Changes in mood or behaviour that are troubling or last longer than two weeks should always prompt an evaluation by a doctor. A family doctor is a good place to start, as he or she can rule out any physical causes for changes in mood or behaviour and refer patients to a mental health professional.
Symptoms can vary with each type of mental illness and each person. The following are some common symptoms to watch for:
- Confused thoughts, delusions, and/or hallucinations
- Extreme fears or anxiety that seem out of proportion to circumstances or events
- Lack of motivation for a prolonged period of time (longer than two weeks)
- Persistent feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Extreme mood swings between depression and mania, sometimes with overly reckless behaviour
- Repeated, unusual actions such as handwashing or checking of lights
- Unexplained physical symptoms such as nausea, trembling, fatigue or headaches
- Difficulty concentrating and/or sudden irritability
- Disruption to usual sleep patterns
- Serious disturbance in eating pattern accompanied by a preoccupation with body image
- Talk or thoughts of suicide
Some of these symptoms may be uncomfortable or frightening to talk about, but the sooner help is sought, the better prepared people will be to manage a mental illness. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or others, reach out for assistance. Reaching out reminds us that we are not alone: there are professionals with expertise who can help.