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The warning signs of mental illness

Everyone has different moods on different days, but some changes deserve a doctor's attention. Treatment for mental illness is most effective when started early.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists these warning signs of mental illness:

  • Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
  • A drop in functioning at work or school. For example, quitting sports, failing in school or having difficulty doing familiar tasks.
  • Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought that are hard to explain.
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch.
  • Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity.
  • A vague feeling of being disconnected from yourself or your surroundings—a sense of unreality.
  • Illogical or magical thinking, such as exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events.
  • Fear or suspiciousness of others, or a strong nervous feeling.
  • Uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
  • Dramatic changes in sleep and appetite, or deterioration in personal hygiene.
  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings.

If you or anyone you know has several of these warning signs, an evaluation by a mental health professional is in order, says the APA.

reviewed 10/8/2019 

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