Early Signs of Mental Health Issues

signs of mental health issues

Mental health conditions are quite common. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that one in five adults struggle with a mental condition in any given year. Meaning that most individuals will end up having to struggle with a mental condition at some point in their lives.

Mental health conditions are relatively common. However, signs of mental illness that individuals can experience because of a mental health condition can vary incredibly. This is due to the large number of various types of illnesses there are. There are over 200 different mental health condition diagnoses available, according to Forsyth County’s Mental Health Association. Each one can present different signs and symptoms.

Here you’ll learn how to identify mental health symptoms in adults, teens and adolescents, and children.

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Adults

The early signs of mental health conditions can vary. They tend to depend on certain conditions. As well as, the person’s circumstances, and other types of environmental factors.

These factors can often impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. And, even though these indicators apply to adults, they can overlap in people at a younger age as well.

Some early obvious signs of mental illness in adults can include:

Frequently, it’s not one sign that indicates mental health issues, but a combination of them. It’s also possible for symptoms to present themselves as physical symptoms, such as:

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Children

Young children can also develop mental health issues. Children’s symptoms of mental health are often more emotionally based. This is since they’re still learning how to identify their emotions and feelings and can’t quite talk about them yet.

Early signs of mental health issues in children include:

Mood Changes

Children will often show feelings of withdrawal or sadness that last for a couple of weeks. Or they will have severe mood swings that lead to issues in relationships at school or at home.

Trouble Concentrating

Children may be unable to focus. If they’re having difficulty sitting still or their attention span is off, they may be experiencing mental health issues.

Intense Feelings

Parents should look for feelings of intense fear in their children that seem to be for no reason. This may be shown sometimes as rapid breathing or a racing heart. This intense sense of worry can often get to be so severe that it disrupts the child’s day-to-day activities.

Physical Symptoms

Children with mental health problems can develop stomach aches and headaches. These symptoms are linked with the anxiety or sadness often seen in adults with similar issues.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Frequent vomiting, a sudden appetite decrease, or the use of laxatives could be a sign of an eating disorder.

Physical Harm

Sometimes, issues with mental health can cause children to hurt themselves. This may be in the form of burning or cutting, or other painful self-inflicted acts. They may develop thoughts of suicide or actually attempt suicide.

If a child is showing only one of the signs above, it’s not as likely to be mental health-related. Especially when compared to those who show more than three of the signs above.

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Adolescents

It’s extremely essential for parents to look out for sudden changes in behaviors and thoughts, particularly in teens and older children. These sudden behavioral inconsistencies or outbursts may be a sign of a deeper issue.
For older children and teens, possible signs of bad mental health include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Confused thinking
  • Feelings of intense emotional lows and highs
  • Prolonged depression (irritability or sadness)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Increased inability to cope with day-to-day activities and problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical issues


Sometimes, parents can compare their teenagers’ behavior to their own behaviors at that age. This isn’t ideal due to the social norm changes today. This process could leave parents feeling out of touch with their kids and anxious.

The symptoms above shouldn’t be due to any other medical conditions or recent substance use. They should be expressed on their own for doctors to consider them potential indicators of mental health issues. But, a substance use problem can indicate underlying mental health issues.

These are symptoms linked with very different forms of mental conditions. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that one individual would experience them all simultaneously. Some individuals may experience one or two of these symptoms, while others may experience many. Families should definitely seek help when enough of these symptoms are being presented.

Many individuals with mental health issues won’t seek help by themselves. They may be scared of what their friends and family will say after finding out about their difficulties. In fact, more than one individual in four with mental health issues reports they avoid seeking care. Typically because of stigma, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Most Common Mental Health Disorders

Some common mental health conditions include:

1. Anxiety Disorders

In the United States, the most common mental health issues are anxiety disorders. Around 19.1% of adults (over 40 million) have an anxiety disorder. Around 7% of kids between the ages of three and 17 experience problems with anxiety every year. Most individuals show signs before the age of 21.

Anxiety disorders fall under a group of related disorders, with each presenting its own unique symptoms. However, there is one thing in common with all anxiety disorders. They all display signs of excessive, persistent worry or fear in circumstances that aren’t threatening.

This disorder is much more than just shyness. It can cause extreme fear about social interaction, frequently triggered by irrational concerns about humiliation (i.e. not knowing what to say or saying something stupid). People with social anxiety disorders often:

  • Become isolated
  • Don’t contribute to class discussions
  • Don’t take part in conversations
  • Don’t offer their ideas


A common reaction to forced or anticipated social interaction is panic attacks.

This disorder produces exaggerated, chronic worrying about day-to-day life. It can cause a person to consume hours of their days worrying. Which makes it hard for them to concentrate or complete day-to-day tasks. Individuals with GAD can become exhausted by worry, leading to tension, headaches, or nausea.

Panic disorders are marked by sudden feelings of terror and panic attacks sometimes occurring without warning and repeatedly. They’re frequently mistaken for heart attacks and can cause intense physical symptoms, such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach upset


Many individuals will do just about anything to avoid having an attack. This includes social isolation.

Most people will avoid certain situations or things that make them fearful or uncomfortable. But, in individuals with a phobia, specific events, places, or objects can produce intense reactions of irrational and strong fear.

Most individuals with certain phobias have a few things that often trigger these types of reactions. They will typically work hard to avoid panic and avoid their triggers. These attempts to avoid their fear can take over a person’s life, depending on the number and type of triggers.

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This condition is marked by hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. It’s the most commonly diagnosed disorder in younger individuals. Around 8.8% of kids between the ages of four and 17 have ADHD.

While it’s typically diagnosed during childhood, it doesn’t just affect kids. Around 4.4% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have ADHD.

Individuals with ADHD can lead successful lives and do well in school and work with treatment. New tools are being studied by researchers to understand ADHD better and find better ways to prevent and treat ADHD. One example is brain imaging.

Certain behaviors linked with ADHD are considered “normal” and aren’t a cause of concern for most individuals. However, those with ADHD continue to experience difficulties controlling their behaviors. This shows up for them more often and for longer than six months.

3. Bipolar Disorder

This is a form of mental illness that can lead to drastic shifts in a person’s energy, mood, and thinking. Individuals with bipolar disorder will struggle with low and high moods (depression and mania). This differs from the normal ups and downs most individuals go through on occasion.

People often experience an onset of bipolar disorder around the age of 25. However, it occurs in the teenage years and less commonly in childhood years. The disorder affects women and men equally. Approximately 2.8% of the population in the U.S. receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis and almost 83% experiencing severe cases.
Bipolar disorder, when left untreated, typically worsens. But, individuals can live a good life with:

  • A solid treatment plan (medications, psychotherapy)
  • Early identification of symptoms
  • A regular schedule
  • A healthy lifestyle

4. Depression

Depression, or depressive disorder, is more than simply feeling down or experiencing a rough patch. Depression is a serious mental health illness that requires medical care. It can be devastating for individuals experiencing it and their families when left untreated. However, when detected early, diagnosed, and treated with psychotherapy, medication, and healthy lifestyle choices, most individuals do get better.

Some people will have only one episode of depression in their lifetime. Most, however, will experience recurring depression. Without treatment, depression episodes can last for several months to years.

Around 8.4% (21 million) adults in the U.S. experienced a minimum of one major episode of depression in 2020. People of all ages and all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds can struggle with depression. However the condition tends to impact certain groups over others.

5. Eating Disorders

When a person becomes preoccupied with weight issues and food, it could be a sign of an eating disorder. An eating disorder can take over a person’s life and even lead to serious medical complications.

These complications have the potential to turn fatal without treatment. Anyone of any age or gender can struggle with an eating disorder, but women tend to struggle with them more. Symptoms often appear in young adulthood or adolescent years.

Eating disorders fall under a group of related disorders that lead to serious physical and emotional issues. Each disorder involves intense weight loss and food issues. However, each has its own set of unique symptoms that differentiates itself from others.

Individuals with anorexia obsess about weight loss to the point where they deny themselves food to where they’re actually starving themselves. With anorexia, an individual denies being hungry and refuses to eat. They binge eat and purge themselves or exercise to where they exhaust themselves in an attempt to “burn” calories.

Individuals with bulimia will binge on large amounts of food during brief time periods. After the binge they then attempt to desperately rid themselves of the calories. This is done through force by vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxatives.

They feel out of control and repeat this vicious cycle. This has an extremely negative effect on their lives both physically and emotionally. Individuals living with bulimia are typically of normal weight. They may even be a little overweight.

Individuals with a binge eating disorder lose control over how they eat. They eat large amounts of food in short time periods. They often will consume large amounts of food even after they’re uncomfortably full or when they’re not even hungry. This can cause them to feel:

  • Depressed
  • Embarrassed
  • Guilty
  • Disgusted


People with BED don’t attempt to exercise excessively or purge after an episode of binge eating. This differs from the behavior of a person with bulimia or anorexia. They’re often at a normal weight, obese, or overweight.

Treatment and Therapy

Being aware of the warning signs can help an individual know when they should speak with a professional. For a lot of individuals, the first step to a healthy treatment plan is to get a proper diagnosis.

Unlike cancer or diabetes, there’s no medical test that properly diagnoses mental health conditions. A mental health expert will evaluate symptoms and make their diagnosis. They do so using the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria. This guideline lists criteria in a specific order for an official mental health illness diagnosis.

The health care professional can tailor an effective treatment plan after diagnosis that can include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Types of treatments can include:

Inpatient Treatment

One of the quickest ways to get results for patients is through inpatient treatment. Patients will be in an environment that will help lessen the factors that contribute to their mental health illness. Inpatient treatment helps support the patient’s wellbeing and promote recovery. At First Light Recovery, we have licensed professionals that will help patients throughout their entire stay.


If the mental health condition stems back to a hormonal imbalance, medicine may be needed. Medication can take several weeks to begin taking effect and help diminish symptoms. However, the patient will start feeling better over time.
A common type of medication used for treating mental health issues is antidepressants. These can be necessary, particularly if the patient is experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if they’ve actually acted on them.

Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT)

CBT is another powerful treatment used for many types of mental health illnesses, such as depression. It involves talking through the issue, which is why it’s referred to as talk therapy by many people. A professional will offer the patient insight to help them eliminate false beliefs. It has a high success rate but can take a few weeks before results are experienced by the patient.

Allow First Light Recovery to Help

First Light Recovery helps patients become more resilient in their recovery. We treat our patients based on their personal needs, starting with evaluating their signs of mental illness. We then come up with a treatment plan and help our patients address their vocational goals. We aim to help our patients get back into the community.

We offer a highly unique approach to helping our patients reach their emotional needs and reach optimal recovery. Recovering from a mental health illness isn’t easy.

We address serious mental health issues that affect our clients’ lives. These can range from trauma to mood disorders. Our treatment allows clients to get the proper help they require. This way they can begin feeling more in control and stable in their mental health.

We have built our foundation to meet the needs of our clients on a personal level. At First Light Recovery we aim to offer clients a more individualized treatment and experience. This leads to better assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation. Our staff is friendly, outgoing, and standing by to care for all of our clients’ needs.

Contact First Light Recovery to help you get started.