Mental illness is something that people have been suffering from for thousands of years. As we look through history, we see that signs of mental illness were very much present, long before we knew or understood what it was. In recent years we have learned a great deal about mental illness. As we grow to learn more about what mental illness means and what it’s like to suffer from mental illness, we have learned that millions of people suffer from different types and severities of mental health disorders each day. In fact, as we learn more about different types of mental health disorders, we are beginning to realize how common it is to suffer from mental illness, and how treatable mental illness is if properly identified and addressed.
We are often in tune with our loved ones around us. We are able to see things that they may not be able to see within themselves, and sometimes something that seems like a molehill to us could feel like a mountain for them. It is possible for us as friends or family to be able to notice patterns in behavior that indicate that our loved one may be suffering. It can be a hard to know how to best approach expressing your concerns for a loved one, but a good first step is to know the definitive signs that he or she may be suffering from mental illness. If you are concerned for a loved one, review these five signs that could indicate he or she may need some help or intervention.
The Signs To Look Out For
- He or she begins to withdraw from family and friends.
People who are suffering from mental illness are likely to withdraw from family, friends and loved ones, as they begin to suffer from the symptoms they are experiencing. There are a couple of reasons for this. For example, if your loved one does not understand why he or she is feeling down or ‘off’ they may feel as though others will not understand either. He or she may not want to worry you, and if the mental illness causes confusion, anxiety, or a depressed mood, they may begin to cope by isolating or withdrawing into themselves. A person who is withdrawing will be less interested in things he or she used to enjoy, will seem anxious or uncomfortable in social settings, and may even begin to avoid interacting or communicating with the people around him or her.
- He or she begins to show signs of stress.
A person who is suffering from mental illness will experience stress from the internal changes and symptoms he or she is experiencing. The stress will grow with time, and will cause many different changes in the way the person things, feels, and behaves. If you feel your loved one may be suffering from mental illness, you may look out for indicators that he or she is stressed. Some indicators include:
- Lashing out
- Unexplained or exaggerated fits of anger or rage
- Being easily overwhelmed
- Crying spells
- White lies
It is also not uncommon for a person who is beginning to struggle with mental illness to show signs of distress when confronted with situations that may seem threatening, foreign or uncomfortable. This could be overwhelming for your loved one, so it is important to be aware of the signs of stress and approach that person gently and with patience.
- His or her behavior and personality begins to change.
A person who is suffering from mental illness will begin to show a shift in personality and behavior. When a person is experiencing symptoms of mental illness he or she will begin to perceive things about themselves and the world differently, and as a result will begin to behave differently than before. The change will often be gradual and on a decline. Some examples of how behavior patterns and personality may change include:
- A change in social group
- Anxiety or distress about doing everyday tasks, like going to school or work
- A lack of motivation
- Finding new or unusual things interesting or funny
- Inappropriate signs of emotions for the situation at hand
- Showing significantly more or less signs of affection
- He or she begins to show a decline in functioning.
Sometimes a person who is suffering from mental illness may not even realize how severely they are affected by what is going on within and around him or her. He or she may begin to forget things, not realize they are acting unusually, or may not be self-aware and oriented to the present moment. Some signs that there is a decline in how your loved one is functioning include:
- Grades slipping or other academic issues
- Chores and responsibilities left undone
- Consistent state of confusion or apprehension
- Loss of interest in things he or she previously found interesting
Depending on the type of symptoms and the severity of the mental health disorder, your loved one may show signs that indicate that he or she is suffering from a form of mental illness that is causing some psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms are symptoms that occur when a person experiences a break from reality. They are often intense, and can cause serious harm to a person who does not receive appropriate professional intervention. Some signs that your loved one may be suffering from a severe mental health disorder that would induce psychotic symptoms include:
- Expressing grandiose, odd or unusual beliefs
- Experiencing paranoid or delusional thinking
- Seemingly speaking to people who are not there
- Speaking to himself or herself in a hushed or agitated tone
- Expressing that he or she is hearing voices or seeing people who are not there
- States of catatonia, or non-responsiveness
- He or she has a family history of mental illness.
Research has found that there is a strong genetic component that contributes to the likelihood of a person developing a mental health disorder. People who have a direct family member (parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle) who suffers from a mental health disorder is significantly more likely to suffer from that mental health disorder than someone who does not.
The National Institute of Health has found that there is a strong genetic component to the onset of mental health disorder. In a recent study, a sample of 33,000 people who suffered from one of the 5 mental health disorders was taken to assess its genetic influence:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Major Depression
Results of the study found that there was at least one of two specific genes present in each participant in the sample who suffered from one or more of the above mental health disorders. This supports that there is a strong genetic and hereditary component to suffering from one or more of these mental health disorders.
Even though it is possible for mental health disorders to run in families, it does not mean that a person needs to have a family member with a mental health disorder to suffer from a mental health disorder. Even those who have no family history of mental illness may develop a mental health disorder. That is because because other factors contribute to the onset of mental health issues, like environment, upbringing, socialization skills, ability to cope with stress, physical health, and self-esteem.