Have you re-enrolled for Medicaid? Learn more about changes that could affect your coverage.
Call 24/7 for a No-cost Confidential Assessment at (304) 322-3037
Health Library

Early Signs of Mental Illness

Early Signs of Mental Illness,

Mental illness is a struggle anyone can experience, and mental health conditions are far more common than most people believe. Unfortunately, the signs are often missed, and people experiencing mental health concerns are left to cope without diagnosis or treatment for years before help is offered. At Highland Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia, we know that recognizing the signs of mental illness may help you to get more rapid support for yourself or your loved ones, which increases the odds of a rapid and complete recovery.

Risk Factors of Mental Illness 

Certain things can make a person more likely to develop a mental health concern. These include:

  • Genetics – being a blood relative of someone who has a mental health condition increases the chances of developing a mental health condition yourself.
  • Prenatal Exposures – if a mother is stressed, has certain medical conditions, comes into contact with toxins or misuses alcohol or other drugs while pregnant, this can create mental health issues for her child later in life.
  • Brain Chemistry – if a person has low levels of certain chemicals in their brain, this can lead to a variety of mental health disorders.
  • Trauma – overwhelmingly painful or frightening life experiences can sometimes trigger mental illnesses. Some examples of traumatic events can include sexual assault, combat, witnessing or experiencing physical violence, sudden loss of a loved one, and natural disasters.

Warning Signs of Mental Illness

The warning signs a person is most likely to exhibit can vary by age. Drastic changes in sleep and eating patterns are a potential indicator of mental illness across all age groups. Contrary to popular belief, mental illness is not just a problem for adults. Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, so it is important to be mindful that “naughty” children could actually be children who are struggling with their mental health.

Mental Illness in Young Children

  • Changes in school performance
  • Seeming worried or anxious
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nightmares
  • Higher than typical levels of disobedience, aggressive behavior
  • Frequent tantrums

Mental Illness in Older Children and Preadolescents

  • Substance use
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities of daily life and handling problems
  • Frequent physical health complaints, especially stomach pain and headaches
  • Defiance, which can manifest as truancy, theft, or disrespect toward authority figures
  • High levels of fear
  • Negative mood, possibly including thoughts of death and outbursts of anger

Mental Illness in Teenagers and Adults

  • Confusion and strange thoughts or seeing things that no one else can see
  • Extreme highs and lows in mood, possibly including depressed mood, irritability, and anger
  • High levels of worry
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Using substances to cope
  • Frequent complaints about physical health

Getting Help For Mental Illness

The presence of one or two of these signs on rare occasions is not necessarily cause for concern, but prolonged issues or the presence of most of these indicators is reason to seek out help. There are several ways to access support:

  • Family Doctor – some symptoms can indicate either a physical or mental health condition, so a visit to your primary care physician can rule out physical health causes and trigger a referral for mental health support if needed.
  • Clergy – some people may resist talking to their doctor about potential mental health concerns but be more receptive to guidance from their spiritual leader. This can be particularly helpful if the spiritual leader is knowledgeable about mental health and will encourage the person to seek out mental health support.
  • Crisis Line – West Virginia has several numbers people can call, text or chat for urgent support. These conversations will often lead to referrals for long-term mental health support. The easiest to remember of these numbers is 988, a number that works across the United States.
  • Emergency Room – anyone who has plans to act on suicidal thoughts should be taken to the nearest emergency room. If the person will not go to the emergency room or cannot be safely transported there in a personal vehicle, call 911.
  • Self-Referral – though some insurance providers require that mental health referrals come from a primary care doctor, this may not be necessary if your insurance does not have this requirement or if you are paying out of pocket for services. You may be able to just call the provider you wish to see and schedule an intake appointment.

At Highland Hospital, we have been treating a wide range of mental health concerns for over sixty years. We provide children, adolescents and adults with personalized, evidence-based treatment in a compassionate, safe environment.   

Learn more

About programs offered at Highland Hospital

Scroll to Top