Our mental health is the sum total of our cognitive, behavioural and emotional well-being. Once a taboo, mental health discussions were barred from entering homes, social media and literature. However, more and more people are now coming forward with their experiences. They’re busting myths and misconceptions that mental problems find root in ungrateful, unfortunate or misguided people.
Symptoms of mental health do not arise overnight, they take shape slowly, over time. Mental health affects aspects of our lives, our relationships, and physical health, all of which are often the first ones to crumble under its weight. Following is a list of signs that can help you understand if someone is on the onset of or going through a full-blown mental health issue. You may have one or more symptoms and still be perfectly fine or, on the other hand, you may have none of these symptoms and still be suffering, but in most cases, a presence of these factors signals the need for a medical diagnosis.
1. Round The Clock Anxiety
Sweaty palms, twitching lips and worrying per se are normal, but if the anxiety is present round the clock, where it begins to seep into your routine and debilitates you, it is a sign for caution (1). If you cannot trace the cause triggering your anxiety, you should meet with a psychologist.
2. Withdrawal And Apathy
In this era, where we’re always connected, through phones, internet or (on lucky days) in person, the need to crawl into our shell once in a while is ever growing. However, if you think you’re on the verge of becoming a recluse for no discernible reason, you may be suffering from depression or some other form of mental illness. Humans depend on communication and interaction for their survival. A growing lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern should not be left unchecked.
3. Mood Fluctuations
Certain mental health problems like bipolar disorder cause an unusual change in mood, energy and the ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Also known as manic-depression, a person suffering from it is thrown into fits of uncontrollable highs and lows (2).
4. Altered Sleep Patterns
If you are on the onset of a mental health problem, the first thing that often gets altered is your sleeping pattern. Both excess and lack of sleep are symptoms of many health problems that we often brush aside as signs of being overworked or stressed.
5. Changes In Appetite And Weight
Appetite is another thing that is closely linked to a disbalance in mental health. You tend to lose your appetite or eat more than necessary when you’re in the throes of depression. Monitor your weight regularly; any drastic gain or loss should be brought to the notice of a doctor.
6. Substance Abuse
Loss of control over one’s feelings and reactions may drive them towards alcohol or drugs, anything that subdues their reality. However, these are known to worsen mental health issues (3). Substance abuse will not only aggravate your mental health problems but will also destroy your physical health over the long run.
7. Difficulty Performing Usual Activities
If it becomes a task to do things that you could perform without sweating or thinking, something is off. There are activities that you perform every day, without much thought or effort, but if it becomes cumbersome to do these ordinary things, you need to see a psychologist and not beat yourself over the ineptitude.
While on the one end of the spectrum withdrawal or apathy are signs of trouble, over-stimulation or hypersensitivity is equally dangerous. If you become overly sensitive to sights, sounds, smell or touch, you may be suffering from an undiagnosed mental health problem. Don’t blame a change in your behaviour on getting older, there’s something within that begins rejecting ordinary stimuli.
9. Feelings Of Guilt And Worthlessness
This is perhaps the one and only symptom everyone recognizes as a sign of a mental health problem. When routine things begin to upset you, your appetite or sleep gets affected, morbid thoughts seem to pierce through your sense of self and you begin to feel worthless (4). If left untreated such an individual inches towards inflicting harm on himself and in extreme cases may even attempt to commit suicide. Such a condition requires immediate attention.
10. Trouble Thinking Clearly
Mental health breakdowns are marked by an unclear, fuzzy state of mind. The mind starts losing its ability to focus and declutter, leading to memory lapses.
While there is no single definition of a healthy state of mind, one can deduce from an understanding of the signs of mental health problems. A timely diagnosis can restore the balance that is amiss with your life. Gauge your behaviour, mood, appetite, and question your reflexes as you discuss your problems with friends and family. Seek therapy, do not shy away from asking for professional help! Your mental health should take precedence over everything else.