When someone is physically ill it’s immediately apparent. He’ll have fever, aches and pains, sluggishness, shivering, sniffles etc. which all say ‘this person doesn’t feel well’. The family around him knows what to do and gets him the help he needs and also looks to the outside for help sometimes if necessary. But, what if the illness that needs immediate attention is a mental illness? It’s not always readily apparent though there are red lights that are hard to detect unless you know to look for them. So here is a list of things to look for that may be red lights telling you to get this family member or friend immediate psycological help.
Note: One or two symptoms are not enough to establish the need for psychological help with certainty. Any one of these symptoms can have a non-psychological cause. Outbursts can be due to hormonal shifts and hallucinations are sometimes the side effect of regular medications. Oversleeping can be from a virus weakening the body and doesn’t guarantee having depression. But if after a medical examination you ruled out medical factors for these symptoms the next step is to search for psychological factors causing them.
1. Emotional Outbursts: Everyone has mood swings but they don’t happen in the span of seconds rather one day is happy another day less so. Drastic changes in mood out of proportion to the circumstances can be a symptom of emotional illness.
2. Sleep Disorders: if someone in your family always sleeps little that’s one thing. But if he has sleep disturbances every night or is sleeping much more than usual it can be pointing to an emotional problem.
3. Social Isolation: Is this family member closing up inside himself, not interacting with the rest of the family or apathetic about something he used to like doing?
4. Illogical Thinking: People with this symptom will attribute great qualities or powers to themselves or others totally unrelated to reality. For example: “Tomorrow I will be crowned king and then I will give you all orders!”
5. Drop in Ability to Function: Is this person otherwise healthy when his ability to function or study plummets dramatically for no apparent reason? Suddenly you see low grades or that he/she is missing a lot of work? Do you find you suddenly can’t depend on him for tasks he used to do without a problem?
6. Dramatic Changes in Eating Habits: Did this food lover suddenly just start nibbling here and there instead of eating with gusto? Does he always say he’s not hungry by mealtimes? Is he suddenly a junk food junkie when he used to eat only wholesome foods?
7. Hallucinations: This is a scary symptom that usually says something is wrong and should not be overlooked. If someone starts to hear or see things that aren’t there he needs immediate medical intervention.
8. Extreme Anger: Did this person have a long fuse and was he slow to anger? Do you find he now gets really angry at every little ‘provocation’?
9. Confused Thinking: Most of us aren’t 100% in top cognitive form all the time. But if a family member always finds it difficult to concentrate and solve problems and is always confused he should get a medical checkup.
10. Too Many Aches and Pains: Yesterday his back hurt, the day before it was his shoulder, the next day it’s a stomach ache and the day after it’s a migraine. If the doctors can’t find any physical reason for these aches and pains a psychological reason should be considered.