What are the Red Flags of Mental Illness?

Mental Illness Person (Feeling Depressed)

According to the World Health Organization, approximately one out of every seven teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 experiences a mental health disorder. This accounts for about 13 percent of the global disease burden within this particular age group.

Similar to physical health, the absence of mental illness does not necessarily indicate good mental health.

However, there are certain indicators that can help identify potential mental health issues before they become more severe. Here are seven key red flags to watch out for, which may suggest the presence of mental health concerns.

What Does Mental Illness Mean?

Mental illnesses encompass a range of conditions that impact an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. While you may be familiar with well-known mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, it’s important to note that there are different forms and manifestations of these conditions.

What are the Causes of Mental Illness?

The causes of mental illness are believed to stem from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Here are some key factors that contribute to the development of mental health disorders:

Inherited traits

Individuals with a family history of mental illness are more likely to experience mental health issues themselves. Certain genes can increase the vulnerability to developing a mental illness, and external factors in one’s life can act as triggers.

Environmental exposures before birth

Exposure to various stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, or substance abuse during pregnancy can be linked to the occurrence of mental illness in individuals.

Brain chemistry

Neurotransmitters, which are natural chemicals in the brain, play a crucial role in transmitting signals between different parts of the brain and body. When there is an imbalance or impairment in these neural networks, it can lead to changes in nerve receptor function and overall nervous system functioning, potentially resulting in conditions like depression.

Top 7 Signs to Watch for in Mental Health

1. Persistent Fatigue or Sleepiness

Ongoing fatigue serves as an indication of compromised mental well-being. It may signify insufficient sleep, heightened stress levels, and neglect of self-care. Addressing fatigue involves prioritizing relaxation and tending to both physical and emotional needs.

2. Irritability and Withdrawal from Social Interactions

Experiencing irritability and actively seeking isolation can be warning signs of declining mental health. These behaviors not only impact personal comfort but also create a challenging atmosphere both at home and in other social settings.

3. Difficulty Maintaining Focus

Struggling with concentration, especially if it is uncharacteristic for an individual, may indicate exhaustion and inadequate self-care. It can also point to diminished motivation and heightened anxiety. In certain cases, conditions like ADHD may involve a primary symptom of poor concentration.

4. Episodes of Mania

Mania refers to periods of heightened energy and excitement. During these episodes, individuals may exhibit an inflated sense of their capabilities, even believing they possess supernatural abilities. This emotional state commonly occurs in mood disorders such as bipolar disorder.

5. Presence of Psychosis

Psychosis entails the blurring of internal cognitive processes with external reality. It represents a particularly concerning mental health red flag. If someone experiences escalating psychosis, including delusions or hallucinations, seeking professional assistance is highly advisable.

6. Physical Aches and Pains

According to B.A. van der Kolk’s book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” trauma and stress, particularly in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can manifest as somatic memories. For instance, backaches are a recognized symptom of depression, highlighting the interconnectedness between mental health and physical sensations.

7. Changes in Appetite or Sleep Patterns

Proper nutrition and sleep play crucial roles in maintaining overall well-being. Therefore, any sudden alterations in appetite or sleep patterns should raise concerns. Mental health conditions often intertwine with and influence sleep quality, duration, food attitudes, and appetite, including emotional eating habits.

Preventing Mental Illness: Ways to Consider

While it’s not possible to guarantee the prevention of mental illness, there are a few ways to prevent mental illness and manage your symptoms effectively. Controlling stress, building resilience, and enhancing self-esteem can contribute to maintaining better mental well-being. You can also consider the following ways:

1. Recognize Early Warning Signs

Collaborate with your healthcare professional or therapist to identify potential triggers for your symptoms. Create a plan outlining the steps to take if symptoms resurface. Stay vigilant and reach out to your doctor or therapist if you notice any changes in how you feel. Involving trusted family members or friends to help monitor warning signs can also be beneficial.

2. Prioritize Routine Medical Care

Make sure not to neglect regular check-ups or skip appointments with your healthcare provider, especially when you are not feeling well. Finding a skilled talk therapist or counselor to work with is essential for comprehensive care.

3. Seek Help When Needed

Don’t delay seeking assistance if you experience mental health challenges. Waiting until symptoms worsen can make treatment more difficult. Engaging in long-term maintenance treatment can also help prevent symptom relapses.

4. Practice Self-Care

Taking good care of yourself is crucial. Prioritize sufficient sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and engage in regular physical activity. Establishing a consistent schedule can be beneficial. If you encounter sleep difficulties or have questions about nutrition and exercise, consult your healthcare provider for guidance.


Recognizing mental health red flags is crucial for early intervention and seeking appropriate help. However, it doesn’t stop there. Taking steps to strengthen your mental health is equally important. Starting small and gradually incorporating changes into your routine can have a significant impact on your overall well-being.

Remember, progress is made through consistent effort over time. Here are ten ways to prevent mental wellness.

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