Common Symptoms of Mental Illness

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.