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10 Signs of Mental Illness and Tips for Self-Care

Mental illness is more common than people know. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that every year, one out of every five, or 20% (about 4 million) Australians experiences a mental illness. One in 200 people will experience psychosis. Mental illness is caused by a mix of various factors and can happen to anyone.


Mental illness can be difficult to spot and understand, but there are signs to look out for. Learn the 10 most common warning signs, and discover how professional counselling can provide support and help improve mental health.
Mental illness can be difficult to spot and understand, but there are signs to look out for. Learn the 10 most common warning signs, and discover how professional counselling can provide support and help improve mental health.
“A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria. The term mental disorder is also used to refer to these health problems.” (Australian Department of Health).”

Mental health problems can affect every aspect of a person's life and are not something to be taken lightly. From anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia they can have a profound impact on a person's physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.


Mental illness can affect different aspects of a person's life including their:

  • Marriage

  • Family

  • Friends

  • School

  • Job

  • Socialising

  • University

  • Health

What are the types and symptoms of mental illness?

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) published by the American Psychiatric Association, is a guide used by clinicians to diagnose mental disorders. It contains information on nearly 300 mental illnesses that can be identified and treated. Mental illness diagnosis is a topic often discussed in the medical community, with debates heatedly occurring regarding which conditions fit the criteria and which do not.

Mental illnesses come in a variety of forms, the major groups of them being:

  • Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder

  • Anxiety disorders including panic disorder, OCD and generalised anziety disorder (GAD)

  • Personality disorders such as paranoid personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder

  • Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia

  • Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED)

  • Trauma-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Substance abuse disorders

Mental health issues each have a unique collection of signs and symptoms. For instance, erratic dieting could be an indication that someone is suffering from a form of eating disorder. Auditory hallucinations or hearing voices may mean one is going through a phase of psychosis. Postnatal depression can be detected by long-term feelings of being hopeless after childbirth. People living with anxiety often struggle with extreme worries and fears, while individuals suffering from depression generally feel a persistent sadness or low mood.


Mental illness can often result in drastic changes in an individual’s thoughts, behaviour or mood. These can come on suddenly or be a gradual process over time. An issue like this can affect their capability to function normally at work, school and even daily activities which they may have previously been able to handle well.


Here are 10 signs of mental illness to look out for:

  1. Unusual or illogical thoughts

  2. Unreasonable anger or irritability

  3. Poor concentration and memory, not being able to follow a conversation

  4. Hearing voices that no one else can hear

  5. Increased or decreased sleep

  6. Lack of motivation or withdrawing from people

  7. Drug use

  8. Feelings that life is not worth living or more serious sucicidal thoughts

  9. Not looking after personal hygiene or other responsibilities

  10. Not performing as well at school or work


What causes mental illness?

The causes of mental illness can be complex and varied, ranging from biological factors to environmental influences. There are numerous biological causes for mental illness. Certain genes may predispose an individual to the development of certain illnesses. People who have family members who have histories of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and addiction are more likely to develop these disordrs as well.


“The onset of mental illness is typically around mid-to-late adolescence and Australian youth (18-24 years old) have the highest prevalence of mental illness than any other age group” (Black Dog Institute)

Some factors that can cause mental illness include?

  • Genetic factors: having a close family member with a mental illness can increase the risk. However, just because one family member has a mental illness doesn't mean that others will.

  • Drug and alcohol abuse: illicit drug use can trigger a manic episode ( bigpolar disorder) or an episode of psychosis. Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines can cause paranoia.

  • Other biological factors: some medical conditions or hormonal changes.

  • Early life environment: negative childhood experiences such as abuse or neglect can increase the risk of some mental illnesses.

  • Trauma and stress: in adulthood, traumatic life events or ongoing stress such as social isolation, domestic violence, relationship breakdown, financial or work problems can increase the risk of mental illness. Traumatic experiences such as living in a war zone can increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Personality factors: some traits such as perfectionism or low self-esteem can increase the risk of depression or anxiety.

Self-care and how can mental illness be treated?

Mental illness is not an impossible condition to tackle; with proper treatment, most individuals can overcome their symptoms and get back to leading a healthy, productive and content life. Different treatments are available for the various types of mental illnesses; the therapy chosen depends on the severity of the disorder, individual's history, etc.


From mindfulness techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy to exercise and nutrition, there are many helpful strategies available which can help you take control of your mental health. The main types of treatment include:

  • Psychological therapy: there are many different types of psychotherapy, including supportive therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, group, couple and family therapy.

  • Diet: Eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential for promoting good health and longevity. A whole plant-based diet is one of the best ways to ensure optimal health, as it provides the body with essential nutrients and vitamins. Whole plant-based foods are unprocessed, low in sugar, fat, and sodium, and high in fiber. Avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, and caffeine can help reduce the risk of developing long-term health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

  • Exercise: Maintain moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for at least 30 minutes to improve body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness. Regular physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise can help improve body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and promote mental well-being.

  • Sleep: Sleep is an essential part of life for adults, yet many struggle to get enough. According to experts, adults should be getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Not only does this ensure that you're well-rested, but research has also linked a lack of adequate sleep to a variety of health issues such as obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes.

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness and meditation can be powerful tools to improve mental health and wellbeing. By engaging in regular mindfulness activities, such as breathing exercises, guided meditations, and body scans, we can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative mental health issues. With the help of mindfulness and meditation, we can cultivate an inner sense of peace that will ultimately lead to better physical and mental health outcomes.

  • Play: Play is an essential part of our mental health. Regular play activities can help to reduce stress, boost creativity, improve memory and build relationships. Whether it’s playing board games with family or friends, participating in outdoor sports or engaging in creative activities such as painting and drawing, play is a great way to unwind and have fun. So don’t forget to make time for play!

  • Medicines: the most commonly prescribed medicines are antidepressants, which can be used for anxiety or depression. Mood stabilisers are used for bipolar disorder, and antipsychotic medicines are used for schizophrenia or psychosis.

These tools and strategies can provide an individual with the necessary support to manage their mental health in a healthy way. With the right help, individuals can learn how to recognise the signs of mental illness and develop effective coping strategies that will help them overcome their struggles and lead a more fulfilling life.


Final words on taking control of your mental health

Mental health is an important aspect of our lives and it is essential to take control of it. Seeking professional therapy can be a powerful way to help us understand our emotions, cope with stress and anxiety, and build resilience. Therapy can provide us with the tools to manage our mental health and make positive changes in our lives.

"It can be difficult to ask for help, and even more so to show vulnerability. However, it is essential to recognise our own limitations in order to achieve success, and it's okay to let someone else know that you need their help."(Prue , Better You HQ Counsellor)


Take the first step towards better mental health - BOOK a session today



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