identify than physical illness. It is possible to sink deeper into habits and ways of thinking that are harmful to your mental health without even realizing it.
Have you been feeling unlike your usual self lately? Have you perhaps been feeling irritable or unhappy for so long that it is beginning to affect your life?
Learning about the signs that you may be struggling with your mental health can help you act upon it sooner and find ways to feel happier and healthier.
Here are 5 signs you’re battling mental illness.
1. A change in personality or severe changes in mood
Have you been feeling not quite like yourself? You may have noticed it, or someone may have pointed it out to you. If you have been acting or feeling like a whole other person, or if you have been behaving in ways that are uncharacteristic of you, then this could be a sign that you are mentally unwell.
This could take the form of changes in mood. Perhaps you know yourself to be calm and even-tempered, but lately you have been feeling irritable or anxious most of the time. Do you experience extreme highs or bouts of joy, and then also extreme lows or episodes of deep sadness or anger? Perhaps you laugh at inappropriate moments or feel extremely angry at small inconveniences. Severe shifts in mood can also be indicative of mental illness.
Emotions that feel excessive or disproportionate to the matter at hand can also be a sign. You may have noticed that you feel incredibly anxious, afraid, panicked, or even guilty a lot of the time–something you may be able to assess if you take a step back. These feelings can take an emotional toll on you, as it is exhausting to feel on edge so frequently. Similarly, constantly feeling anger, especially to the point of violence can still take a toll on you and wear you out.
If you have been experiencing persistent or excessive heightened emotions, then you may be battling a mental illness (Frysh, n.d.; Mayo clinic, 2019; Morin, 2021; Parekh, n.d.; Riggio, 2015;).
2. Unhealthy habits and risky behaviors
Have you been taking less and less care of yourself? Perhaps you have been neglecting to bathe, brush your teeth and clean yourself. You may find yourself caring less about your appearance and neglecting that as well. This may not merely be a sign of laziness, but instead, a sign that you are struggling with your mental health.
You may have also developed physically unhealthy habits, such as eating or sleeping significantly more or less than usual. You may be doing so in a way that has become bad for your nutrition and overall health. This may also extend to engaging in dangerous or risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, or self-harm (Frysh, n.d.; Mayo clinic, 2019; Morin, 2021; Parekh, n.d.; Riggio, 2015;).
3. Withdrawal from activities and social interactions
One other sign to take note of is withdrawal. Have you lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy? Maybe your favorite sport used to bring you a lot of fulfillment, but now it gives you no joy. Have you dropped your school, extra-curricular, or work obligations? Perhaps you’ve found that you can’t quite bring yourself to keep up with them.
It is also possible that you’ve withdrawn from social engagements. Have you been declining invites or canceling arrangements to spend time with friends or family? Perhaps you have been acting more closed off and spending too much time alone.
If you have significantly withdrawn from these activities and interactions in your life, you may be struggling with a mental illness (Frysh, n.d.; Mayo clinic, 2019; Morin, 2021; Parekh, n.d.; Riggio, 2015;).
4. Difficulty thinking or illogical thinking
Mental illness can also affect your ability to concentrate. Have you been having difficulties with focusing, remembering things, or making decisions? Has it become harder to tie your thoughts together, and express them? You might notice these changes while you go about your day, as it is possible for these to affect your performance in school, work, or even simple household tasks.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of these changes in thinking, or to even notice them at all, because mental illness can make the mind feel foggy and unclear.
Have you been feeling a sense of detachment from reality and the world around you? Have people close to you been telling you that some of your ideas are illogical, nonsensical, or downright impossible? Do you often feel confused, and suspect that you might be hearing or seeing things that may or may not really be there?
These are warning signs that you are battling a mental illness and need to seek the proper support for it (Frysh, n.d.; Mayo clinic, 2019; Morin, 2021; Parekh, n.d.).
5. Feeling hopelessness or overwhelmed
Sadness is a part of life, and everyone feels it from time to time. However, have you been battling a deep sadness that feels endless, and even pervades different aspects of your life? This is a sadness that you may not even know the exact cause of, and can seem nearly impossible to escape, even when you try.
Such a sadness can lead to feeling hopeless, and can make you feel like giving up. This can take the form of numbly letting the days pass by, no longer caring for yourself. This can also take the form of more active thoughts of taking your own life.
If you are experiencing such feelings, this is a warning sign that you are battling serious mental health issues, and need to seek professional help immediately (Frysh, n.d.; Mayo clinic, 2019; Morin, 2021; Riggio, 2015;).
According to the DSM (DSM-5, 2013), symptoms of mental illness must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in your social life, work or school, or other important aspects of life. These signs mentioned in this article can vary in severity and frequency, depending on the individual. You may experience most of these signs, or perhaps only a few, but more urgent concerns.
For these reasons, it is important to reach out to a professional for a complete diagnosis. If you or anyone you know could be struggling with their mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified mental health care provider.
If you are feeling depressed or contemplating suicide please remember that you are not alone.
America: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Australia: 13 11 14
United Kingdom: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90
Hong Kong: +852 28 960 000
Japan/Tokyo: 81 (0) 3 5286 9090
Philippines: +63 2 8893 7603
Brazil: 55 11 31514109 or (91) 3223-0074
Germany: 0800 111 0 111
Russia: (495) 625 3101
South Africa: 0800 12 13 14
This is only a short list of a few countries, however there is always somebody to reach out to.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.
Frysh, P. (n.d.). Signs of mental illness. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-mental-illness
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, June 8). Mental illness. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968
Morin, A. (2021, February 17). How different mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/definition-of-mental-illness-4587855
Parekh, R. (n.d.). Warning signs of mental illness. Psychiatry.org – Warning Signs of Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness
Riggio, R. E. (2015, May 5). 5 Warning Signs of Mental Health Risk. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201505/5-warning-signs-mental-health-risk