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Warning Signs of Mental Health

Warning Signs of Mental Illness

The following information is designed for educational purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Specific questions about personal medical or mental health problems should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Signs of Depression in Children


  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior.
  • Change in appetite, such as eating noticeably more or less than usual.
  • Noticeable change in sleeping patterns, such as early morning awakening,  inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual.
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or inappropriate guilt.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, slowed thinking or indecisiveness.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Signs of Depression in Adults


  • Change in appetite, such as eating noticeably more or less than usual.
  • Weight gain or loss.
  • Noticeable change in sleeping patterns, such as early morning awakening,  inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual.
  • Speaking and/or moving with unusual slowness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed.
  • Withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or inappropriate guilt.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, slowed thinking or indecisiveness.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Depressed mood.

Symptoms of Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)


  • Lasting period of an overly happy mood which is abnormal, unusual or lasting.
  • Unusual irritability.
  • Overblown self esteem or grandiosity.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • More talkative (talks excessively, impulsive speech and behavior).
  • Thoughts going too fast.
  • Easily distracted and agitated.
  • Increase in number and speed of physical activity.
  • Takes unusual risks (sexual and/or social).
  • Feeling of depression following a period of mania.

Signs of an Alcohol or Drug Problem


  • Increased tolerance--drinking larger amounts of alcohol, using increasing dosages of drugs.
  • Drinking or using drugs at inappropriate times, resulting in embarrassment to the individual or others.
  • Attempts to decrease use are unsuccessful.
  • Defensiveness or angry reaction when asked about drinking/drug usage.
  • Increased amount of time spent drinking, increased attendance at social situations that center around drinking.
  • Deterioration in appearance.
  • Giving up once-enjoyed hobbies in favor of drinking/using drugs.
  • In adolescents: mood swings, sleeping at inappropriate times, increasing  problems with school, parents and/or legal problems.

Signs of Suicidal Tendencies


  • Talking about committing suicide.
  • Trouble eating or sleeping.
  • Drastic changes in behavior.
  • Withdrawal from friends or social activities.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, work or school.
  • Preparation for death by making out a will and final arrangements.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Prior suicide attempts.
  • Taking unnecessary risks.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying.
  • Loss of interest in personal appearance.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs.

Symptoms of Attention Deficit/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADD, ADHD)


  • A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than would be expected for the individual's stage of development.
  • Failure to give close attention to details; prone to careless mistakes in school work or other activities.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Failure to follow through on tasks or duties.
  • Poor organizational skills.
  • Avoids engaging in tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • Fidgets and squirms.
  • Runs and climbs excessively in situations where this is inappropriate.
  • Has difficulty playing quietly.
  • 'On the go' as if driven.
  • Talks excessively; impulsive speech and behavior.

Signs of Anxiety


  • Uncontrolled, excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or  activities.
  • Feelings of restlessness, fatigue, tension.
  • Poor concentration and disturbed sleep.

Signs of Panic Disorder

A discrete period of intense fear with at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Pounding, increased heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Feeling short of breath or smothering.
  • Feeling of choking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea or abdominal distress.
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint.
  • Feeling of unreality.
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy.
  • Fear of dying.
  • Tingling and numbness in hands or feet.
  • Hot flashes or chills.

Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


  • Obsessions: thoughts, impulses or images that become intrusive,  inappropriate, and cause anxiety or distress. These thoughts, impulses or  images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems.
  • Compulsions: repetitive behavior (e.g., hand washing, checking, arranging,  etc.) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating silent words) that the person feels driven to perform and that cause anxiety or distress if not done.

Symptoms of Psychosis


  • Poor insight.
  • Decreased ability to carry out activities of daily living, e.g., becoming more unkempt and disorganized.
  • Delusions: firmly held false beliefs about the external reality.
  • Hallucinations: hearing things or conversations that are not there and/or  seeing things that are not there
  • Paranoia.
  • Disorganized speech.
  • Unusual and poorly goal-directed behavior.