Signs of Mental Illness | Western Cape Government

Signs of Mental Illness

(Western Cape Government)

Young displeased, tired man with insomnia unable to sleep and suffering from burnout and fatigue struggling to get up out of bed in the morning. Mentally exhausted male awake in bed feeling stressedThere are a huge number and variety of mental illnesses and the signs of these illnesses may present themselves in a variety of ways. Some of the more common symptoms which may lead one to consider a mental illness include:

  • Problems sleeping at night.
  • Feeling as if you've lost interest in your usual activities.
  • Feeling sad for extended periods and being unable to recover on your own.
  • Feeling scared or frightened for an extended period without a reasonable explanation for this.
  • Noticing that you're drinking too much alcohol or using drugs or having somebody suggest that you're overindulging.
  • Spending excessive amounts of money or time on alcohol or drugs.

To qualify for a diagnosis of a mental disorder, the symptoms should be severe enough to affect one's ability to function in the workplace, school, at home or in society.

When you're suffering from a mental illness, it's often difficult to recognise this on your own. This is something which should be considered in anyone who shows any of the symptoms indicated above, as well as the following:

  • Having marital, sexual or relationship problems.
  • Suspects supernatural causes for their complaints.
  • Has suffered from family violence, any form of abuse or of emotional or severe physical trauma.
  • Has life problems such as unemployment or the death of a close friend or relative.
  • Is suffering from a chronic and severe physical illness, and particularly if the diagnosis is one that's associated with stigma.
  • Has many physical complaints (especially more than three) that don't fit with any recognised pattern of physical illness.
  • Has a physical complaint that fails to respond to the appropriate treatment.
  • Has family members with mental illness.

Symptoms of mental illness in adults:

  • Confused thinking.
  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
  • Extremely high and low moods.
  • Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Strong feelings of anger.
  • Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't really there).
  • Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Denial of obvious problems.
  • Many unexplained physical problems.
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.

Symptoms of mental illness in older children and pre-teens:

  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Changes in school performance, falling grades.
  • Inability to cope with daily problems and activities.
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits.
  • Excessive complaints of physical problems.
  • Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Long-lasting negative mood, often along with poor appetite and thoughts of death.
  • Frequent outbursts of anger.

Symptoms of mental illness in younger children:

  • Changes in school performance.
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts.
  • Excessive worry or anxiety.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Persistent nightmares.
  • Persistent disobedience and/or aggressive behavior.
  • Frequent temper tantrums.

If you or your loved one have some of these symptoms, consult with your health practitioner.

Help is available. For those who are suicidal and need help or are unsure how to help someone in need, contact:

  1. The National Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567. This number is free, operates 24 hours, and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.

Additional FREE hotlines for support with your mental health include:

  1. Dr Reddy’s Mental Health Helpline on 0800 21 22 23. This number is free and operates 8AM – 8PM every day.
  2. Cipla Mental Health Hotline on 0800 456 789. This number is free and operates 24 hours.
  3. The Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline on 0800 70 80 90. This number is free, operates 24 hours and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.
  4. The Substance Abuse Helpline on 0800 12 13 14. This number is free, operates 24 hours, and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.
The content on this page was last updated on 7 October 2022