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What is Mental Illness: What are the Signs & What to Do

Mental Illness

The term mental illness applies to a wide variety of mental health conditions. These can be conditions that affect a person’s thinking and behavior. Most people by now are familiar with some specific examples of mental illness, such as schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, these are very visible manifestations of mental illness and it is not always the case with people who suffer from symptoms of the various illnesses in this class.

With many physical illnesses, medical intervention is warranted because failure to treat often leads to death or great physical suffering at the very least. In many ways, the same applies to mental illness. 

Though the immediate and direct effects of mental illness are not physical, they can create physical symptoms in the long term and they can result in death through various avenues. Stress has been shown to contribute, for instance, to heart disease. Also, severe depression can lead to suicide.

You do not have to be a doctor in order to see that someone is physically maimed and recommend medical treatment. In the same way, you do not need to be a psychiatrist or therapist in order to see that someone is injured mentally and needs help. However, it is helpful to learn some of the traits and behaviors that are common in mental illness in order to be there at the right time for your loved ones.

In order to be helpful at a difficult time in someone else’s life, do not feel pressured to provide solutions. It is just like finding someone that you care about in a physically injured state. You want to get professional and quality help for them as soon as possible. However, if you were in such a situation, you would want to know more about what different signs of injury mean so that you can provide any on-the-spot help that might save a life.

What are the Signs of Mental Illness

We should take note of some of the following traits and behaviors in people around them. Just one symptom is not necessarily enough to justify action. However, if that symptom is manifested very profoundly, you might think otherwise.

Ultimately, each person has to review a list like this and decide if it is time to talk to someone about the problem.

  1. Has the person in question become socially withdrawn? A reluctance to participate in social activities is often a sign that something is internally wrong. It may simply be depression. However, when depressed people are allowed to withdraw from activities that they normally find peasant, they often get worse. It is important to keep in mind what a person is normally like. Some people are simply shy and not subjects of mental illness.
  2. Does the person experience extreme changes in mood that are noticeable? This can be a sign of a wide variety of mental illnesses. It is not your concern to understand exactly what is wrong. You should just know that wild mood swings are always unhealthy, unless they are prompted by an obvious and justifiable cause, such as a terrible accident or bad news.
  3. Is the person tired a lot? Sometimes this is just a sign of poor sleeping habits. However, if you are close to the person and know for a fact that he or she spends more than enough time in bed, it may be a sign that something is troubling him or her. Additionally, people who suffer from mental illness may actually sleep quite a bit. They often do this to avoid their thoughts or contemplation of their situation in life.
  4. Has his or her sex drive changed? If your partner suddenly seems disinterested, it may be caused by his or her mental illness.
  5. Are drugs involved? Sometimes, people with mental illnesses turn suddenly to drugs or alcohol to relieve the mental pain that they feel. If you see an unexpected increase in drinking in someone who normally drinks, that may also be a sign.
  6. Expression of suicidal thoughts. This does not have to be a direct statement such as, I want to die. You may just hear the person saying things about like not being worth it anymore. Sometimes, people progress from these passive statements to direct actions and successfully kill themselves.

What causes mental illness

Research shows that mental illnesses are caused by the interplay of genetic, environmental and biological factors, some of which may be inherited, and that these factors interact in a complex, but definite way in an individual's development.

The environmental factors are mainly the stresses of everyday life.

The biological factors include -

- the effects of the brain on the body and on the immune system,

- the effects of brain injuries,

- the effects of the brain on the body,

- the effects of the brain on the immune system, and

- the effects of the brain on physical development.

Genetic factors include the nature of the genes in the person's chromosomes and the effects of the genes on the brain.


It is not recommended that you confront the person directly and make accusations. Instead, try to broach the topic conversationally. Open the door so that the person knows that you care. Let him or her know that you can get help. Do not simply say that you are there. Instead, get specific and mention a program or a doctor that you have researched.

Treatments for Mental Illness

If someone enters treatment, his or her chances of overcoming mental illness soar. Many professional treatments are available, even for severe cases. Therapy and drugs can restore many people to their former function in life and make it all seem worth it again. Do not be afraid to risk talking to someone about a possible mental illness.


Mental illness affects millions of people around the world. In some cases, it is a temporary phenomenon that can be cured and left behind. Others struggle throughout their entire lives with it. 

Researchers have discovered, however, that prompt intervention and treatment can not only save people from suffering, it can save their very lives. Identifying at least the possibility of mental illness is as useful an ability as recognizing physical trauma. In both cases, you are enabled to contact health professionals and possibly save someone’s life.


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