It can be difficult to identify potential signs of having a mental health difficulty or the onset of a new episode. Could a contributor to under-recognition be our cultural misconceptions of what mental health issues actually are (e.g. mental health issues= stereotyped ‘crazy’ people)?
This article is a good list of very common early-warning signs that could be indicators. I’m highlighting a few notable physical and functional signs from this list that I’ve observed people often don’t associate with declining mental health (this is only for emphasis, due to lack of recognition, the whole list is a more comprehensive reference):
-Sleep difficulties (and/or oversleeping to compensate)
-Appetite changes (not wanting to eat or eating too much)
-Changes in sex drive (Yes. Our mental and emotional states affect our physical libido 🤔😲)
-Unexplained physical ailments (not included on this list is gut problems, which is actually a very common co-occurrence with mental and emotional stress).
-Withdrawal from social activities
-Changes in ability to do normal, everyday tasks
For anyone who recognises signs listed in the article in themselves or others, but hadn’t previously associated them with mental health, it might be helpful learning a bit about what they could mean for you (or someone else).
For anyone who has recognised mental health concerns but hasn’t tried this yet, it’s possible to learn over time to read these signs as an indicator you might be slipping. Making changes or seeking help in advance could be helpful. You can use them like the ‘ink low’ indicators on a printer- the warning gives you a chance to restock before reserves are depleted and the printer stops functioning.
I’m getting better (the comparative term being operative- I haven’t mastered this) at recognising these signs in myself as time to do ‘the things that help me’, and am therefore less critical of myself when I notice them. I’m also more alert to these signs in others, and equally less critical, more enquiring.
This links to the article mentioned: