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Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

Updated on April 23, 2015
recognising mental illness
recognising mental illness

Forms of Mental Health Illnesses

Mental illnesses can come in many different forms at many different levels. Some illnesses are more acute than others, making day to life tasks in life difficult to cope with.

People may develop a mental illness or they can be born with one. The causes can be biological, down to health problems or birth defects or nurtured due to environmental or personal issues.

Some examples of mental illnesses include:

Depression

This may be severe and ongoing, making the sufferer feel low, tired, lack motivation and emotional. In extreme cases they may feel suicidal.

Bipolar

This is a form of depression, once known as 'Manic Depression'. The sufferer will go from one extreme to another, feeling incredibly low for periods of time then very excitable or hyperactive.

Anxiety Disorders

These include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Phobias.

Anxiety disorders are irrational feelings, more extreme to how a non sufferer would feel.

Schizophrenia

This is a psychotic disorder where the individual may see, hear and feel things which are not real. They can hallucinate and have conversations with another person who does not exist. They have false beliefs even if proven to them otherwise.

signs of eating disorders
signs of eating disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can affect anyone at any age or gender.

The ill person tends to have an extreme body issue and a problem with food. They generally feel they need to lose weight and slim down and control the amount of food they eat.

Anorexia Nervosa is where the sufferer eats a very small amount of food to the point where their health is at risk.

Bulimia Nervosa is another form of eating disorder with different habits. The sufferer will fast and then binge eat on occasion an excessive amount of food and then force themselves to vomit to get rid of all the food consumed.

They may also use laxatives or exercise excessively to lose weight.


Tourette's Syndrome (or Tic Disorders)

People with Tic disorders display repetitive involuntary movements such as blinking, twitching, and sounds.

The sounds may include animal noises, throat clearing, words or phrases or hissing.

Some people often associate Tourette's syndrome with involuntary cursing or offensive remarks, but this is rare.


Signs that someone has a mental illness

Sometimes it takes another person to suspect someone has a mental health problem. It could be a close family friend or relative or someone with knowledge on the subject.

medication for mental illness
medication for mental illness

Warning signs of Depression or Bipolar

Usually a change in behavior would be the first sign that someone is depressed. A change in routine such as not sleeping or sleeping during the day, being late or not turning up for work and becoming unreliable may be that someone is low in mood.

Being short tempered and less tolerant shows the sufferer feels stressed or angry about something underlying.

Lack of communication towards others and being generally quiet shows there is a problem. Also feeling emotional and crying on a regular basis is a certain sign and symptom of being down.

For the sufferer, a feeling of low self worth, low confidence, tiredness, unable to cope at work or home, lack of energy and sex drive or suicidal thoughts are all signs and symptoms of depression.

Other signs include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Feeling guilty
  • Being pessimistic
  • Feeling worried or fearful
  • Change in appetite

For someone with Bipolar, the symptoms are very similar. However, when the sufferer is 'manic' they will feel happy, excited, overconfident, easily distracted, full of energy, full of new ideas, loss of appetite, sleeping less, making risky decisions and/or illogical thinking.

phobias
phobias

Warning Signs of Anxiety Disorders

Each person with an anxiety disorder will behave differently but the symptoms will include

  • A constant fear or worry
  • Being on edge a lot of the time
  • An irrational fear of something which may not happen
  • Sudden raised heartbeat or a panicked feeling
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of dread
  • Tension Headaches

If someone shows these signs or appears flustered when carrying out tasks then they may have anxiety. It is something which is more than a 'one off' but continues.

An OCD sufferer carries out rituals and routines repeatedly as they obsess over certain things. For example, they may have a fear of becoming severely unwell from germs and bacteria, so constantly wash their hands over and over in a certain way.

If it isn't done 'properly', it will be done again.

This is something which will interfere with the individual's life and may be noticeable to others.


Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a condition which develops slowly and so isn't always something of great concern to begin with.

The first signs tend to include a change in sleep patterns or social difficulties.

Schizophrenia is divided into two categories: Positive and negative.

The positive symptoms are changes in thoughts, delusions and seeing or hearing things which are not there.

The negative symptoms show a withdrawal in personality, lack of emotion and apathy.

Confused thoughts, knowing that someone is hallucinating or talking to someone who is not there and finding it hard to reason with them are warning signs of schizophrenia.

Relationships may be a problem for someone with schizophrenia as they may not be able to socialize properly, carry out conversation, lack concentration or feel uncomfortable.

media influences
media influences

Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

When someone has a body image issue they may feel depressed and show some signs of depression.

They may pass comment about their appearance, saying they look fat or compare themselves to other people and celebrities.

Buying clothes may be an apparent problem as nothing will look or feel right and food shopping may take hours if the sufferer checks nutrition labels for fat and calorie content.

One of the most obvious sign that someone may have an eating disorder is the fact that they lose weight and it is continuous. It may be a dramatic loss as in many cases, those with eating disorders do not stop until they are almost skeletal. They can become very ill and dehydrated and in severe cases hospitalized or it can result in death.

When someone is not consuming enough energy, they will become exhausted, lack concentration, bad tempered due to low blood sugar levels or faint.


Other signs to look out for include:

  • Trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Smell of vomit
  • Tooth decay (due to acid erosion if they are vomiting regularly)
  • An obsession with food and nutrition
  • Hiding food
  • A fear of eating around other people
  • The use of laxatives or slimming pills
  • Books and magazines on diet and weight loss
  • Reading forums about eating disorders
  • Hair loss
  • Irregular periods
  • Dizzy spells
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Weight gain (in those who binge and purge)
  • Skin problems


Signs of Tic Disorders or Tourette Syndrome

Tic disorders tend to begin in adolescent and is thought to be down to faulty brain chemistry and nervous system or genetics and is made worse when the individual is under stress.

Over time the child may grow out of it or the disorder becomes more manageable.

The main signs of tic disorders are sudden movements, jolts and twitches which are involuntary and repetitive. The individual may go through phases of doing it less than at other times.

Stress and anxiety tends to make them tic more.

Involuntary sounds and noises are other signs and symptoms. They can be coughing, barking or words and phrases.

Diagnoses will take place once the individual has displayed these symptoms for 12 months.

Sometimes someone with Tic or Tourette syndrome will also suffer from OCD. This can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help rationalize thoughts and behaviors, as well as medication to help.

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    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      2 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thank you so much

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      2 years ago from Philippines

      This is most helpful when one needs to identify whether or not someone is wrestling with mental illness. You did well:)

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thanks K - not an easy subject to tackle! Glad I did a good job :)

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      6 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Interesting hub. Mental illness is difficult and you've provided a lot of information to help recognize symptoms. This is very useful. -K

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Ah that's really sad to hear. But it's so true. I once knew an elderly lady who showed all the signs of anorexia. It just goes to show it can affect anyone.

      Thanks Leah

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      This is a great hub, Emma - the signs and symptoms of mental illness are clearly laid out. I knew a family with an adolescent son who had anorexia. It took them a long time to figure out what was going on, because they associated eating disorders with girls. His treatment was delayed because they didn't recognize the signs!

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