- Warning Signs
- When to Seek Help
- Effects of Stress
- Coping With COVID-19 Stress
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to determine whether certain behaviors are a sign of mental illness. However, people who feel they are going crazy often have one thing in common: something feels amiss.
Mental health problems are common, with about 1 in 5 people in the U.S. experiencing at least one problem throughout their lives. With the ongoing pandemic in many parts of the world, many have also dealt with increasing stress.
If you feel that you are unraveling, it’s important to seek help early on. Here are some warning signs to look out for, and when to talk to a mental health professional.
Warning signs of mental illness in adults
Each mental illness has its own set of symptoms, and these symptoms may vary depending on the person. However, common signs of mental illness in adults include the following:
- Excessive fear or extreme feelings of guilt
- Chronic sadness or irritability
- Obsession with certain thoughts, people, or things
- Confused thinking or problems with concentrating
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia
- Inability to cope with daily problems in a healthy manner
- Frequent episodes of rage, panic, crying, or deep disappointment
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes (loss of sex drive, hypersexuality, high-risk behavior)
- Excessive hostility or violent impulses
- Suicidal ideation
- Extreme mood swings
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s feelings, behavior, or personality
- Withdrawal from friends and activities that once brought them joy
- Low energy or problems sleeping
- Unusual, intense feelings or no feelings at all
- Loss of initiative or desire to participate
- Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
- Frequent lapses in memory
- Seeing or hearing things that other people can’t
- Frequent, vague physical ailments with no obvious cause (headaches, stomach aches)
Warning signs of mental illness in children
Because children are still learning how to identify and express their thoughts and emotions, signs of mental illness often revolve around behavior.
Symptoms may include:
- Changes in school performance
- Frequent nightmares
- Frequent disobedience or aggression
- Frequent temper tantrums
- Excessive worry or anxiety
- Hyperactive behavior
- Regression of milestones, such as sudden bed-wetting
What are the complications of mental health problems?
Untreated mental illness can cause severe emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems.
Some of the complications include:
- Unhappiness and decreased quality of life
- Familial conflicts
- Relationship difficulties
- Social isolation
- Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
- Missed work or school
- Legal and financial problems
- Poverty and homelessness
- Self-harm and harm to others
- Weakened immune system
- Heart disease and other medical conditions
When to seek help
If you think you have signs of a mental illness, contact your physician or mental health professional. Mental illness, if left untreated, can get worse over time and cause serious problems.
If you think you may hurt yourself or are having suicidal thoughts, get help right away by calling:
- 911 or your local emergency number
- Mental health specialist
- Suicide hotline number
- Your close friend or loved one
- Minister, spiritual leader, or someone else in your community whom you can trust
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The effects of stress: 15 signs and symptoms
Almost every person in life experiences certain situations that cause them stress. There is something known as eustress, which is positive stress, that makes you finish things faster. And it is completely fine to feel stressed out once in a while. But, when you experience stress more often, to the point that it has become chronic or persistent, the negative stress (known as distress) can affect your health badly.
Take a moment to think whether you are suffering from any of the following psychological and emotional signs and symptoms of stress:
- Anger or feeling short-tempered
- Irritability or agitation
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lacking in motivation
- Feeling down
- Feeling tired
- Inability to focus or stay focussed
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Racing thoughts or constant worry
- Problems with your memory
- Problems in taking the right decisions
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation (common during COVID-19)
How to cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak has certainly likely brought many changes in your daily routines and your professional life. Many of you are worried about the financial pressures and some must be feeling lonely due to social isolation.
A self-report survey was conducted on 3304 participants in the US and Canada over the internet between March 21 and April 1, 2020. The survey found that the COVID-19 pandemic is making people:
- Fear of dangerousness of COVID-19
- Fear of coming into contact with the objects (fomites) that are contaminated with the virus
- Constant worry about personal finances and disruption in the supply chain
- Get frequent nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or images related to COVID-19
Thinking repeatedly about these things during the COVID-19 pandemic can make you anxious, fearful, and sad.
Here are a few tips to keep yourself calm during any kind of stress, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Stay physically active. Whether you hit the gym or do your workout at home, it is always helpful to keep moving to improve your mood.
- Take a walk: Get outside in an area and walk while wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance from people— as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or your government. This can be a nature trail or in your backyard.
- Get adequate sleep. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep daily.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Choose unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of over-processed foods. The food you eat may affect the way you think about a stressful situation.
- Limit exposure to media. Constant news about COVID-19 from channels such as the press and social media can make you fearful and anxious. Look for credible sources such as the CDC and WHO.
- Avoid smoking, drinking, and taking recreational drugs. Smoking is already known for being a risk factor for lung disease. Alcohol and drugs can make coping with stress more difficult.
- Limit your screen time. Make sure to not overdo entertaining activities such as watching TV or being on your smartphone for prolonged hours. This can indirectly contribute to stress.
- Relax and re-energize yourself. Take out some time for yourself and try staying quiet for some time, imagine peaceful or serene places, meditate or do yoga. Any activity that unwinds you will do.
- Stay connected. Reach out to people close to you such as your family and friends when the stress is driving you nuts. You can connect with them over the phone, email, social media, or chatting apps.
If you are unable to deal with the stress by yourself, do not hesitate to seek help from a professional mental health therapist.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Mental Health Myths and Facts. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts
NAMI. Warning Signs and Symptoms. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms
COVID-19 and your mental health. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731
Taylor S, et al. COVID stress syndrome: Concept, structure, and correlates. Depression and anxiety. 2020 Aug;37(8):706-14.
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