3 possible signs of mental illness

3 possible signs of mental illness

Seldom talked about, but often causally analyzed, mental illness has come to the forefront of society during the past few years due to several high-profile criminal incidents in schools, movie theaters and in the community. Across the country nearly 60 million Americans live with mental illness, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, obsessive compulsive, panic, posttraumatic stress and borderline personality disorders.

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, experts believe most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Joseph Smith, psychiatric consultant liaison at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, says there are some telltale signs that a friend or family member may be starting down the path to mental illness.


Smith says when someone becomes depressed, it is often overlooked by others as simply “being blue.” Most people either don’t pay attention to the early signs or figure they will eventually snap out of it. But that deep-seeded change of behavior can have a lasting effect on a person’s psyche. “When you see someone you love, who all of a sudden starts acting a little withdrawn, no longer likes to do activities that used to be their favorites and just wants to sit around the house for long periods of time all of a sudden, those signs shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Smith says.


Many people have heard of insomnia, a condition where it’s difficult to fall or stay asleep. But hypersomnia, a sleep-related disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness, can also be dangerous, Smith says. Sharing many of the similarities with narcolepsy, people with hypersomnia might sleep more than 10 hours and find it difficult to wake up or they may be prone to napping during the day at work, according to the American Sleep Association. 

Recurring thoughts of death

Smith says that a person who seems fixated with their own demise can cause themselves intense mental anguish that leads to further mental illness. People who have been diagnosed with depression, bipolar or panic attacks tend to have their mental illness symptoms increased when they lock in on thinking about death. 

“It’s normal for people to think about the afterlife or what happens when they die,” Smith says. “But when you get to the point where that thought is crossing your mind everyday or multiple times in the day, that can be dangerous.”

Other mental illness signs include loss of energy, extreme mood change, weight gain and diminished ability to concentrate. Medical officials say that too often people with mental illness are treated as outcasts. 

“Nobody likes to be labeled, and sometimes, people dismiss someone with mental issues as crazy. That keeps people from talking about it because they feel isolated,” Smith says. “We need to change the way we look at people who have mental illness. Just like you need good physical and good oral health, you need to be mentally fit as well. It’s important that we don’t ignore the signs in ourselves or in others for too long.”

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One Comment

  1. Mental illness may also contribute to substance abuse. I am an RN and have have worked in the field of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse for 18 years. A majority of the clients served have a secondary mental illness. Most of them have had signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder, since early childhood. These people then carry with them a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse. We must learn to recognize AND TREAT mental illness in our children. I have my own story of “self medicating” my anxiety, and then working diligently on my recovery. Many insurances do not want to fund mental health issues. It is critical that we change this fact. We can get people off of drugs and alcohol, but if the mental health issues are not addressed, the addict WILL most certainly relapse

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.