15 Warning Signs of Mental Illness: Everything you need to know

Jul 9, 202410 min
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Clinical Psychologist
signs of mental illness


Although tension, worry, and depression are commonplace in daily life, if they persist could indicate something more serious. With everything going on in the world, it is natural to experience some difficult emotions but it's critical to recognize the difference between common mental strains and issues that require clinical attention.

It could be time to get professional help if stress paralyzes you, you lose control over your emotions, depression affects your capacity to function, or you observe these or related symptoms in a loved one. Determining whether you need to get care may be made easier if you know the warning signs of mental illness. 

In this blog, we’ll learn everything about warning signs of mental disorder, from the difference between mild & serious mental health challenges, to physical, behavioral, and emotional signs of mental illness. 

Let us begin by understanding what Mental health is.

What is Mental Health?

Our feelings and thoughts, and overall state of mind are all part of our mental health. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that thinking and behavior can be impacted by mental health disorders.

Although they are sometimes used interchangeably, the CDC states that "mental health and mental illness are not the same”  and it is possible to have poor mental health without receiving a mental illness diagnosis." 

Similarly, physical, mental, and social well-being can be experienced by an individual with a mental health condition. Anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, and other mental health conditions are among them.

Mental health illnesses are more widespread than many people realize, despite the unjustified stigma surrounding them. According to Mental Health America, 19% of American adults matched the criteria for mental health disorders in 2019.

According to the National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, approximately 10.6% of adults in India suffer from mental health disorders

Everyone has some anxiety, especially in light of the pandemic and current state of the world, says Manreet Kaur, a clinical lead at Valley Youth House in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a nationally qualified counsellor. "Knowing when to seek help is crucial."

Determining if your emotions are a normal reaction to life's ups and downs or a more serious problem can be challenging. The main distinctions between more severe mental health disorders and controllable emotions are outlined below.

Mental Health: Difference between Mild & Serious Mental Health Challenges

Professionals in the field of mental health often gauge the severity of a mental health problem by looking at how it affects a person's day-to-day functioning and the circumstances that gave rise to it. 

Serious mental health issues can have a detrimental effect on a person's relationships, and performance at work or school, and are often more persistent and disruptive to a person's daily life than mild mental health issues.

Let's take a scenario where you have a big exam coming up. It's common to experience some tension or worry prior to the exam. 

However, it would be more worrying if your anxiety was so bad that you skipped school in order to avoid taking the exam, as this could disrupt your daily pattern and have tangible negative effects on your welfare. 

Experiencing physical symptoms or panic attacks due to extreme anxiety during exams might also warrant seeking support.

It's crucial to consider the circumstances around a mental health issue. It's common to experience anger following a breakup, sadness or mourning after a loved one passes away, or anxiety before starting a new job. 

Talking to a therapist or counselor about how you're feeling in these circumstances might be beneficial, but unless it's seriously interfering with your daily life, it might not be regarded as a major or severe difficulty. No matter the level of difficulty, it might be helpful to consult a mental health professional to access professional support for your mental health needs. 

Mental Health & Depression: Some noteworthy statistics to know

Depression Rates in India: A survey from 2015 revealed that about 5.3% of people in India have experienced depression at some point. Many adults need help for various mental health problems.

Changing Views on Mental Health: People in India are starting to see mental health differently. More and more are open to seeking help for mental health issues, which is important because there used to be a lot of shame around these problems.

Need for More Resources: Although awareness is growing, there aren't enough mental health professionals in India, with only about 0.75 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people. This shows a big need for more support and better access to mental health services.

What are 15 Warning signs you need to go to a mental health hospital or Clinic?

Recognising when to seek professional assistance is essential for recovery and general well-being. Mental health is just as crucial as physical health. Here are detailed explanations of some signs you need mental health support.

Physical Signs of Mental Illness

Physical signs of mental illness can often be the first warning signs of mental illness. Some common physical signs include:

  1. Chronic Fatigue: Persistent tiredness or lack of energy not related to physical exertion can be a sign of depression or anxiety.
  2. Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia, oversleeping, or disrupted sleep patterns are often associated with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
  3. Unexplained Aches and Pains: Frequent headaches, stomach aches, or muscle pain without a clear physical cause can be linked to stress, anxiety, and depression.
  4. Changes in Diet or Weight: Significant weight loss or gain, or drastic changes in eating habits, can signal eating disorders or depression.
  5. Decreased Libido: A reduced interest in sex can be a symptom of various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

Behavioural Signs of Mental Ill-health

Behavioral signs of mental ill health are often more noticeable to others and can be critical indicators of mental health problems. Key behavioral signs include:

  1. Social Withdrawal: Avoiding friends, family, and social activities can be a sign of depression, social anxiety, or other mental health disorders.
  2. Changes in Daily Routine: Neglecting personal hygiene, not maintaining daily routines, or failing to perform regular activities can indicate severe mental distress.
  3. Substance Abuse: Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or other substances to cope with emotional pain is a significant red flag.
  4. Risky Behaviors: Engaging in dangerous activities, such as reckless driving, unprotected sex, or illegal activities, can indicate underlying mental health issues.
  5. Aggression or Irritability: Increased irritability, anger, or violent behavior can be symptoms of various mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder and PTSD.

Emotional Signs of Mental Illness

Emotional signs of mental illness are often internalized and can be harder to recognize but are critical indicators of mental health. These signs include:

  1. Persistent Sadness or Depression: Feeling overwhelmingly sad, hopeless, or empty for extended periods.
  2. Anxiety or Excessive Worry: Constantly feeling anxious, nervous, or worried about everyday situations.
  3. Mood Swings: Experiencing extreme mood changes, from highs to lows, often without clear reasons.
  4. Feelings of Guilt or Worthlessness: Intense feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or inadequacy.
  5. Emotional Numbness: Feeling detached from reality or unable to feel emotions.

Identifying signs of mental illness - whether physical, behavioral, or emotional is the primary first towards the mental health help-seeking process. 

A number of mental health hospitals and clinics provide specialized care and support necessary to recover from mental health illness.

Professional therapy and early intervention can greatly improve results and improve quality of life. Don't be afraid to ask for professional mental health assistance if you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties.

You may also supplement your mental healthcare practices with some  Alternative Mental Health Tips and Therapies.

When to Ask Help for with Mental Health

If you experience changes in your own mood or behaviors, there are a few questions you should ask to gauge how much these changes are affecting life. Doing this will help seeking mental health and therapy advice more effectively.

Changes at Work or School

  • Am I having difficulty at school, skipping certain classes, or being absent from extracurricular activities?
  • Even when I'm not at school, do I often find myself worried about what's happening there?
  • Am I failing to complete or comprehend a task, skipping work, or avoiding specific tasks?
  • Am I unable to check out from work even when my shift is over? 

Changes in Relationships

  • Am I arguing more frequently than usual with loved ones?
  • Do I feel as though I've "lost time" or am I forgetting significant occasions or assignments?
  • Do I ever experience detachment from reality or perceive, perceive, or sense modalities not shared by others?
  • Do I ever get the feeling that someone is trying to harm me or is out to get me?
  • Has someone inquired about my mental health, checked in on me, or shown worry over behavioral changes they've observed—a parent, friend, teacher, or anybody else?


  • Do I hurt myself when I am feeling overwhelmed? Have I hurt myself intending to hurt myself but not to kill myself?
  • Do I hurt myself to get other people to notice my suffering?

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

  • Do I feel like a burden or think that others will be better off without me?
  • Do I entertain thoughts about dying?
  • Do I have a plan of how to kill myself?
  • Am I thinking about how to say goodbye to loved ones and who will acquire my possessions?

How to Ask for Help with Mental Health

If you find changes in your or a loved one’s behavior or if you’ve answered “Yes” to some of the questions above, you may be experiencing mental health distress and it’s important to reach out for support. 

You can reach out to a mental health professional and talk to an adult you trust the most, like a parent, partner, or friend. or a caretaker, teacher, etc. Your support system is not a substitute for a professional but they can build a safe space for you to share your feelings, hold you accountable, and offer practical support for achieving your treatment goals when things get tough for you. 

If you’re in school, it is crucial to seek help from a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, caretaker, or any adult you feel safe sharing with because they can help you find mental health doctors to tackle the warning signs of mental disorders. 

What to do if your friend wants help find Mental Health Support

A vital component of our network of support for mental health might be our friends. Because they know us so well, our friends are sometimes the first to recognise when anything is awry. 

Here are some ways you can support a friend if you're worried about changes in their behavior or mood:

Start the interaction: Initiate the dialogue. Share your observations with them, along with your concerns. It's critical to maintain your composure and lack of bias. Make use of "I" statements, such as "I noticed you haven't been coming to class lately. Are things okay?" Alternatively, "Do you want to talk about what I saw last night that you posted?"

Encourage them to ask for help: Ask your friend to seek help from a parent or a caregiver, therapist, doctor, etc. If you’re capable of helping them find a doctor or message them on your friend’s behalf to a trusted adult.

Do not keep secrets if your friend is in danger: Tell someone if your friend is self-harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts. Out of fear or embarrassment, they might feel compelled to keep it a secret, yet doing so will impede them from receiving the necessary assistance. 

If they tell you, tell them that even if they are upset with you for telling an adult you can trust, it's for their own protection. Urge them to tell someone about it.

Who Can I turn up to?

While there are many options available for support, you may find that some are easier to access or better suited to your needs. Different things work for different people at different times, therefore there's no wrong order to try things in.

Your physician (GP)

When we're sick, many of us go to our local general practitioner's office (often referred to as primary care) first. In addition to helping with your physical health, your doctor can also assist you with your mental health.

They could:

  • Determine a diagnosis; provide you with support and treatments (such as medication and talking therapies); 
  • Refer you to a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist; and suggest local resources for assistance.

A Qualified Therapist

Your doctor may refer you to trained therapists and counselors for mental health support. You can also reach out to a qualified therapist independently via directory, listings, and their professional website. Mave Health has launched Therapy Club which consists of qualified mental health professionals across the country for a variety of therapies.

Neighbors, Relatives, and friends

Speaking with a trustworthy person about your feelings can occasionally be beneficial. They could:

  • Assist you with gathering information, 
  • Go over your alternatives with you, 
  • Accompany you to appointments, 
  • Assist with daily duties, and offer support and encouragement.

Wrapping Up!

In summary, mental health plays a critical role in total well-being. While brief emotional swings are common, more chronic symptoms, such as social disengagement, mood swings, or physical changes, may point to a more serious problem. 

For healing to occur, identifying these symptoms and getting expert assistance are essential. You can get the skills necessary to manage your mental health and enhance your quality of life by speaking with a therapist, trustworthy adult, or mental health facility. Recall that you are not by yourself. Help is at hand, and asking for it is a show of strength rather than weakness.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I know if my stress or anxiety is serious enough to seek help?

It's normal to feel stressed or anxious, especially during challenging times. However, if your stress or anxiety is overwhelming, paralyzes you, disrupts your daily activities, or leads to physical symptoms like panic attacks, it might be time to seek professional help.

2. What are the main warning signs of poor mental health that indicate I need to see a mental health professional?

Look out for persistent physical signs like chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, unexplained aches, changes in diet, or decreased libido. Behavioral signs include social withdrawal, neglecting daily routines, substance abuse, risky behaviors, and aggression. Emotional signs like constant sadness, excessive worry, mood swings, feelings of guilt, or emotional numbness are also indicators.

3. How can I support a friend who seems to be struggling with their mental health?

Start by having an open and non-judgmental conversation with your friend about your concerns. Encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult, therapist, or doctor. If they are self-harming or have suicidal thoughts, inform a trusted adult immediately for their safety, even if it means breaking a promise of secrecy.

4. When should I be concerned about my behavior or mood changes affecting my work or school?

If you're having trouble focusing, or completing tasks, or if you're frequently absent from school or work due to worry or avoidance, it’s a sign that your mental health might be affecting your daily functioning. Additionally, if you're constantly thinking about work or school even when you're not there, it might be time to seek help.

5. What steps should I take if I believe I need mental health support?

The first step is to talk to someone you trust, such as a parent, teacher, or friend. They can help guide you to the appropriate resources. If you're unsure where to start, reach out to a mental health professional for an assessment. Early intervention can significantly improve your quality of life and help manage symptoms effectively.




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Clinical Psychologist
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