6 Things Mental Illness Makes You Do

This article is for educational purposes and is based on personal opinions. This article is not a substitute for professional advice, but for general guidance. We advise you to always listen to your intuition and always do what is right for you. If you can relate to any of these signs, please do not take this feedback as an attack on your character. This article was meant to be a self-improvement guide for those of you who have been feeling a little stuck.

Although the general knowledge on the field of psychology has increased significantly over the past years, the diagnosis of mental illnesses has remained a tricky topic. The main reason is that the signs and symptoms that are shown in people who have mental illnesses are very similar to the symptoms shown by healthy, but distressed individuals. However, one big difference exists that might be very helpful in identifying mental illness in people, which is the duration of the symptoms. People who have mental illnesses will show symptoms for longer periods of time and adopt habits that hurt their mental health.

According to Dr. Georgia Witkin, Progyny’s head of patient services development, habits become signs of mental illness once they hijack your physical and mental well-being and interfere with your daily life (Steber, 2019). So, when trying to identify mental illness, one has to focus on behaviours that repeat themselves over a long period of time. As such, this article will be addressing 6 things/habits that mental illness makes you do.

Picking at your skin to cope with restlessness

Have you recently developed the habit of picking at your skin? This might be one of the things that mental illness makes you do. The skin picking disorder refers to repeteadly picking, pulling, or tearing at healthy skin, pimples, blisters, or scabs (Eske, 2019). Building a habit of picking at your skin suggests that you have been through a constant amount of stress, or that your mental health is not optimal, since you’ll rely on this behaviour to relieve stress and cope with negative thoughts and emotions (Eske, 2019).

It is very similar to how some people build habits of biting their nails or pulling their hair to cope with stress and negative emotions. So, if you have recently been picking at your skin, it is important that you acknowledge the possibility that it might be caused by mental illness.

Replaying conversations in your head over and over again

How often do wonder “Could I have said something different?” after a conversation? Replaying conversations in your head over and over again is something that mental illness makes you do. Rumination refers to replaying life events over and over in an attempt to make sure that next time you are completely ready and won’t feel anxious (Newman, 2016), and it is one of the ways to over-plan and control anxiety. Constantly ruminating will result in a lot of lost time, which will negatively impact your work and/or sleep. In the end, rumination is futile mainly because, no matter how many times you replay a situation in your head, you’ll still worry. So, instead of trying to control your anxiety by constantly replaying a situations and wasting time, it’s better to accept that there are things that can’t be controlled by you.

Taking responsibility for things that aren’t your fault

Do you usually take responsibility for things that you know you had no control over? Taking responsibility for things that aren’t your fault is one of the things that mental illness makes you do. This can be attributed to the fact that mental illness can make you feel guilty and worthless.

Mental illness is very likely to make you suffer a huge dip in self-esteem since you’ll find it very hard to see anything positive about yourself (Flynn, 2018). And, naturally, having a low self-esteem will make it so that you feel like everything that goes wrong is your fault, even though you had no control over the final result.

Throwing yourself into work to distract yourself

Have you recently been over-working to distract yourself? You might be starting a lot of new things to work on because you need to distract yourself from negative thoughts and feelings. According to Reynelda Jones, LMSW, CAADC, ADS, you might find yourself starting a lot of new projects/businesses, but unlike people who have actually thought it through and prepared, you might just go forth with these without a concern to the risks you’re taking on (Steber, 2019). Don’t get me wrong, working and starting new projects/businesses is very beneficial for your career and success. However, if the main reason for this is to distract yourself rather than to reach your goals, then it might be a good idea to acknowledge that something is not right.

Missing work or appointments

Have you been showing late to work, or calling-in sick more often than before? Missing work or appointments is one of the things that mental illness makes you do. According to Jones, individuals who constantly disengage can be experiencing high levels of anxiety which leads to a degree of social withdrawal (Steber, 2019).

Additionally, dealing with a mental illness can drain your energy levels to a point where attending work or appointments can seem like an extremely demanding task. So, if you have noticed yourself doing this more often than before, make sure to take note of it.

Wanting to spend more time alone

When was the last time you saw your family or close friends? According to Dr. Witkin, no longer wanting to see loved ones or participate in activities that you used to enjoy are signs of mental illness (Steber, 2019). This is similar to the previous point in the sense that it stems from the symptom of social withdrawal that comes with mental illness (American Psychiatric Association, 2021). Everyone needs some time alone to organise their thoughts, self-reflect, or relax. However, if you are constantly craving time alone and have lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy, it might be a good idea to address this before it affects your personal relationships.

To wrap this article up, mental illnesses are typically difficult to deal with, but they are completely treatable. It all comes down to how fast they are identified and treated since, as mentioned before, the longer the mental illness goes on, the more it will negatively impact your life and relationships. Hopefully, this article will be able to provide some general information as to what to look for when trying to identify mental illness in someone.


American Psychiatric Association. (2021). Warning Signs of Mental Illness. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

Eske, J. (2019). What to know about skin picking. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325925

Flynn, E. (2018). 8 Signs Your Depression Is Getting Worse, Because These Red Flags Can’t Be Ignored. Retrieved 19 April 2021, from https://www.bustle.com/p/8-signs-your-depression-is-getting-worse-because-its-important-to-know-what-to-look-for-9368097

Newman, S. (2016). Sneaky Rumination: Replaying Conversations in My Head. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/sneaky-rumination-replaying-conversations-in-my-head#1

Steber, C. (2019). 11 Habits That Can Actually Be Signs Of Mental Illness. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://www.bustle.com/p/11-habits-that-can-actually-be-signs-of-mental-illness-17009548

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