Mental health issues pose unique challenges in terms of recognition as well as treatment. While physical maladies can often be directly observed or tested, the human brain tends to require an indirect approach.

Moreover, most of our mental attributes exist on a spectrum, where the line between ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ can be fuzzy indeed. Even if we could step outside of ourselves and see our own brains perfectly, it might be difficult to determine which outlying factors are just harmless personality quirks, and which merit more careful monitoring.

Fortunately, there are guideposts along the way. Our brains are complex, but they do tend to follow patterns – we now know how to recognize the significance of these patterns, and how best to respond to them.

The following is a broad list of signs to look out for in yourself or a loved one, to indicate whether mental health issues may be present and in need of treatment.

Personal Neglect

Declining mental health is often accompanied by a general disregard for the self. Warning signs include a general reduction in self-care, which can mean partaking in uncharacteristically risky activities, including drug or alcohol abuse. It can also refer to self-neglect, as with poor hygiene or a lack of concern about physical appearance. 

Mental health problems can also negatively impact daily life. Related behavioural changes include a dramatic drop in social or professional functioning. Whether at work or at school, affected people may experience difficulties performing familiar tasks, or begin feeling withdrawn and suffer a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

Changing Physical Needs

Other types of behavioural change to look out for include sleep and appetite changes – even ones that may appear healthy at first. Any major change in sleep or appetite, whether it is an increase or a decrease, can be indicative of a mental health issue.

Greater Sensitivity

Certain physical changes can also be signs of declining mental health. These can include minor physical ailments like headaches, upset stomach, or ongoing general pain without any obvious cause. Those suffering from mental health disorders may also experience increased sensitivity to vision, hearing, smell, or even touch.

Psychological Changes

Those suffering from declining mental health also tend to experience certain psychological symptoms, which can create clear signs of instability. Psychological changes can range from isolated anomalies like an increase in illogical thinking, to more consequential and life-changing symptoms like depression, rapid mood shifts, and strong emotional outbursts – especially prolonged or exaggerated feelings of anger.

Suicidal Thoughts

Another symptom of declining mental health is also commonly associated with depression. Suicidal thoughts are perhaps the most serious sign of a mental health issue, as people experiencing this condition are at elevated risk for serious dangers including self-harm. 

Signs of suicidal thoughts may not always be clear-cut, as such thoughts can be minor at first but then build up over time.

The majority of people who are suicidal do show warning signs, but often the significance of these signs goes tragically unnoticed or unrecognized. Indications include vocal expressions of hopelessness or helplessness, lack of interest in the future, as well as many of the symptoms previously mentioned on this list – including changes in eating or sleeping habits as well as a severe drop in school or work performance.

Getting Help

Although mental health issues must be diagnosed by a professional, the existence of one or two of these symptoms – particularly if the symptoms are pronounced – can indicate a cause for concern. The changes listed above are not predictors of mental illness but can help determine the need for further evaluation.

If a person is experiencing several of the warning signs mentioned above, particularly if their ability to function each day is hindered, they may benefit from mental health treatment. It is worth stressing that people experiencing suicidal thoughts should seek immediate professional attention.

There are many places to go for help if you or a loved one are suffering from these symptoms. A medical doctor can analyze both mental and physical symptoms and will be able to give a general diagnosis, referring you to experts for further treatment or prescribing medicine where appropriate.

A therapist can also provide focused treatment to help overcome mental health problems. You can get in touch with a therapist directly, or be referred to one by your doctor.

Another valuable resource is friends and family. Sometimes we all just need someone to talk to, to trust, and to lean on. Friends and family can also stand by your side during the treatment period while giving you courage to face the challenges ahead.

Another excellent option is to check into a specialized mental wellness center. As a break from ordinary life, these facilities offer a peaceful, stress-free environment for treatment and recovery. Therapists and trained medical experts can provide round-the-clock treatment, using advanced methods to help clients deal with their issues positively over time.

When choosing the right destination for treatment, quality and professionalism are of primary concern. For a completely immersive experience, The Dawn is a leading rehab in Thailand that delivers exceptional treatment for a range of mental health issues. Their 1:1 staff-to-client ratio allows for a high degree of personal care during treatment and recovery.

Whichever form of care you choose, it is important to remember that effective treatment does exist for mental health issues, and people make great progress every day with the help of therapists and medical experts. If you or a loved one have noticed symptoms of declining mental health, we recommend seeking help right away.

About the Author

Prem Sirapong works at The Dawn, a leading alcohol-, drug- and mental health rehab located in the lush countryside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.