Changes in mood and/or behaviour that are troubling or persist beyond two weeks should always prompt an evaluation by a doctor. Your 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 you to a mental health professional.
Symptoms can vary with each type of mental illness and each individual. 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 (more 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 headache;
- Difficulty concentrating and/or sudden irritability;
- Disruption to usual sleep patterns;
- Talk or thoughts of suicide.
While some of these symptoms are uncomfortable or frightening to talk about, the sooner you seek help, the better you will be prepared to manage a mental illness. Reaching out also reminds us that we are not alone, and there are professionals with expertise who can help.