A young woman with a sad look on her face

Mental health issues are not something that should be swept under the rug. Yet, they all too often are. There is a stigma surrounding mental health issues that is strong and hard to overcome.

It shouldn't be this way. Especially considering that 1 in 5 of Americans deal with some kind of mental health issue in a given year. That's a significant portion of the population and every one of them represents a person that needs help.

You can help by learning to recognize the warning signs of mental illness. Once you know these, you can help those around you get the help they need.

What Is Mental Illness? 

The term mental illness covers a range of mental health problems. There are over 200 classifications for mental illness. Troubles can range from being mild and a minor inconvenience to having devastating, life-changing impact.

Some mental illnesses, particularly mild forms, can be transient and brought on by stress or other factors. Others may require help in the form of therapies or even medications. And some people simply struggle with lifelong issues.

The Warning Signs of Mental Illness

People can only get help for mental illness when they realize there's a problem. Furthermore, some people may know they need help but not know how to reach out.

You can help them by knowing how to recognize the signs and reaching out to them. And if you recognize these warning signs in yourself know that you can reach out. Everyone deserves help for whatever their illness, whether it be physical or mental.

1. Plummeting Energy Levels

One of the most common warning signs of mental illness is listlessness or a general lack of energy. The person may also experience dramatic changes in eating and sleeping habits and changes in their sex drive.

Of course, this can have physical causes as well, such as a cold or other illness coming on. But if physical illness doesn't seem to be the case, or the behavior last for a long period of time it could indicate mental issues. 

It is also normal to see these symptoms as a sign of grief. But if there is nothing in the person's life that would cause them this kind of grief something else may be wrong.

2. Mood Changes

Along with plummeting energy levels, you may notice mood swings or changes. For example, feeling down or sad all the time without seeming reason.

The person may also display violent or aggressive behavior or exhibit anger that is out of character for them. They may also have dramatic mood swings from highs to lows and back again.

3. Social Withdrawal

They may also start keeping to themselves more and withdrawing from social situations. Keep in mind that some people are loners by nature and like being by themselves.

But watching for out-of-character behavior is key. If your social butterfly friend suddenly never wants to go out, they may be dealing with some serious issue.

4. Physical Symptoms

 Mental health issues can also cause physical symptoms to manifest. These include:

  • Stomach pains
  • Headaches 
  • Frequent minor illnesses
  • Sudden weight fluctuations

Sometimes you'll even notice changes in personal grooming habits. 

5. Drug or Alcohol Abuse

You can say that substance abuse and mental illness go hand-in-hand. In fact, since addiction is considered a mental illness 100% of addicts have a mental illness.

It's hard to say which comes first. In some cases, it appears that the mental health issue comes first and may cause a substance abuse disorder. And in others, substance abuse seems to contribute to the development of a new mental issues.

Of course, not all people who suffer from mental illnesses will develop an addiction disorder. However, it is common for people struggling with mental health issues to look for some sort of escape, possibly through drugs or alcohol.

6. Confusion

General confusion can also be a sign of mental illness. Losing things, forgetting things, and generally losing track of time or items is common.

Forgetting the occasional coffee date is common. But if it becomes a habit or the person can't even remember that there was a coffee date something might be going on.

7. Suicidal Thoughts or Actions

Suicidal thoughts or actions are no laughing matter and should never be discounted. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or someone confides in you that they are experiencing them seek help immediately. This is one area where you don't want to take action too late.

8. Losing One's Grip on Reality

Not everyone suffering from a mental illness begins to lose their grip on reality. But some do so this is a sign to watch out for.

You may notice signs of paranoia, hallucinations, and other delusions. It's normal to lock your doors at night. It's not normal to think everyone you see is trying to steal from you or do you harm.

Help for People with Mental Illness

If you notice any of these warning signs of mental illness in yourself or a loved one don't be afraid to take action. Even if it's just sitting down and having a conversation with a trusted friend, help for mental illness is available.

For more serious troubles you may want to enlist the help of a professional. In many cases, with the right treatment people with mental illnesses can go on to live happy, fulfilled lives. There's no reason that you or your loved one can't be one of them.

If you want to learn more about how to help people with mental illnesses feel free to check out our mental health and psychology courses. This is the type of thing it never hurts to know a little bit about and we can help!