45 common symptoms of mental illness – signs of depression and anxiety

I’m glad that there is a lot of emphasis on mental health care today. Looking at the work counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and writers are doing, I’m confident that people are aware that mental health is a part of health that needs attention. We will soon look at some mental illness symptoms and signs of depression & anxiety. 

How would YOU identify the people who need mental health help? What would you look for to spot indicators of poor mental health?

Take a few seconds and think.

Try answering this- How do you know if you have mental health issues?

For this post, I won’t get into why mental health is so important. I assume that most people are now aware that it is important. For me, the case is closed. Mental health care is important, and we all are in an era where mental health issues are no longer buried in shame (for many of us). People actively seek and offer help. Even though the acceptance of mental health problems isn’t ideal today, it isn’t half bad.

Possible indicators of mental health problems

In this article, I’ll outline the indicators of poor mental health. You’ll see these indicators as behaviors, sentences, tendencies, drastic changes, etc. Find these, your friends & family might need you. The signs of depression can be seen in many walks of life. The same goes for anxiety. One can see signs of anxiety issues in behavior, talking, thinking, etc. 

I’ll also cover the not-so-surprising statistics on mental health issues.

Let’s dive right in.

How do we identify who needs psychological help for good mental health?

Disclaimer 1: These are not clinical indicators. These are indicators that MAY SUGGEST a need for mental health counseling. 

Identifying mental health problems

Image by Kevin Simmons via Flickr Creative Commons

If you are wondering what a depressed person says or what someone experiencing anxiety is likely to say, these are the pointers that will help you understand. 


Behavioral indicators of mental health issues:

  1. Spending too much time in bed
  2. Constantly on edge
  3. Emotionally very reactive or abruptly closed
  4. Lack of enthusiasm or unpredictable enthusiasm for certain things which don’t seem normal for the person
  5. Inability to sleep or disturbed sleep
  6. Feeling you are not worth what someone expects from you (accepting low salaries, working more and calling it justified because you feel that you always underdeliver)
  7. Feeling like you are falling ill very often (misreading body signals, lethargy) 
  8. Excessive secrecy
  9. Misrepresenting quality of life to a high proportion
  10. Activities in the day do not account for time spent
  11. Accepting remarkably low standards of events, relationships
  12. Engaging in self-harming behavior like excessive drinking, avoiding medication, attempting suicide
  13. Change in appetite
  14. Self-neglect such as not bathing and brushing teeth
  15. High irritability during simple interactions
  16. Fluctuating between high and low levels of excitement and activity in a small period
  17. Behavior indicates confused thinking
  18. Disobedience and disregard for authorities even when one is aware of dire consequences
  19. Inability to cope with basic daily life stressors such as extra workload, fights in a relationship, budgeting, etc. 
  20. Prolonged negative mood
  21. High levels of anxiousness, nervousness, and fears – increased heart rate, chest pains, sweaty palms, high blood pressure, etc. 
  22. Frequent display of aggressive, angry, and hostile behavior such as shouting, yelling, strong physical movements, hitting, breaking objects, etc. 
  23. Inability to focus and easily distracted


Verbal indicators of mental health issues: 

  1. “I want to get on my bed and not get up.”
  2. “Why do I do anything anyway?” there is a difference between saying this casually and saying this sincerely
  3. Excessive self-deprecating humor
  4. Frequent expression of dying, killing, and escaping
  5. Interpretations of events and statements are often negative
  6. Verbally not acknowledging the gravity of intense events – death, crimes, genuine victories
  7. Incoherent speaking
  8. Inability to express oneself emotionally and factually
  9. Holding back communication in the middle of a spoken sentence – abrupt withdrawal
  10. Strange thinking
  11. Expressing anger more often than warranted
  12. Speech indicates confused thinking
  13. Inability to accept problems one is facing


Erratic & sudden indicators of mental health issues:

  1. Physical health changes that are unexpected and drastic – disease, weight, skin, etc.
  2. Difficulty coping with lifestyle changes – residence, work, friends, etc.
  3. Sudden obsessions for someone who hasn’t had many. Or the lack of obsessions for someone who usually has them.
  4. Need for instant gratification (disproportionate to their normal tendency)
  5. Regular reactions (emotional, verbal, physical) are incongruent with normal tendencies
  6. Unusual social withdrawal
  7. A drop in objectively interpreting events around oneself. 
  8. Unexplained mood swings
  9. Neglecting responsibilities – professional, personal, social

And of course, the glaringly obvious indicator – someone says ‘I need to work on my mental health.’


Understand the signs and indicators of poor mental health around you. 

These were the warning signs of poor mental health.  These weren’t the diagnostic criteria. The content of this article aims at finding early signs of depression, anxiety, and other disorders. That’ll help to create an opportunity to deal with mental health problems before they get grave. 

Are you looking out for a friend or family member to see if they need help? Are you exhibiting any of these indicators?

If you strongly feel that you have these indicators, don’t worry. Take a screening test. If you must, meet a psychologist.

A related step is getting a valid screening done. You might find this screening useful.

Perhaps you need something more in-depth and exhaustive to understand mental health issues. Here is a larger resource for research supported screening tests.

I would strongly recommend meeting a professional psychologist/ counselor/psychiatrist if there are many indicators and the screening measures point toward some mental health problems. 

Disclaimer 2: A lot of people are aware that they need mental health help and they are aware of their own signs of depression and anxiety. However, everyone is not in a position to accept that and do something about it. If you suspect that someone is depressed or having some mental health problems follow the key points I’ve outlined in this article about talking with depressed people.

I understand if you teleported into an introspective zone. Are you feeling anxious? You can use a variety of techniques to relax your mind. They are simple and can bring you a lot of good. Practice them a few times. You’ll feel great.

Returning to the point of this article, mental health issues are fairly common. As you have seen the signs of depression and anxiety are varied and can be seen in many aspects of being human. Let us now look at a few numbers.


Statistics on mental health:

  1. 300 million people suffer from depression and 260 million from anxiety disorders as of 2017.
  2. About 7.5% of Indians suffer from depression or anxiety, that’s another 90 million people. 
  3. 20% of all the children around the globe have some mental health problems.
  4. A whopping 18.4% of all Americans had some mental illness in 2016. 

Here is another resource for mental health statistics.   

While the purpose of this post isn’t statistics, I want you to know the gravity of how many people suffer. Mental health issues are a humongous problem.

I’ll conclude this post by saying the following:

Know the signs of depression, anxiety, and related mental health issues. You can help someone in need. 

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