Expert Talk: First 5 Signs Of Mental Illness

If you experience distress, or notice a friend, family member or colleague around you displaying any of these signs, reach out.

Tanya Srivastava
Written by: Tanya SrivastavaUpdated at: Oct 09, 2022 18:55 IST
Expert Talk: First 5 Signs Of Mental Illness

Mental health related illnesses impact close to a billion people in the world. Yet, because there are often no outwardly signs or medical tests that can be done, these conditions often go unnoticed and untreated. 

While it’s not important for us to know the signs and symptoms of every mental health disorder, what’s even more important is that we recognize the red flags that we, or someone around us may be struggling. In an exclusive interaction with OnlyMyHealth Divya Jain, Sport & Counselling Psychologist, Head - Psychological Services, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare explains the first five signs of mental illness in a person.

1. Changes in emotions 

People experiencing mental health conditions may experience sadness, irritability, anger, nervousness, fear, or a loss of interest in things they earlier used to enjoy. In some cases, they may also experience significant fluctuations in their mood. 

2. Changes in thoughts 

Beyond just emotions and moods, mental health conditions also impact out thought process. People may experience negative thinking, excessive worrying, overthinking and ruminating, preoccupations, difficulties in concentrating and making decisions. It may also impact their own confidence and self-esteem

3. Changes in performance 

While you may not recognize changes in thoughts and emotions in another person, there are often signs that you can identify where a mental health condition is impacting an individual’s performance, be it at work, at school or in household chores. Making human errors, avoiding tasks, not being able to complete tasks on time, reaching late and being absent are all signs that may indicate an underlying mental health condition. 

First Five Signs Of Mental Illness

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4. Changes in interpersonal relationships 

When experiencing distress, we often tend to withdraw from our loved ones. We may avoid spending time with friends and family, or with colleagues at work, feelings of isolation and helplessness may also creep in. At the same time, there may be more anger outbursts which affect the quality of relationships. An individual may begin to experience more conflicts both in the personal or professional space. 

5. Changes in behaviour and physical signs

Our sleep and appetite often get impacted as a result of a mental illness – either sleeping or eating too much or too little. If feeling anxious, we may experience physiological symptoms like palpitations, shortness or breath or muscle tension. We may feel more tired and lethargic than usual, or experience otherwise unexplained aches and pains. Individuals may also experience feelings of agitation or restlessness.

While talking about these signs, we must remember that it’s natural for all of us to have a bad day every now and again. We all feel stressed when dealing with a demanding situation, we all feel sad when we experience a loss. But this is not the same as having a mental health illness. Mental health disorders are persistent and pervasive, they have to last for a considerable period of time (for example, in the case of depression, at least two weeks or more), and also cause impairments in our social or occupational functioning. 

If you experience distress, or notice a friend, family member or colleague around you displaying any of these signs, reach out. Share your concerns and have an open conversation. Remember that helping another, and asking for help, both are a sign of strength.

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