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Mental Illness: Signs and Symptoms

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4 min read


The term “mental health” is a euphemism for mental illness. Therefore, awareness is the first key to stepping out for medical evaluation.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abhishek Juneja

Published At February 2, 2023
Reviewed AtOctober 5, 2023


Half of the population regards mental health conditions as “the next-door disorder” and refuse that their loved ones may suffer from mental conditions. However, mental health conditions are common and globally distributed in our society.

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health is a state of well-being emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Individuals can think, feel, act, handle stress, and make healthy choices. Therefore, mental health is as crucial as our physical health. Although “poor mental health” and “mental illness” are often interchangeable, but are different. Being unhappy does not imply being depressed. For instance, “depression” is used more often to depict how one feels after a lousy week at work or through a breakup phase, but depression is much more than that.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are brain-based conditions that involve a significant disturbance in thinking, emotional regulation, alteration in behavior, and social detachment. Studies have shown that mental illness results from disputes among neurons in the brain. For example, the neurotransmitter serotonin level is lower in individuals with depression; therefore, one can expect high chances of mental health in the future.

One event cannot delineate mental health illness but has multiple linked causes. Several factors contribute to the risk of mental illness, such as

  • History of abuse (child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.) and early adverse life experiences, such as trauma.

  • Long-term medical conditions like cancer or diabetes (a metabolic condition that results in elevated blood sugar levels).

  • Genetic factors or imbalances in the brain’s neurotransmitter.

  • Alcohol or drugs-related issues.

  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation.

What Are the Types of Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a general term for illnesses that may include symptoms affecting a person’s thinking, perceptions, mood, or behavior. Different types of mental illnesses are

  • Anxiety Disorder: Intense, persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Also includes generalized anxiety, social and specific phobias (agoraphobia- fear of situations and places that might cause panic attacks and helplessness and claustrophobia-fear of crowded or enclosed places), and panic disorders.

  • Bipolar Affective Disorder: Formerly called manic depression, where there are unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity level, concentration, and ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are three types of bipolar disorder - bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.

  • Major Depressive Disorder: A severe and common mental illness related to disruptive mood, persistent irritability, and behavioral dyscontrol.

  • Eating Disorders: They have a detrimental impact on a person's living, related to behavior, thoughts, attitude towards food, body weight, or body shape; common symptoms include food restriction and purging behavior like vomiting.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: In which people experience obsession or repetitive, unwanted thoughts that prompt an extreme urge to repeat a specific behavior like checking locked doors twice, repetitive washing of hands, and organizing things.

  • Schizophrenia: This is a deliberating condition where distortion of thinking, perception, hallucination related to hearing voices or sounds, delusions, incoherent or disorganized speech, and unusual or enormously slowed movements.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): It is observed in individuals with a history of adverse life events such as accidents, physical or sexual assaults, war-related events, and domestic violence.

How Can One Recognize Warning Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness?

One has to look for sudden changes in thoughts and behaviors. Persistence of more than five symptoms for more than two weeks indicates a problem requiring further evaluation by medical professionals.

Alarming Signs Of Mental Illness In Adults:

  • Alternation In Sleep Cycle - Insomnia or hypersomnia and early wakefulness than usual.

  • Appetite Changes - Increased or decreased appetite or decline in personal care.

  • Profound Mood Shift - It threatens the well-being of an individual. Depression and mania need to be assessed by medical personnel.

  • Atypical Features - Pessimism (negative mental attitude), crankiness, overeating, persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings, and sensitivity to rejection.

  • Catatonia - Inability to do bodily movements normally, unresponsiveness, or uncontrollable movements.

  • Peripartum Depression - Depression associated with pregnancy or after giving birth.

  • Seasonal Pattern - Seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression) is a type of depression provoked by seasonal changes, especially in colder and darker months. Also well known by the term called “winter blues.”

  • Emotional And Social Detachments - These may stem from unwillingness or avoidance to connect with others as a response to a stressful state of mind.

  • Psychomotor Changes (Agitation or Retardation) - Seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations).

  • Strong Feelings of Anger - Extreme aggression or violent behavior for no specific reason.

  • Struggle With Daily Activities - Inability to perform daily tasks. Day-to-day struggle suggests mental health issues, where the person cannot perform daily activities like work, going out, social connections, etc.

  • Suicidal Reflection and Attempts - A sense of failure with no hope to live life.

  • Substance Abuse - Stimulant drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, and Amphetamines.

  • Feelings of Guilt - Worthlessness, hopelessness, and detachment refer to empty feelings one considers as battles with themselves only.

  • Cognitive Difficulties - Trouble Concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.

  • Delusions - Delusion is an unshakeable belief in something untrue.

  • Agitation - A sense of inner tension and restlessness for no reason.

  • Loss Of Pleasure In Life - Loss of pleasure in life, including sex .

Alarming Signs Of Mental Illness In Young Children:

  • Changes in School Performance: Consistent poor academic performance despite efforts, mute or numb behavior, or hyperactivity.

  • Change in Sleeping Pattern: Persistent nightmares, sleepwalking, and interrupted sleeping.

  • Anxiety - Excessive worry or anxiety, like refusing to go to bed or school.

  • Loss of Physical Health: Alter eating habits and weight loss.

  • Persistent Disobedience or Aggression: Aggression and disobedience with frequent temper tantrums.

What to Do if a Person Is Mentally Ill?

Early intervention in mental illness is crucial and helps prevent illness from worsening. Taking action and getting help is the fundamental principle of treating mental conditions.

  • Assessment by a mental health professional to preclude causes and treat that respectively.

  • Talk therapy (counseling).

  • Stress management protocols.

  • Lookout for the signs and symptoms.

  • Proper counseling and follow-ups by a psychologist.

What Are the Treatment Modalities For Mental Illness?

  • Antidepressant drugs.

  • Psychotherapies (talk therapy).

  • Brain stimulation therapies.

How Can One Cope With Mental Illness?

  • Self-awareness. Recognize symptoms and seek help from medical professionals.

  • Walking can enhance mood.

  • Maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time.

  • Eat regular, healthy meals.

  • Social interaction.

  • Try to find self-happiness and contentment.

  • Eliminate the use of alcohol, nicotine, or stimulant drugs, including medications not prescribed by a medical professional.


Mental conditions impact performance and success rates besides interfering with social relationships and general physical health. A lack of symptom recognition may worsen mental illness. The aim should be to address mental illness and help combat it. Mental illness is no one’s fault, and the individual suffering from it is not alone.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Four Categories of Mental Illness?

- Anxiety disorders.
- Personality disorders. 
- Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder or depression. 
- Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.


What Leads to Mental Illness?

Experiencing financial difficulties, losing a cherished individual, or going through a divorce can contribute to developing mental health issues. Additionally, mental illness can emerge due to enduring chronic physiological conditions, such as diabetes or brain injury.


Which Is the Most Serious Mental Illness?

The most prevalent and severe kind of mental illness is depression. Women are typically affected more frequently than men.


What Are the Ten Worst Mental Illnesses?

The top 10 psychological disorders and conditions include 
- Depression.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Bipolar affective disorders.
- Dissociative disorders.
- Eating disorders.
- Paranoia.
- Psychosis.
- chizophrenia.
- OCD.


What Mental Illness Is the Most Painful?

The most painful sickness is borderline personality disorder (BPD), which results in the most severe emotional discomfort and pain. Studies show that borderline patients experience substantial, protracted emotional distress.


Can a Mental Condition Be Cured?

Although most mental diseases cannot be cured, they can typically be adequately treated to lessen symptoms and enable the patient to participate in the job, school, or social settings. An individual must first see a trained mental health practitioner to start treatment.


How Can Mental Health Be Enhanced?

By caring for themselves, people can prevent mental illness by calming their minds with relaxing music, becoming more social, creating achievable objectives, and caring for their bodies. Allocate some time with individuals who value and appreciate unique qualities and demonstrate an understanding of the circumstances.


How Might One Treat Mental Illness?

Psychotherapy is one method of treating mental illness. A qualified mental health practitioner administers treatment for mental illness.


What Exactly Is a Mood Disorder?

Affective disorders or mood disorders are characterized by major emotional disruptions (extreme lows like depression or highs like hypomania or mania). These are widespread psychiatric conditions that raise morbidity and mortality rates.


Who Is More Mentally Ill?

Women have worse mental health. Common mental health issues are three times as likely to affect women than males. Self-harm among young women has increased in recent years.


Which Mental Illnesses Are Serious?

Serious mental illnesses include 
- Bipolar disorder.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD).
- Schizophrenia.


How Long Does Mental Illness Typically Last?

While some cases of mental illness only last a few days, weeks, or months, others may have chronic problems that persist over time and are frequently treated with medication. Going for extended stretches between episodes is also possible without becoming ill.


Which Drug Is Most Effective for Mental Illness?

Typically, antipsychotic medications are used to treat psychotic conditions like schizophrenia. When combined with antidepressants, it can also be utilized to treat bipolar disorders or depression.


Is Mental Illness a Lifelong Condition?

Most mental illnesses typically originate during the early stages of life, although they have the potential to emerge at any point, spanning from childhood through to adulthood. Mental disease can have short-term or long-term impacts. A person may experience multiple mental health disorders concurrently. 


What Is the Onset Age of Mental Illness?

Although mental illness can affect individuals of all ages, a significant majority of cases, approximately 75%, begin before reaching 24 years of age. Some mental illnesses, like phobias (abnormal fears), are modest and only minimally impact daily living.


When Must Someone See a Psychiatrist?

A person should see a psychiatrist if they have eating problems, have many concerns, grief, and worries, act riskily, and have trouble managing or controlling their emotions. Moreover, obtaining help is of utmost importance for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts.


What Are the Warning Symptoms of Mental Illness?

- Excessive fear or worry.
- Very depressed or sad.
- Confusion.
- Extreme emotional swings.
- Long-lasting or intense irritability or fury.
- Avoiding social interactions and friends.
- Having trouble comprehending or relating to others.
- Aterations in sleep patterns or a feeling of exhaustion and fatigue.
- Alterations in eating patterns.
- Alterations in sex drive.
- Reality perception is difficult.
- Substance abuse, such as alcohol or drug abuse.
- Several physical conditions with no clear causes.
- Suicidal thoughts.


What Exactly Is a Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses encompass various conditions that affect emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It is also known as a mental health disorder. Depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and compulsive behaviors are a few examples of mental illnesses.
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Dr. Abhishek Juneja
Dr. Abhishek Juneja



mental health
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