Sometimes, we can’t immediately tell if we’re suffering from a mental illness. Some people can even go their whole lives without realizing that they’re suffering from one until they get it checked. Despite how far our society has progressed when it comes to mental health talks, there’s often still a stigma surrounding it that can prevent people from seeking the diagnosis and the help they need.
If left unchecked, many mental health symptoms can worsen over time and lead to many problems and disasters — in the worst-case scenario, even suicide. You might not be aware of some of the specific symptoms of every mental disorder, but it helps to have a general idea of what could constitute a mental illness and what is probably normal. Here are six signs to watch out for if you think you need to seek help.
Your Family Has a History of Mental Disorders
Many mental illnesses are, in fact, hereditary. Disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and depression can often be unknowingly passed down by parents to their children. If you notice that you or a family member have the same symptoms, or if a family member has been diagnosed with a mental disorder before, then you might have one as well.
It’s best to check with your direct family before jumping to conclusions. If your family members are undiagnosed, but there’s strong evidence that could point to a shared illness, you might also want to seek help for them as well.
It Starts to Affect Your School or Work Life
The first signs or symptoms of a mental illness are usually seen at work or in school. If you have trouble concentrating, understanding, or even communicating, and it’s started to affect your performance severely, then you might have a mental illness. Conditions such as depression, for instance, can affect our interests and motivation, often making us less productive. Similarly, people with ADHD might find it hard to concentrate on specific tasks or find it hard to multi-task.
Suppose you notice a reoccurring problem with your work or school performance, such as difficulty completing tasks or staying focused and motivated. In that case, you have to get help immediately or risk losing your job or failing at school.
You Feel Overly Anxious, Exhausted, and Depressed
It’s normal to feel anxious and sad every once in a while. Still, depression and anxiety brought about by a mental condition isn’t something that comes and goes like regular anxiety and depression. The minor things can often trigger it, usually lasting much longer and having far more debilitating effects and symptoms.
For example, people with anxiety disorders feel much more anxious about things than most people do. They actively avoid situations that cause them anxiety, which is a lot of things, often leading to seclusion and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Similarly, people with depression feel a much deeper kind of ‘sadness’ than some people, often for no reason at all, leading them to feel overly exhausted and unmotivated and possibly developing insomnia as well.
Most of the time, people don’t recognize that these are symptoms of a much more severe condition and believe that they can get over it with time. Still, these disorders more often than not need professional intervention before they can get better.
You Go Through Extreme Highs and Lows
Sometimes, just feeling depressed isn’t the only symptom of a mental illness. Having extreme bouts of happiness and ‘mania’ can be a symptom as well, specifically of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is often characterized by periods of mania, or extreme elation and energy, usually followed by periods of severe depression and hopelessness. This jarring shift in a person’s mood or disposition is one of the most obvious symptoms of bipolar disorder.
If you have felt episodes of mania followed by episodes of depression, and especially if both tend to occur at extremes, then you should consult with a mental health professional.
You Have Unhealthy Habits and Coping Mechanisms
Undiagnosed mental illness can often lead to people seeking help and ways to cope from somewhere else. This could include harmless hobbies and coping mechanisms, such as making art or playing games. Still, sometimes, these coping mechanisms can turn unhealthy, such as excessive drinking, smoking, drug intake, or gambling—all of which can lead to addiction. For instance, eating disorders, which are also psychological in nature, often show themselves in our eating habits. Eating less than normal or overeating can be a symptom of anorexia and other eating disorders, in which case, you need to seek help from an anorexia treatment center immediately.
Suppose you notice yourself forming an unhealthy dependency or addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or anything that could harm your health and security. In that case, you need to get help as soon as possible.
You Feel Hopeless and Suicidal
A huge sign that you need help, and a huge symptom of depression and other mental illnesses, is a feeling of hopelessness and despair. You often feel as if things would never get better. More often than not, this is accompanied by suicidal tendencies and thoughts. There is a higher risk of suicide and suicide attempts among people with mental illnesses, and that number cannot simply be ignored.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal tendencies, contact a prevention hotline immediately and seek professional help.
Finding the courage to seek help can often be scary, but there are ways to get better if you just look for them. Seeing a mental health professional isn’t and shouldn’t be a cure-all, nor is medication, but it can do a lot to improve your condition and help you cope with your disorder healthily.