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What Are the Warning Signs of Mental Illness?

There are many different mental illness symptoms, and which symptoms are present can vary significantly from one disorder to another and, more complicatedly, from one person with a mental illness to another person with the same illness.

Some mental illness warning signs are visible to the outside observer because they are physical or behavioral, and can be red flags if you are concerned about the mental health of a loved one or peer.

Other signs are related to the internal thoughts and feelings a mentally ill person has — these can be warning signs that you yourself are suffering from a mental disorder but not that someone else is, if they don’t choose to express what they’re thinking and feeling.

Mental Health Warning Signs You Can See

Some symptoms of mental illness may be evident in a person’s outward behavior or appearance. Symptoms that are common to several different types of mental illness include:

Did You Know?

Many other medical conditions share symptoms with those of mental illness, so even if you or a loved one is experiencing several of the symptoms above and you are worried that these symptoms could be signs of a mental breakdown, it’s very important not to jump to conclusions and to get a proper mental and physical health assessment and diagnosis from your doctor.

  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Unexplained sadness, anger
  • Anxiousness (difficulty speaking, sweating, trembling, flushing)
  • Neglect of self-care, including hygiene

Of course, each mental illness comes with its own distinct physical and/or behavioral symptoms, as well, such as the lack of verbal communication of autistic children, the repeated checking and counting of obsessive-compulsives, or the jaundice of severe alcoholics.

Mental Illness Signs You Can’t See

Some mental illness symptoms aren’t observable because they are thoughts and feelings that person who is experiencing them isn’t showing. Some of the many signs of mental illness not easily visible to others include:

  • Obsessively worrying that something bad is going to happen
  • Overwhelming sense of hopelessness, dread
  • Negative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness
  • Thinking about hurting yourself

Another reason a warning sign of mental illness might not be easy to spot is that the mentally ill person is intentionally hiding their behavior, such as a bulimic hiding their bingeing and purging, or a gambling addict hiding how much time they spend online and how much money they’ve lost.

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