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Warning Signs

Often family, friends, teachers or individuals themselves begin to recognize small changes or a feeling “that something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings or behavior before an illness appears in its full-blown form.

Learning about developing symptoms, or early warning signs, and taking action can help. Early intervention can help reduce the severity of an illness.

50% of mental illness begins by age 14, and three-quarters begin by age 24.

One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental illness but may indicate a need for further evaluation. If a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, he/she should be seen by a physician or mental health professional. People with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others, need immediate attention.

If several of the following are occurring, it may be useful to follow up with a mental health professional.

  • Confused thinking
    Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain
  • Extremely high and low moods
    Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings, long-lasting sadness or irritability, low energy
  • Excessive fear, worry, anxiety, or feeling disconnected
    Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling, a vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings, a sense of unreality
child eating looking bored
  • Social withdrawal
    Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, difficulty in interacting
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
    Dramatic sleep and appetite changes and decline in personal care
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
    Illogical thinking, unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events, illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
  • Loss of interest, drop in functioning
    Apathy or loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity, an unusual drop in functions, at school, work, or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school, or difficulty performing familiar tasks