Recognizing the Signs
Mental illnesses rarely just ‘crop up’ overnight. Usually, those close to the individual such as partners, parents, teachers or colleagues notice that something seems off with the person’s demeanor, feelings or behavior before the illness develops to its full extent.
Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs that may occur can help you catch a disorder and intervene before it worsens, which may even prevent a major case of illness completely.
Concern should be raised if an individual is experiencing several of the following:
- A loss of interest in social activities or events, or deliberately avoiding those they are usually happy to spend time with.
- A drop in performance at school or work. This may involve quitting extra-curricular activities, a slip in grades or losing the ability to successfully perform familiar tasks at work.
- Loss of concentration, memory loss or a ‘scattered’ trail of thought or speech.
- Increased sensitivity to light, sights, sound, scents or touch, or the withdrawal from over-stimulating or high sensory environments.
- Loss of desire to take part in activities, or an apathetic attitude towards them.
- A sense of unreality, or the feeling of being disassociated from oneself.
- Unusual beliefs that may not make sense, often with child-like, unrealistic aspects.
- Heightened anxiety or suspiciousness when regarding others.
- A distinctive feeling of nervousness.
- Out of character behavior.
- Significant changes in sleep pattern or appetite, or the neglect of personal hygiene.
- Mood swings or dramatic changes in feelings.
Simply experiencing one or two of the above symptoms is not enough to determine a mental illness, as many of them are experienced by adults on occasion due to difficult circumstances. Experiencing them infrequently does not indicate a mental illness, however if an individual is experiencing several symptoms that are noticeably affecting their day to day life, this may be a sign of a serious problem.