Recognizing Symptoms of Mental Illness

Recognizing symptoms of mental illness isn’t always apparent. Millions of women will typically attribute their symptoms to their busy lifestyle which can bring on stress or burnout. For many women, they live with mental illness for months or years until their life starts spiraling out of control and finally decide that it’s time to seek help. While a lot of these symptoms match the symptoms of stress, if it’s been going on for more than a few weeks and you simply have no desire to do the things you once enjoyed, then it’s highly recommended that you reach out for help.

So then, what kind of symptoms should you be aware of? Everybody is different. Every woman will have different symptoms – even for an illness such as depression. The core is – you are not yourself, you no longer enjoying doing the things you once loved doing. Women have a tendency to internalize mental illnesses such as depression and/or anxiety. This leads to withdrawal, loneliness, and feelings of sadness. There are also physical symptoms as well, such as weight gain/loss, sleep difficulties, headaches, stomachaches, chest pain, chronic pain, or even higher blood pressure. Any physical symptoms should definitely be checked out by a trusted doctor. 

Here are some other symptoms be on the look-out for:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs (this would be considered a dual diagnosis commonly associated with depression, bipolar, PTSD, and schizoaffective; but not limited to those.)
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance


If you or someone you know are having one or more of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are many places you can turn to – such as your primary care doctor or reaching out to your health insurance. If you are uninsured – there are many doctors and therapists who charge on a sliding scale. There are also many resources on the Internet:

NAMI (One of my personal favorites. They have a ton of free resources)

Psychology Today (great resource for finding therapists)


National Institute of Mental Health

Mental Health America

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Recovery Village – Columbus

There are also support groups available on Facebook if you’re comfortable with that.

There is no doubt that it can be very scary doing this for yourself. Making that call and having to spill your life out to a stranger is no easy feat. It may even take a few different sessions with different doctors or therapists to find the one you’re comfortable with…but, YOU CAN DO THIS! You will be amazed at how much better you will feel after receiving some help and possibly taking some medications. Medications are not dangerous or a sign of weakness – what mental illness boils down to is a chemical imbalance in the brain. The medication is there to fix those imbalances and you will notice a significant improvement after a few weeks. You may have to try a few different medications before you find the right one – don’t be discouraged by this.

You are not alone. It doesn’t mean you are weak if you seek help. Speak up to help yourself, to help others, and to help end stigma.

NAMI Helpline

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. The information provided in this site, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit; call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Alt-Content is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.

If you are thinking about suicide or self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line, a free text message service available 24/7, at 741-741.