Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of psychological health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a concern becomes an illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.
A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your day to day life. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and therapy. Here are few suggestions from the top mental health experts about the warning signs of your mental health that you shouldn’t ignore.
Dr L C Sunda,
MBBS (AIIMS), DNB (Psychiatry),
Senior Consultant Psychiatrist – ShakuKarma Mind-care Clinic, Paschim Vihar & Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital, New Delhi
As the stigma attached with the mental disorders in the society, we delay the medical and psychological interventions by NOT “recognizing” the early signs of such disorders.
Longer phase of sadness, extreme swings in mood, overwhelming anxiety, being socially isolated and withdrawn, self-harm ideas, delusion and hallucinations, sleep impairment, use of addicting substance are some of the early signs of impending illnesses and are NOT to be ignored.
Awareness programs and psycho-education are really important for the public and the caregivers to get some insight into these disorders.
Early intervention remains the best policy in the management of psychiatric disorders as also in other illnesses.
Dr Mithila Desai,
MA, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Therapist, Mumbai
Perfectionism can be confusing; it affects different people in different ways. Studies have shown that perfectionism is correlated with mental health issues and predictive of high level of anxiety, OCD, depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders.
Perfectionist thinking is based on a belief that we’re inadequate: “I’m not enough, and the only way to be enough is to accomplish. Anxious perfectionists are hard on themselves and this often takes the form of self-criticism and dwelling on imperfections, constantly worrying about what people think of them
They procrastinate or don’t start things, because they don’t think they can do it perfectly, feeling defective or flawed.
Stress can show up in our bodies as aches and pains, insomnia and trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal problems, muscles tension, and low energy. Stress also impacts our mood, contributing to anxiety, depression, and a short temper, could be few early signs of mental illnesses.
Dr Vikas Bhatheja,
PhD (Cognitive Psychology), Senior Consultant – Indus International Hospital, Chandigarh
Some symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.
There are a few early signs of Mental Illness that need to be taken care of. For example – feeling sad, confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme feelings of guilt, extreme mood changes of highs and lows, withdrawal from friends and activities, significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping, detachment from reality, suspiciousness, inability to cope with daily problems or stress, trouble understanding and relating to situations and people, excessive anger, hostility or violence. The most important thing is family support and a positive approach to handling these situations.
Dr Pooja Anand Sharma,
MA, PhD, Chairperson – Vishwas Healing Centre,
Expertise in Psychotherapy, Dream analysis & Energy Healing training, New Delhi
Understanding the early signs of mental disorders is the key to getting the right help at the right time.
There are a few signs we must not ignore, like – distancing ourselves from our loved ones, increased aggressiveness or violent behavior, agitation, a prolonged period of sadness, increased suspicion of others, being easily annoyed, feeling threatened by people, detached from reality, sleep disorders, change in appetite, losing interest in our favorite activities, and a disturbance in focus.
Remember that these are cumulative symptoms. If the symptoms persist for more than three weeks, you must seek professional help immediately.
Mental illnesses do not go away on their own. We must seek the necessary help at the right time. Otherwise, they can get worse with time.
If your loved ones face such issues, have an open discussion with them about their concerns. Support and encouragement go a long way in healing and treatment.
Dr Kiran Makhijani,
Psychotherapist & psychologist – Dr Y A Matcheswalla’s Superspeciality Polyclinic, Mumbai
One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental illness but may indicate a need for further evaluation. Some of the indicators that one should not ignore include – sleep or appetite changes, mood changes, social withdrawal, loss of interest, difficulty in daily functioning, poor concentration, memory, and increased sensitivity.
If a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing grim issues in the ability to study, work or relate to others, they should consult a professional. People with thoughts of suicide or harming others need immediate attention. Early identification, appropriate assessment, effective care planning, and appropriate treatment play a crucial role in enhancing mental health.
Dr Saumya Sharan,
MPhil (Gold medalist in clinical Psychology),
Clinical Psychologist Senior Lead – MindOn, Gurugaon
Mental Health is also health. It is difficult to answer questions concern Mental Health: How much is too much, when is it getting unmanageable or how long do we wait before we should seek support? But it’s worth being aware of some signs and red flags which may pose as early symptoms or patterns that warrant timely professional help. There are terms loosely used for signs that may not qualify as a psychological disorder, e.g., internet sadness for depression, nervousness for anxiety, restlessness for ADHD, and so on.
Instead, look for emotional patterns like frequent crying outbreaks, increased nervousness that feels unmanageable, changes in sleeping routine or appetite, or energy levels. Note if these signs are prolonged for more than a certain period or cause significant distress in your professional, personal and social spheres and interfere with daily activities.
Ms Saachi Arora,
MSc, MPhil, PhD, RCI Licensed Clinical Psychologist,
Founder -Therapy by Saachi – A Safe Space for You, Mumbai
Mental Health Signs are not as easily visible as physical health signs. Therefore, mental health care often gets neglected. However, there have been open conversations about mental health and well-being. Early identification of signs and symptoms in mental health leads to proper management and intervention of these signs.
These signs may pave a pathway to seeking mental health care at the earliest – extreme mood swings, excessive worry or anxiety over trivial matters, avoiding problems, dramatic changes in your sleep and appetite, difficulty coping with stress, or engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or risk-taking behaviors.
It’s okay not to feel okay. Its okay to experience changes in your mind & body. However, it can affect your functioning, social life, and other domains. Therefore, let go of the stigma, identify the mental health signs, cope effectively and seek professional help if required.
Take care of your mental health because you matter!
Ms Devaleena Ghosh,
Clinical Psychologist, MRes (UK), Director – Kornash The Lifestyle Management School, Kolkata
Your feelings of sadness that lasts for more than two weeks can be a sign of mental illness. Everyone experiences sadness at one point or the other. However, normal feelings of sadness get better with time. An abnormally intense sadness lasting for two weeks or longer could be a sign of depression. If you observe in yourself or a loved one, a feeling which is heavier than normal and is difficult to snap out of might requires immediate attention.