Five Warning Signs that a Mental Health Condition May Be Developing

5-signsThere are 42.5 million Americans with diagnosable mental health conditions.

In fact, nearly 1 in 5 people are coping with one or more of the five warning signs that a mental health condition may be developing.

In this blog post I talk about these five signs so that you might reflect upon whether you, a neighbor, a friend, or a co-worker may be struggling.

Sign #1: Not Feeling Like Yourself

The first sign is that vague sense that you’re just not feeling like yourself, a needling sense that things are not going well in your world or you’re not performing up to the standards you feel you should be. It may not be any one definitive thing, but rather an overall sense that the world isn’t quite right on its axis.

Years before my mental breakdown, I confided in a friend over dinner one night that I just didn’t feel like myself and that maybe I should see a psychiatrist.

My friend’s response, unfortunately, was “You’re fine! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!”

That may be an all too common opinion given by someone who doesn’t understand the importance of these five warning signs. Each of us needs to talk about the fact that if you or someone you know feels the need to verbalize a sense that something is wrong, they should be believed.

And why would going to talk to your doctor or getting a referral to a therapist be any different from making an appointment if you had a nagging toothache or a joint that is bothering you?
Tweet: Why is talking to your doctor or a therapist any different from making an appointment for a toothache or a sore joint?

We need to listen to ourselves and believe in our instincts. Know that your intuition to seek help is valid. If someone confides in you, encourage them to by all means check out the sense of ennui they may feel. You may be catching a mental health condition in its earliest stages when it is easiest to treat.

Sign #2: Increased Agitation or Irritability

The second of the five warning signs of a developing diagnosable mental health condition is noticing you’re more agitated or irritable than you have been in the past. You may surprise yourself by your reaction to something someone said, or you may feel as if you’re overachieving in a way that is wearing you out.

I know after my breakdown I was told that for the six months prior to it I couldn’t stop moving; I had to be on the phone talking to someone, planning a project, or simply staying busy without any time to relax and take a break.

When you’re irritated by someone calling attention to your unrelenting pace, it is a clear sign that you may need to stop.
Tweet: When you’re irritated by someone calling attention to your unrelenting pace, it’s a clear sign you may need to stop.


And at least wonder why being busy is so important to you.

Sign #3: Becoming Withdrawn

The third warning sign is becoming withdrawn.

Maybe it becomes too difficult to join a group for a drink after work when in the past, you wouldn’t have hesitated.

Or have you stopped calling friends you usually talk to every week?

Or has a co-worker seemed aloof without an obvious reason, like a worry about a loved one?

If we pay attention to ourselves and our friends and loved ones and find that our behavior or theirs is changing, it might be the perfect time to ask, “Why does it seem that normal activities have become too tiring or difficult?”

When we have the courage to ask ourselves these simple questions, we may be catching a mental health condition in its earliest form.

Sign #4: Changes in Self-Care

Sometimes a developing emotional problem is signaled by finding it too hard to brush our teeth as often as we once did. Or we get our nails manicured less often.

It might be that we’ve stopped caring about what we look like when we get ready to go to work or we go too long between haircuts.

Any changes in our self-care can be a warning sign that we need to address. Are we too tired? Too overwhelmed?

Remember, if someone in your world isn’t taking care of themselves the way they have in the past, it might be the time to ask if everything is OK.

Sign #5: Feelings of Hopelessness

Feelings of hopelessness are the fifth warning sign we all need to be aware of.

Recently, the news has been brutal, disturbing, and worrisome. If this has translated into you feeling that there isn’t a positive future for you or someone you know, be sensitive to those feelings.

Your emotional self is crying out to be heard.  If we want to be healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we simply can’t ignore this sign or any of the other four signs.

The bottom line for any of the five warning signs? Believe that there is a reason for you (or someone you know) to feel the way you do.

Click here to learn more about these and other warning signs of a mental health condition on the NAMI website, or contact the NAMI helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or

NAMI’s toll-free 24/7 Life Line may be reached at800-273-TALK (8255) or text NAMI to 741-741