Trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn't always easy. There's no easy test that can let someone know if there is
mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness.
Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:
Excessive worrying or fear
Feeling excessively sad or low
Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
Avoiding friends and social activities
Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
Changes in sex drive
Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective
Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
Thinking about suicide
Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are
behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:
Changes in school performance
Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
Frequent disobedience or aggression
Frequent temper tantrums
Mental Health Conditions
A mental illness is a condition that impacts a person's thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.
Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.
Recovery, including meaningful roles in social life, school and work, is possible, especially when you start treatment
early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.
A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, interlinking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle combine to influence whether someone develops a
mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits as well
as basic brain structure may play a role too
1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to the person directly
experiencing by a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected.
50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a
mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.
NAMI's fact sheets offer clear, concise information on mental health topics. A few ways to use them include sharing
them with a loved one, bringing them to an appointment or handing them out at health fairs. Download the PDFs below.