Early signs of mental health decline that you should not ignoreThese symptoms may not be limited to psychological ones and can manifest as various physical ailments as well.
It’s not always the big, life-altering events that give rise to mental health issues; sometimes they creep in a slow, insidious manner, gradually taking over without being noticed until they have taken a more severe form.
Contrary to common misconceptions, mental health issues are treatable. Like any other health issue, mental health disorders are a lot easier to manage when detected early on. But the gradual seeping-in can go unnoticed for months or even years, making it difficult to resolve even when they are finally detected.
Symptoms of mental health decline may not be limited to psychological symptoms and can manifest themselves as various physical ailments as well.
So, here are a few early signs that you should not neglect:
Constant tiredness and fatigue: One of the earliest symptoms of declining mental health can be persistent tiredness and fatigue, a feeling of being physically and mentally drained that makes everyday basic activities seem difficult. Fatigue can be a common sign of conditions like depression and anxiety.
Change in appetite and weight: Lack of appetite or overeating can both be symptoms that occur with different mental health illnesses. A drastic change in eating habits or weight should be taken into notice from a mental health perspective, as it can be a sign of mood disorder, eating disorder, or increased stress.
Insomnia or hypersomnia: It is common knowledge that insomnia, ie, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, is a common sign of a mental health disorder. But hypersomnia, characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness, is also a sign that can be linked to various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorders.
Irritability and anger: Even minor stressors can feel bothersome when heightened emotionally. Unusual irritability, frequent outbursts of anger, or a short temper are signs of difficulty managing emotions. If such reactions are not the general temperament of the person but have started to occur frequently without being provoked, they should not be neglected.
Mood swings: While general ups and downs in emotions are a part of everyday life, frequent and intense fluctuations in mood, such as feeling unusually sad, down or overly euphoric without apparent cause, can be signs of mood disorders and should not be taken too lightly.
Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable: This manifests as a gradual disengagement from hobbies and activities that were once a source of pleasure and fulfillment. A sudden disinterest in socialising, pursuing passions or engaging in once-beloved pastimes may signify emotional struggles.
Feeling emotionally numb: It is an intricate aspect of mental health that involves an inability to fully experience or express emotions. It manifests as a feeling of being emotionally detached or empty. Emotional numbness can be a response to trauma, prolonged stress, or certain mental health disorders.
Social withdrawal: Mental health illnesses can affect a person’s social life. While there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, a significant shift in social behaviour where a person isolates themselves from friends and family by avoiding social gatherings and finding it difficult to engage in day-to-day social activities can be a coping mechanism or a manifestation of underlying emotional distress, emphasising the importance of recognising and addressing these behavioural changes in oneself or others.
Difficulty concentrating: When our minds are not functioning at their best, focusing, decision-making and completing even the simplest of tasks metamorphose into formidable challenges, creating a disconcerting sense of cognitive discord. Struggling to focus, make decisions or complete tasks, even if they were previously easy to handle.
Excessive guilt or self-blame: When failing to understand their own suffering, people may ruminate over every tiny detail they can find, in an attempt to make sense of what they are experiencing and everything that is happening around them. While doing this, they may reach a false conclusion that they are to blame for everything, including the things that are clearly not under their control, leading them to become excessively self-critical, guilty or even develop a sense of worthlessness.
Failing to take care of oneself or fulfill responsibilities: When struggling with one’s mental health, a person’s daily life can be vastly affected. Tasks that were once effortlessly managed now become huge challenges. People may start neglecting personal hygiene, self-care or responsibilities like work, school and household tasks. This can result from a lack of motivation, reduced energy or difficulty managing daily routines, often seen in depression and other mental health issues.
If you have been noticing some of these signs in yourself or someone dear to you, seeking a professional opinion is highly advisable for the prevention or timely management of potential mental health issues.