Spotting the signs
Mental illness, just like physical illness, is a term that can denote a variety of mental health illnesses and symptoms, which makes recognising signs much more difficult. The traits of a mental health condition could vary depending on the severity or type of illness that the individual is encountering. However, here are some broad symptoms to look out for:
Some people are naturally more prone to an introverted lifestyle, whilst others relish in a busy, social environment. However, if you know a person well you should be able to recognise changes in their activity should withdrawal be one of their key signs. They may stop answering messages, where they have always been good at replying previously, or their replies are cut short and to the point with little conversation. You may find they are turning down invitations on a regular basis or making excuses to get out of a previously arranged function. If depression or anxiety has taken hold it can be incredibly difficult to want to socialise, or the idea of it may cause too much stress to make it worth their while.
The ability to concentrate is often diminished in cases of mental health issues. If you notice that a friend or colleague seems easily distracted, has little interest in their work and can’t motivate themselves to take part in activities, they may be suffering from longer-term problems. Likewise, general conversation may prove difficult. They may muddle words or confuse easily, making little sense.
This may seem obvious, but depression, for example, doesn’t have to present itself through sadness. Although sadness is a sign to watch for, other changes in mood are equally important. Look out for increased irritability, they may have little patience and ‘snap’ at the smallest thing, often reacting with violence. Or perhaps their mood changes are far more extreme, going from one end of the spectrum (total joy) to the other (anger/sadness) rapidly, without cause.
Alongside mood changes you may notice your friend or family member is showing other signs such as worrying excessively. Perhaps they are worrying about work, what people think of them, over-analysing plans or actions. They may seem paranoid, or anxious about everyday activities. These signs need to be taken seriously.
Often people with mental illness will find they are unable to sleep, or if they are sleeping, they sleep too much and are unable to wake in time for work. Should someone you know seem abnormally fatigued perhaps ask them if something may be bothering them, are they sleeping well, are they feeling well? Remember fatigue can be a sign of many different health conditions and is always one to check up on.
Perhaps one of the more obvious signs, delusion can be a detachment from reality, believing they are something that they are not, or can do something that they have never been able to do before. It could present itself as simply as the person believing they have a profession that they have never mentioned before. If you do have concerns about delusion, seek help from a professional.
Anxiety and depression are perhaps the most talked-about forms of mental illness but are not the only ones. Eating disorders and addiction also fall under the mental illness category. Noticing a change in eating habits can be cause for concern. Should your friend or family member refuse meals often, or if they seem to be eating all the time, take note. Likewise, if the trips to the bar, betting shop online gambling sites have become more commonplace it is definitely worth keeping an eye on and opening up the conversation gently with that person.