Warning Signs of Mental Illness

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

Mental illness is not the same as feeling sad, unhappy or stressed. It refers to a state that causes intense distress and that affects a person’s ability to function over a long period of time. Mental illness does not show up overnight. There are warning signs that you should be aware of because they can be a sign that either you or someone you care about may be developing a mental illness.

Warning Signs of Mental Illness
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or down
  • Extreme mood swings, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria alternating with periods of feeling down and depressed
  • Change in sleep patterns, frequent complaints of feeling tired, feeling restless
  • Experiencing many or frequent physical symptoms, ie: headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, etc
  • Yelling and fighting with family and friends
  • Withdrawal and avoiding friends and social activities
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Strong feelings of anger or irritability
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Excessive smoking, drinking, or using drugs
  • Thinking of harming yourself or someone else
  • Having persistent thoughts or memories that can’t get out of your head
  • Excessive thoughts about weight gain, food consumption, or body image/ self-esteem tied to appearance

If you think you or someone you know are experiencing a mental health challenge, the first thing you need to know is that you are NOT alone, even if it feels like you are. You can easily have access to the support and the help you need and deserve. Reaching out for help requires courage because of the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental illness. But you should never feel ashamed or embarrassed of asking for help. If anything, you should be proud of yourself for doing so because it means that you have the courage to take that first step in getting better and making a change in your life. Look at asking for mental health care the same way you’d look at seeing a doctor for a physical health problem. Find more tools for finding support here.