Recognizing the Signs
We want to look after friends and family after a tragedy or during more stressful times. But mental health issues can be triggered by a specific event or activity or nothing at all.
Self-harm, threatening to hurt or kill themselves or others, or making plans to give away personal items are apparent signs of distress. Here are some other signs to look out for:
- Pulling away, not returning phone calls, repeatedly canceling plans, or not showing up for social activities—This can be especially concerning if your loved one was very socially active and has become much less so.
- Acting sad, withdrawn, or indifferent for at least two weeks—Take note of constant crying or tiredness or an “I just don’t care about anything” attitude.
- Risky behavior— A few examples of extreme actions to look out for are driving too fast, being sexually reckless, and shoplifting.
- Sudden panic, paranoia, or overwhelming fear—Such feelings could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, especially if they come on for no apparent reason and are getting in the way of everyday activities.
- Drastic changes to eating habits, including eating too much or not enough—Also, watch out for behaviors that could indicate an eating disorder, like binging, purging, or using laxatives.
- Changes to personal habits—This could include changes in hygiene, a sudden, drastic haircut, or other noticeable changes.
- Severe mood swings—Everyone is affected by stress sometimes, but sudden or repeated outbursts that seem out of character can be a sign of a mental health issue. Be especially aware of drastic highs and lows or extreme bouts of anger.
- Overuse of drugs or alcohol—Pay attention to over-intoxication, drinking at inappropriate times, or overusing recreational or prescription drugs.
- Drastic changes to sleeping habits—This could mean sleeping excessively or not much at all.
- An inability to take care of basic tasks—Paying bills, grading papers, and doing laundry are all examples of daily activities that can seem overwhelming to someone dealing with a mental health issue.
- Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still—This could be a sign of manic behavior or a neurological disorder like ADHD.
- Numerous physical ailments—Our mental health and physical health are so closely tied that mental health issues can manifest as aches and pains all over our bodies.
For more information about specific mental health conditions, see the Signs of Depression and All About Anxiety pages.
You can also learn more about mental health coverage through your TRS-ActiveCare plan.