Early Signs of Mental Illness

Mental illness is a disease that alters an individual’s ability to cope with everyday challenges. It affects the individual’s thought process and behavior. Some early warnings signs of mental illness may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits, motivation, concentration or social skills. Mental illnesses may be the result of environmental stresses, hereditary factors and/or biochemical imbalances, according to the Maine Medical Center located in Portland, Maine. Individuals should seek help from a qualified mental health professional if they notice significant changes in their mood, behavior or daily functioning.


An early sign of mental illness is a sudden withdrawal from family and friends. A normally outgoing and social individual may suddenly become quiet, distant and lose interest in the activities that she used to enjoy. Mentally ill people may complain of a loss of energy or constant fatigue. They may no longer communicate with friends and family preferring to spend time alone.

Decreased Motivation and Concentration

Decreased motivation is another early warning sign of mental illness, according to the website Mental Health America 1. People who are in the early stages of mental illness may not feel motivated to get out of bed, brush their teeth, take a bath, go to work or attend school. These individuals have little energy to do anything but sleep. They lose interest in friends, school and self-care. Mental illness may cause a school-aged child to have a decline in grades because he has a hard time concentrating and cause an adult to lose her job because she is frequently tardy or excessively calls in sick.


An early warning sign for mental illness is a change in mood 1. Mentally ill individuals may have abrupt changes in mood. These individuals may be happy, outgoing, vibrant, easygoing and joyful while the next minute they may appear depressed, anxious, depressed, agitated, hostile or angry. These individuals can easily change from a relaxed state to a tense and jumpy state in the matter of minutes. A constantly cycling mood is a good early indicator that the person may have a mental illness.

Changes in Eating Habits

One of the first signs of mental illness is a change in eating habits 1. Mentally ill individuals may rapidly decrease the amount of food they eat or they may begin to over eat. These individuals will either pick at their food or consume large amounts of food when out in public. Some individuals with mental illness may diet or exercise obsessively. Over time, those who are close to the mentally ill individual will notice extreme weight gain or weight loss. Mentally ill people may try to explain the change in eating patterns and weight by blaming hormones or stress.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

A change in sleep patterns is often an early warning sign for mental illness. During the early stages of mental illness, people will change how long they sleep. Mentally ill individuals may sleep too long or not sleep enough. Those who sleep for lengthy amounts of time will complain of constant fatigue and loss of energy. They will spend the majority of their time in bed unaware of what is happening around them. Other mentally ill people may have a hard time falling asleep or sleeping throughout the night. These individuals find it difficult to get a good night’s rest because their minds are constantly racing with their fears, obsessions, phobias and worries. At first, the change in sleep patterns will be subtle, but as the mental illness progresses, the individual may lie in bed for days without grooming or function on little to no sleep.

Odd Behavior

An early indication that a person may have mental illness is odd behavior. Mentally ill people may hold bizarre beliefs or behave in an odd way. These individuals may believe that they have superpowers, obsess over aliens or other worldly beings or become overly paranoid and suspicious for no reason. At the beginning, mentally ill people may display eccentric behavior or share outlandish theories with other people. During the early stages, mentally ill people may isolate themselves from other people because they feel that no one understands them or that other people are beneath them intellectually. These individuals may appear to talk to people who are not in the room or see things that do not exist. A mentally ill person may have a hard time making or keeping friends because of his strange beliefs and behavior.


Rambling is an early sign of mental illness. At the beginning, people with mental illness may ramble about things that do not make sense. These individuals may talk to themselves or to other people for long periods of time about nothing. They may talk about imaginary things or they make up extraordinary stories in order to keep people’s attention. It is often hard to understand what a mentally ill person is trying to say because of her inability to connect what she is thinking with what she is saying. An early sign of mental illness is an individual whose words become jumbled when she tries to tell someone about a movie she just saw.