8 Signs of Mental Illness that Everyone Should Know

The signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the type of disorder the person is experiencing and other factors. Learning about the warning signs of mental illness[1] can help identify a developing problem and seek treatment early. Doing so may not only minimize the risk of violence but also reduce the severity of mental illness, delay it or even prevent it altogether.[2]

  1. Social withdrawal
  • You may notice the person drops out of activities enjoyed before, keeps losing friends and starts concentrating too much on him or herself.
  • Other signs include sitting and doing nothing for long periods of time and declining school, work, or athletic performance.
  1. Mood disturbances
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • A deep sadness unrelated to recent events.
  • Depression that lasts more than 2 weeks and lose interest in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Thinking or talking about suicide is another important warning sign of a mood disorder or another type of mental illness.
  1. Sleep or appetite changes
  • Noticeable changes in appetite (eating too much or too little).
  • You may notice the person starts sleeping too much, or in contrast is unable to sleep (insomnia).
  1. Irregular expression of feelings
  • This can include hostility that is out of character.
  • The person may also start to show apathy or indifference to situations, even important ones such as a promotion, graduation or another life event.
  • Inability to express joy.
  • You may also notice that the person laughs at odd or inappropriate times or for no reason.
  1. Changes in behavior
  • Hyperactivity, inactivity or switching between the two.
  • Poor hygiene, for example, the person stops showering and brushing his teeth and doesn’t want to change or wash his clothes.
  • Car accidents (may point to inability to concentrate or disturbances in the thought process).
  • Some people experiencing symptoms of mental illness also start using drugs and alcohol in an attempt to regulate their emotions and state of mind.
  • Bizarre behavior such as staring inappropriately, adopting strange postures and grimacing.
  • You may also notice an unusual sensitivity to noises, light or clothing. 
  1. Distorted reality: Difficulty perceiving reality, experiencing delusions (false beliefs that others don’t share) or hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling or tasting things that others can’t).
  2. Lack of insight: the person is unable to notice important changes in his or her own feelings, behavior or personality.
  3. Thought disturbances:
    1. Excessive or strange fears, suspiciousness or paranoia.
    2. Inability to concentrate.
    3. Feeling daily problems are too much and being unable to cope with daily or minor problems.
    4. Irrational statements.

If you notice several of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek an evaluation and discuss treatment options with a licensed mental health professional.