Warning Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

Mental illness can take a variety of forms and present with different symptoms. Since there are so many different conditions that people can suffer from, it’s essential to be aware of mental illness’s symptoms to better detect a problem. We will look closer at what to look for and what you can do if you or a loved one suspect a mental illness.

What is Mental Illness?

While many people experience mental concerns occasionally, these feelings can become a mental illness when ongoing signs make it challenging to function. [1]

If someone is battling a mental illness, they may be dealing with one of many different conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Mood disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorder

When someone is dealing with a mental illness, it can make daily life miserable and impact relationships. Anyone dealing with a mental illness can tell you it can be highly debilitating. This is another critical reason for detecting symptoms and receiving an early diagnosis.

Symptoms of Mental Illness

When discussing mental illness symptoms, it’s important to note that they vary depending on a person’s age. [2] Adults and adolescents will begin to show different warning signs compared to children.

Mental Illness Warning Signs in Adults & Adolescents

Here are some things that could signal you or a loved one has a mental illness [2]:

  • Feeling sad
  • Excessive fear or worrying
  • Feeling confused
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Having low energy
  • Avoiding friends and social events
  • Trouble perceiving changes in your feelings
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches
  • Difficulty perceiving reality
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Obsession with weight gain

Mental Illness Warning Signs in Children

Young children can also begin to develop mental health conditions. Many symptoms are behavioral because they may be unable to verbalize their thoughts and emotions.

The symptoms of mental illness in children can include:

  • Nightmares
  • Temper Tantrums
  • Hyperactivity
  • Changes in school performance
  • Anxiety

These symptoms can be warning signs that your child is dealing with a mental illness. It’s essential to seek medical attention when the first symptoms are noticed to help provide the most successful treatments.

Diagnosing a Mental Health Condition

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults lived with a mental illness in 2021. [3] Studies also show that mental health conditions are prevalent among children and teens, with 1 in 7 children having at least one treatable mental health disorder. [4] This is why being aware of the symptoms of mental illness is crucial to seeking professional help and receiving a diagnosis. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step to getting on a treatment plan.

A mental health professional will use the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” to look at the symptoms and make a diagnosis. [2] The manual details criteria, including different feelings and behaviors. Once a proper diagnosis is given, a treatment plan can be made. This can include therapy, medication, and possible lifestyle changes.

Gender Role in Mental Health Diagnosis

When diagnosing a mental health condition, studies show that women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety, while diagnoses for men tend to lean towards antisocial disorders. [5] Researchers found that women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalize their emotions. This can lead to loneliness, depression, and withdrawal. Men tend to externalize their behaviors, leading to aggressive and impulsive disorders.

Because of these differences, treatment for women may focus on coping and cognitive skills, while treatment for men can deal with impulsive behaviors to avoid non-destructive behaviors. [5]

What to Do if You or a Loved One Suspect a Mental Illness

If you suspect you have a mental illness or believe a family member may be suffering, seeking help is essential. Most mental illnesses don’t improve by themselves. If left untreated, they can worsen and lead to more severe problems.

If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, you want to get immediate help by dialing 911 or contacting a suicide hotline or crisis hotline. You can call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or use the Lifeline Chat. [6] These resources can help you deal with these thoughts and prevent tragedy.

You can also reach out to a mental health specialist, close friend, or loved one. Some people find comfort in talking to a spiritual leader. Most importantly, you are not dealing with these feelings alone and are getting the help you need.

Having an open and honest conversation with a loved one about mental illness and any symptoms they are showing can provide vital help and support. While you may not be able to persuade them to get professional help immediately, you can offer them someone to talk to and show your support. When they know they have your support, they may be more likely to seek help, especially if you take the lead and offer to accompany them if they wish.

Outpatient Mental Health Treatment at Healing Foundations Center

At Healing Foundations Center, we help people with all types of mental illness. This includes anxiety, depressive disorders, mood disorders, and more. We tailor each treatment plan to fit the patient because we understand that while people may be dealing with the same illness, how it impacts them will differ.

Our treatment plans can include a variety of therapies, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, as well as exposure therapy. Once an initial assessment is done, our team will recommend the best course of treatment. Our outpatient mental health treatment will help you or your loved one deal with their illness and live a productive life. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.



[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968

[2] https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms

[3] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness

[4]  https://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/half-us-children-mental-health-disorders-are-not-treated

[5] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/mental-illness

[6] https://988lifeline.org/chat/