If you feel anxious, nervous, or worried more than usual, or have bouts of uncontrollable highs or feel overwhelmingly sad accompanied with signs like restlessness, irritability, panic, it can be a sign of mental health problems. A significant change in sleeping and eating patterns and social withdrawal are also symptoms.
- Feeling anxious, nervous, or worried
- Unusual behaviour
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Isolation and social withdrawal
Have you ever felt so anxious or stressed that you were unable to move? You are not alone. Feeling physically impaired because of your mental health is more commonly reported than you might imagine.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four people in the world are affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. These are one of the biggest causes of ill-health and disability. However, talking about mental illness is still a taboo in most societies.
In a study conducted in south India, almost 74.61% of the respondents showed stigma toward mentally ill people. It was higher amongst women and people with higher incomes. The study says that stigma related to mental health deters people from seeking help. and it is the main barrier for them not receiving adequate care and treatment.
“The one thing that women of all ages, young, middle-aged and even older women don’t talk about is their own mental health issues…In any case, in India, mental health issues are not given a lot of importance,” says Dr. Poojashivam Jaitly, a clinical psychologist based in New Delhi. She believes that it is important for people to seek help as there is a huge at-risk population in the country.
The one thing that women of all ages, young, middle-aged and even older women don’t talk about is their own mental health issues…In any case, in India, mental health issues are not given a lot of importance
Signs of Mental Illness
Here are the signs and symptoms that can help people identify their mental health issues and seek timely help:
1. Feeling anxious, nervous, or worried
Everyone feels anxious, worried and nervous occasionally, but these are a cause of concern if they are constant and recur with other symptoms like restlessness, sleeplessness, heart palpitations, irritability, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, sweating, panic, trembling, muscle tension or even diarrhoea.
“Stress and anxiety, in particular, are common triggers. I see a lot of teenagers and young adults, there are a lot of body image issues that are coming up; there are also a lot of unreasonable expectations from oneself, wanting to get more out of oneself, disappointments, and anxiety,” says Dr. Jaitley.
Stress and anxiety, in particular, are common triggers. I see a lot of teenagers and young adults, there are a lot of body image issues that are coming up; there are also a lot of unreasonable expectations from oneself, wanting to get more out of oneself, disappointments, and anxiety.
These can be signs of conditions like generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, body dysmorphia (BDD), panic disorders (unexpected panic attacks and a fear of recurring attacks), or even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people who have undergone a shocking or dangerous event in their lives.
“We all go through some form of emotional and mental state which disturbs us, but if that stage is so disturbing that it is interfering with everyday functioning – social-emotional, occupational, then I think it’s time that we need help,” Dr. Jaitley adds.
We all go through some form of emotional and mental state which disturbs us, but if that stage is so disturbing that it is interfering with everyday functioning -social-emotional, occupational, then I think it’s time that we need help.
2. Unusual behaviour
If a person starts behaving out of character and stops responding to events like they usually do, it can be called unusual behaviour. Now, everyone goes through mood fluctuations or people experience changes in their personality as they grow, but being extraordinarily moody, aggressive, peculiar, unusually euphoric with bouts of uncontrollable highs, overwhelmingly sad or remorseful, can be signs of something deeper. Unusual behaviour or personality changes can be because of sudden illness or grief from a traumatic event. In patients experiencing unusual behaviour, there could be other symptoms as well, like confusion, difficulty in talking, pain in chest, arms or legs, or low blood pressure.
Unusual behaviour is often seen in women experiencing menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), malnutrition, or in men going through andropause. Patients who have had a heart attack, those with Parkinson’s, dementia and Lyme disease also experience unusual behaviour or personality changes. This can be a sign of GAD, PTSD, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
3. Changes in sleeping and eating habits
Sleeping and eating patterns have a deep relationship with mental health. A study conducted in the U.S. showed that 40% of people with insomnia and about 47% of those with hypersomnia or oversleeping suffered from psychiatric disorders. Whereas those with no sleep-related issues had a far lower rate of mental illness. Apart from insomnia and hypersomnia, many other sleep disorders exist, like narcolepsy or extreme sleepiness, sleep apnea, or nocturnal panic attacks. These can be symptoms of different psychological issues like depression, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Bengaluru-based psychotherapist and adjunct faculty at Christ University Michelle Manasseh says struggling with sleep is an important sign. “If you wake up feeling restless, become irritable, are unable to focus, unable to concentrate, and if you have been experiencing these symptoms for two-three weeks, it is time for you to seek professional help, or to reach out to a therapist or a psychiatrist,” she tells Femoai.
Similarly, food has a close relationship with mental health. Experts say that nutritious food is as important for mental health as it is for physical wellbeing. A change in appetite, sudden weight loss or gain can be symptoms of mental health issues. For instance, a study conducted in the U.S. found that there is a reciprocal link between depression and obesity. Obesity is linked with increased risk of depression, and it can also be predictive of developing obesity.
4. Isolation and social withdrawal
Experts believe that social isolation puts people at a higher risk of anxiety, panic attacks, and even depression. Withdrawing from interactions with friends and family and social isolation are also some of the early symptoms of mental illness. Those exhibiting these symptoms may need help. Studies suggest that in people with severe mental health issues, social isolation can be linked with a high level of delusions, while those with more social support are more likely to recover from psychotic symptoms.
Apart from these, feeling a sense of detachment from reality, an inability to follow your everyday routine, and substance abuse can all be symptoms of mental illness. If someone is experiencing one or many of these symptoms and is unable to function normally at home, work, or in their personal life, needs to see a mental health professional. Even for those who are not suffering from any of these issues, it is important to have empathy and sensitivity towards these issues, because apathy from others can drive mental health patients to extreme measures like suicide.
- Perception of stigma toward mental illness in South India. Bhumika T. Venkatesh, Teddy Andrews, Sreemathi S. Mayya, Mannat M. Singh, and Shradha S. Parsekar.
- Epidemiologic study of sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders. An opportunity for prevention? Ford DE1, Kamerow DB
- Overweight, obesity, and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Luppino FS1, de Wit LM, Bouvy PF, Stijnen T, Cuijpers P, Penninx BW, Zitman FG.
- Social isolation in mental health: a conceptual and methodological review. Jingyi Wang, Brynmor Lloyd-Evans, Domenico Giacco, Rebecca Forsyth, Cynthia Nebo, Farhana Mann, and Sonia Johnson
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