mental illness

6 Signs of Mental Illness

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Donald Resemius, LMFT, Clinical Site Director, Outpatient Therapist  

Did you know that in a given year, one in five US adults experience a form of mental illness?

Recognizing the signs of mental illness can help you know when it might be time to seek help for you or a loved one. While mental illness can make everyday life difficult, there are treatment options available to help manage symptoms. 

What is Mental Illness? 

The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as, “Health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”

While we can all struggle with our mental health from time to time, it turns into a mental illness when signs and symptoms are prolonged and affect our ability to function. 

Mental illness is not something you can simply "snap out of" or "get over." There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health that still needs to be addressed. The first step to ending mental health stigma is to spread accurate information about mental health.

Examples of Mental Illness  

There are many types of mental illness and mental health disorders. Some examples of mental illness include: 

Related: How to Help a Loved One With Depression 

Signs of Mental Illness 

Of course, signs and symptoms of mental illness will vary for every individual and their circumstances.

Keep reading to learn six signs of mental illness.  

1. Increased Anxiety, Fear, or Worry 

Excessive paranoia, worry, and fear are all possible signs of mental illness. Donald Resemius, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom adds, “A person may feel an increase in anxiety or irritability in social settings causing them to struggle with withdrawal from others or isolation.” 

Related: Breathing Exercises for Anxiety & Stress 

2. Social Withdrawal/Isolation 

A common sign of mental illness is withdrawing from activities they once loved or isolating themselves. In fact, as Resemeius mentioned, withdrawal can include things they once enjoyed participating in. 

“Some signs of mental illness may include a gradual change in your loved one's interests or desires to engage in the activities that they typically enjoy (including family, work, hobbies, prosocial events, etc.)” 

Related: Social Media and Mental Health: What’s the Impact? 

3. An Increase in Addictive Behaviors  

Addictive behaviors are an additional common sign of mental illness. “You may see an increase of addictive behaviors that are out of character for your family member or friend,” says Resemius, such as substance abuse or gambling. Learn more about substance use disorder treatment here

Related: 5 Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse 

4. Extreme Changes in Moods 

If you or a loved one are experiencing sudden or extreme changes in mood, it may be a sign of mental illness. This includes high and low moods. However, as with all the signs, it's important to receive an accurate diagnosis. 

5. Dramatic Shifts in Sleeping or Eating Habits 

Extreme changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, and personal care can be another sign of mental illness. For example, this can include things like insomnia, loss of appetite, sleeping more than usual, or changes in hygiene. 

Related: Can Therapy Help With Insomnia? 

6. Suicidal Thoughts or Self-Injury 

Suicidal thoughts and self-injury require immediate attention. If you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Find the nearest hospital or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. In addition, reach out to a trusted loved one for help. 

Related: Coping With Suicidal Thoughts  

Additional signs of mental illness include:

  • Confused thinking or difficulty concentrating/learning 
  • Persistent feelings of anger or irritability 
  • Several unexplained physical ailments 
  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Hallucinations, delusions, or detachment from reality 

Related: Anger Management & Mental Health 

Treatment & Support for Mental Illness 

If you notice a change in your loved one or friends' mental health/behavior, you will want to check in with them in a caring manner. Another key factor is to encourage them to seek help. 

“Spending time with them, being curious, and gently asking about how things are is the first step. When you notice that their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have started to impact their ability to function and to be productive in life, let them know that you are worried and that there are other options too, like professional counseling and/or medication.” 

Mental health professionals can conduct an evaluation to help determine what the problem is and what solutions might be best for treatment. Certainly, recovery is possible with the proper support.  

Related: 5 Mental Health Myths Debunked  

A Word From Nystrom & Associates

Nystrom & Associates offers psychological testing, along with therapy and psychiatry services. Above all, please know that if you are struggling, you are not alone. Our providers are here to help you on your journey toward healing. 

Please talk with us at 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online. 

Related: How to Start Therapy: A Step-by-Step Guide  

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