Medical DirectorMark Leeds, D.O. | Podcast: The Rehab

Invisible illnesses do exist. The mental illnesses many Americans deal with can be a challenge to address, talk about openly, and even understand. It’s difficult to process what we don’t outwardly see. Mental illness symptoms often manifest internally, affecting moods and emotions. However, mental unwellness can easily exhibit physical symptoms as well. A willingness to talk about your mental health is important, but it’s just as important to speak up about the physical symptoms that you may be going through. Often, the physical signs are more immediately visible and can help us acknowledge unwellness in ourselves or our loved ones. Here are a few common signs that you or someone close to you is experiencing mental unwellness.

1. Fatigue

Feeling excessively tired, or being fatigued can be a sign of mental unwellness. It’s normal for your energy levels to lower periodically. It’s not surprising that feeling too tired to function or being unable to immediately bounce back from a long week is something every person will likely experience more than once in their life. Many of us overwork or overextend ourselves to the point of fatigue.

Be mindful, however, of how that fatigue is manifesting itself. Does your fatigue include other symptoms, such as anxiety, a feeling of hopelessness, or sadness? When feelings of depression are felt, it’s time to take your fatigue seriously.

2. Increase or Decrease in Appetite

There are days when we may feel more or less hungry than others, but our appetites usually stay relatively the same from day to day. If you’re experiencing drastic dips or spikes in your hunger levels on a daily basis, this may be a sign that something else is going on. Next time you notice your appetite or eating habits are changing dramatically take note of your emotions and mental state. 

4. Headaches, Stomach Aches, Body Aches

It’s not uncommon for anxiety and severe stress to manifest in aches and pains in the body. When our bodies become overly stressed, they tend to let us know in physical ways if we’re not paying attention to our mental state. If you have ever felt that your pain tolerance has significantly decreased, or that your nerves are increasingly sensitive, it may be a sign of something more. More often than not, depression or anxiety co-exist with pain. Although their relationship isn’t always clear, it’s important to recognize them individually as well as together.

We can’t always escape the occasional headache. Even mild stress and conflict can cause a mild one to pop up. If those headaches become more frequent or even begin to become a daily occurrence, it’s time to pay closer attention. Your headaches might not be as painful as migraines, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a sign of a more serious emotional issue.

5. Erratic Sleeping Habits

Getting a poor nights sleep isn’t always something we can help. We can lose sleep for countless reasons, sometimes choosing work over rest, but erratic sleeping patterns or an inability to get a full night of sleep isn’t something you should make light of. Insomnia can be a sign of other mental health issues occurring. Sleep disorders often coexist with:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • Depression

Losing one nights sleep ] can make it difficult to function throughout the day, but if your sleeping patterns have made it impossible to get a normal amount of rest on a regular basis, your mind and body aren’t able to restore themselves through a full sleep cycle. That lack of sleep can make it difficult or impossible to cope with other symptoms of mental stress. If your lack of sleep is causing mood swings, unbalanced emotional responses, irrational thinking, or making it difficult to remember things, it’s time to seek professional help.

Talk to a Professional

Understanding the signals and physical warning signs of mental illness can help you know it’s time to speak with a professional. It’s one thing to self-diagnosis what’s happening to your body and mind, but never use that as an excuse to get an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing an “invisible illness” is different than diagnosing something more easily seen. It may take time to get an accurate diagnosis of what’s happening internally that’s also manifesting in external ways. Be honest about what you’ve been experiencing when meeting with a medical professional. If you feel like even a small physical change is a warning of something bigger happening mentally, make it known.

Categories: guest post


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