Whether you’re the one struggling with mental health or trying to help someone you care about who does; the confusion, fear, and anxiety can feel overwhelming.
Mental illness is perplexing. Between trying to understand an enigmatic condition, evaluating treatment options, and contemplating the future of your loved one, it’s easy to experience a sense of hopelessness.
But there is hope.
While mental illness may or may not be treatable by lifestyle changes alone, such changes often mitigate a number of symptoms associated with the illness. In conjunction with a physician-supervised treatment plan, changing one’s life habits can quicken the recovery process.
At the very least, the afflicted person will feel much, much better.
14 Signs of Mental Health Disorders
Because of the past stigma of mental illness, many people may avoid a proper diagnosis. Also, some signs and symptoms may overlap with physical conditions. Here are fourteen primary signs of mental health disorders that you should notice.
1. Lingering Feelings of Sadness and Hopelessness
It’s only human to feel melancholy on occasion. If someone tells you that they are always happy, they aren’t being truthful. Even when things are on the upswing, your moods may be blue.
However, deep despair that lasts for two weeks or more can be a red flag for mental illness. It’s the hallmark of anxiety and depression disorders. These bleak feelings usually accompany chronic negative thoughts.
2. Extreme Fear and Anxiety
There are common fears like speaking in public or encountering creepy spiders. However, fears of mental health issues go beyond normal worries. You may spend most of your time fretting about things that aren’t likely to happen.
Do you feel anxious and tense and don’t know why? Maybe your usual fears have turned into debilitating phobias. Your anxious emotions hinder you from living in the present.
3. Confusion and Lack of Concentration
Mental disorders often interfere with your thought processes and memory. You’ve always had mental clarity and good problem-solving skills in the past. It’s concerning when you begin to have issues focusing and completing tasks.
You may have done a routine job countless times, but now you have moments of confusion. Your memory may slip, and you start to forget important things. These issues may point to a mental health problem.
4. Isolation from Family and Friends
Like most people, you need occasional solitude to rest your brain. According to an article published by Frontiers in Psychology, spending time alone may benefit your entire well-being. It’s your opportunity to reflect and understand yourself better.
There’s a difference between healthy solitude and isolation. It may be a warning sign when you start to isolate yourself from your circle of family and friends. Chronic isolation is a symptom of several mental disorders, including depression.
5. Extreme Mood Changes
Are you usually an even-tempered person from day today? While anyone can have a bad day, your moods are generally predictable. If you have mental issues, you may not have the usual stability.
You may be on Cloud Nine, and the next minute, you’re down in the dumps. It may become difficult for others to deal with your ever-changing moods. You may have problems coping with it yourself.
6. Chronic Exhaustion
When you’re having mental issues, it can affect your whole body. Your brain is so overworked that it drains every ounce of energy you have. It may be all you can do to get out of bed in the mornings.
7. Changes in Your Sleeping Habits
One would think that there would be no problems sleeping at night if you have chronic exhaustion. Instead, you may experience many nights staring at the ceiling and counting sheep. It’s a vicious cycle that creates more fatigue more insomnia.
Perhaps you’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and sleep too much, which is called hypersomnia. No matter how many hours of rest you get, you feel like you haven’t slept a wink. If you notice either of these changes in your normal sleep patterns, it could be a mental health issue.
8. Lack of Coping Ability
From childhood through adulthood, you’ve learned to create coping skills for stressors. Whether it’s a simple problem or you’ve experienced a loss, you can usually cope.
If you’re having an issue with your mental health, you may feel chronically stressed. Your ability to cope diminishes and your anxiety may be in high gear. In this mindset, you may feel like you’re losing control.
9. Changes in Eating Habits
Are you an emotional eater, or do you lose your appetite when you’re upset? For many people, food may be a comfort for easing anxiety. A mental issue can make the most attractive dishes look distasteful to others.
Take notice if your eating habits drastically change over a short period. You may be overeating as a coping tool, resulting in weight gain. Or you may lose your appetite and lose more weight than you should.
10. Substance Abuse and Addiction
Not all coping tools are beneficial. In fact, some of them can be severe health risks. If you’ve developed an addiction that you’ve not had in the past, it could be related to your mental health. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling, or the Internet, an addiction negatively affects your life and relationships.
11. Detachment from Reality
Some mental illnesses can make people lose their sense of reality. If you experience delusions, you believe things that aren’t factual. For example, you could have delusions of grandeur and believe you have superhuman powers.
These issues can also make you have visual and auditory hallucinations. You start to see and hear things that that aren’t real. Such detachment can be a symptom of schizophrenia or major depressive disorder.
12. Excessive Anger and Aggression
A study published by the World Journal of Psychiatry defines aggression as a purposeful action to hurt a person, animal, or property. According to the survey, aggression and hostility are also symptoms of several psychological disorders. It’s even more concerning when aggression results in violence.
Not everyone who has aggression issues becomes violent. Maybe you’re more impatient than usual, and a minor thing can make your temper explode. You may be more susceptible to bursts of anger that include verbal abuse.
Do you notice that people walk on eggshells when they’re around you? Have you lost some close relationships because of your anger issues? Could there be some mental problems behind the aggression that haven’t been addressed?
13. Unexplained Physical Issues
Since your mental and physical health is intrinsically related, something that affects one will affect the other. It’s not unusual for mental issues to manifest as unexplained aches and pains you’ve not had in the past.
You could be experiencing headaches and digestive issues that can be nearly debilitating. Perhaps medical tests have ruled out any physical reasons for your pain. It could be a symptom of an underlying mental condition.
14. Suicidal Thoughts
One of the most dangerous symptoms of mental illness is contemplating suicide. It’s even more severe when it includes rumination on ways to end your life. Unfortunately, some people who battle mental conditions will attempt suicide, and some will succeed.
Nine Habits to Change Your Mental Health
So let’s go over some ways that we can improve mental health, naturally!
1. A stable home life
Living in any emotionally damaging environment; whether it’s abuse, constant arguing, financial difficulties, or something else, makes treating any mental illness much more challenging – if not impossible.
Abuse of any kind – emotional, mental or physical – is a common catalyst for the development of mental problems. Children, our most cherished yet vulnerable people, are particularly susceptible to the severe aftereffects of abuse. In the United States, a child abuse case is reported every ten seconds.
If you’re among the abused, it is important to find a means of escape. Furthermore, if you know of a child victim of abuse, do the right thing and get the authorities involved. Treatment is available for everyone.
2. Diet and nutrition
Diet and nutrition aren’t the first things that come to mind when many think about mental illness; however, diet and mental health are – at the very least indirectly linked.
Diet systematically affects mental health by first causing physical health to deteriorate. Processed foods, along with foods with little to no nutritional value all contribute to this systematic effect.
Foods rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 (e.g. avocado and fish) can aid mental health and improve cognitive functions.
Adequate levels of exercise not only help your physical health, but can also serve a preemptive role in warding off symptoms of mental illness. Some research has shown physical activity to be more effective than antidepressants in many patients.
Again, exercise needn’t be arduous or time-consuming. A brisk walk, bike ride, or stair-climbing are all viable alternatives to “traditional” exercise routines.
4. Sleeping well
Important as it is to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night; a regular sleep schedule may be as much, if not more of, a benefit to a healthy mental state. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule normalizes the body’s circadian rhythm (i.e. “sleep/wake” cycle).
Getting adequate sleep and sticking to a regular sleeping routine may lead to faster results when treating mental illness, as well.
5. Meditation or relaxation practice
More and more medical professionals are “on board” with the interconnection between meditation and relaxation techniques and mental health. Research from institutions such as Harvard and Stanford University have consistently established the mental and physical health benefits of meditative and relaxation practices.
One needn’t commit to any particular program, either. A focus on developing mindfulness for 20 to 30 minutes per day can induce significant health benefits. Popular practices are mindful deep breathing, meditating, or concentration-based mindfulness.
We already know that smoking may cause severe physical damage, but it can also exacerbate any mental health problems. In fact, the introduction of various toxins into the body through smoking may manifest into mood disorders.
The body/mind connection, established above in the “Diet and Nutrition” section, works against the smoker here. Quitting or drastically reducing the intake of nicotine – in any form – may be one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
7. Physical health
Relating to the mind/body connection (which is gaining further acceptance in the medical community) is overall physical health and its impact on mental illness.
Common conditions such as an infection, chronic headaches, or hypertension adversely impact the ability to cope with stress. Of course, chronic stress can lead to several mental illnesses: anxiety, depression, and insomnia, among them.
Preventing or promptly treating any physical illness can both help with and avoid potential mental illnesses. Scheduling an annual or bi-annual physical exam can assist in this regard.
8. Community and social involvement
It’s been repeatedly said that “human beings are social creatures,” and related research has established this fact.
Friendship is one of the best antidotes to mental distress. Even a day or two away with a friend or loved one may be enough to improve our outlook for days; this notion also applies to any community involvement.
When it comes to mental health and relationships, there are two popular opinions: (1) the individual should work on their mental health before committing to a relationship, or (2) a healthy intimate relationship can drastically improve a person’s mental state.
As it turns out, new research sides with the second viewpoint.
In a study at the University of Jena in Germany, individuals aged eighteen to thirty years were accompanied by researchers and individually interviewed every three months. Those that scored high on a questionnaire measuring neuroticism (a long-term tendency to experience multiple negative mind states) showed improvement.
“The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality – not directly but indirectly…the perception of presumably negative situations change,” says lead author Christine Finn.
Final Thoughts on Habits to Change Your Mental Health
When you incorporate these habits into your lifestyle, you can benefit your mental health. It’s just as important as caring for your body and spirit. Remember the only shame is living with a treatable condition and not getting the help you need.