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If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is living with mental health problems, it might help to speak to a medical or mental health professional. Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can signal a problem:

Early Warning Signs – Adults

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having little or no energy
  • Feeling numb or as if nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on-edge, angry, upset, worried or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Unable to perform daily activities, such as getting to work or school, or taking care of children

Early Warning Signs – Preteens and Teenagers

  • Struggling to perform daily activities or handle problems
  • Eating or sleeping much more or less
  • Frequently complaining about feeling sick or reporting aches and pains
  • Rebelling against authority, missing school, stealing, or vandalizing property
  • Worrying excessively about gaining weight
  • Feeling sad or negative for an extended period, coupled with lost appetite or thinking about death
  • Often exploding in anger
  • Abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or smoking 

Early Warning Signs – Younger Children

  • Displaying aggression or being disobedient
  • Throwing frequent temper tantrums
  • Performing differently in school
  • Receiving poor grades despite making strong efforts
  • Worrying excessively or feeling anxious, such as refusing to go to school or bed
  • Seeming hyperactive – in constant motion, restless
  • Experiencing persistent nightmares

Early Diagnosis and Treatment Matters

Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health conditions, but these problems are often clinically diagnosable. Youth with mental health disorders often experience difficulties in a variety of settings including home, school and the community. Unfortunately, fewer than 20 percent of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need.

Early mental health support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs. Generally, the sooner mental dysfunction is diagnosed and treated, the sooner symptoms can improve and the greater the likelihood of preventing more severe mental illness. 

What are signs that someone is struggling with mental health or emotional issues?

Common signs that a person needs help dealing with emotional issues or a mental health problem include:

  • Depression or apathy that interferes with obligations or participating in social activities
  • Lack of coping skills around day-to-day problems or extreme reactions to certain situations
  • Extreme highs (mania) that may include rushed thoughts, bursts of energy, sleeplessness and compulsive behavior, e.g. excessive spending or promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Severe anxiety or stress not appropriate to the situation
  • Constant feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

Often, a decline in one’s emotional health can lead to isolation. The person suffering may feel ashamed or become very secretive to hide the problem. If it seems the individual has “dropped off the face of the earth” or is behaving in an unusual manner, it could signal a problem.

How do I know when it’s time to seek help for mental, emotional or behavioral problems?

It’s time to reach out when issues are causing problems in your life, but you don’t know what to do, how to cope or how to make the necessary changes.

A variety of warning signals may indicate the need for diagnosis, therapy, medication or other treatment by a mental health professional. Signs include alcohol or drug abuse, loneliness, depression, marital or family relationship difficulties, sexual problems, anxiety, unexplained physical problems, eating disorders, self-esteem or sexual identity issues, employment difficulties, and inability to set or attain goals, among others.

Do you feel stuck or have a sense that you are continually losing ground? Are you dealing with extreme job stress, struggling to adjust to a new situation or facing challenges in your interpersonal relationships? Sometimes we need a mental check-up in the same way we get other medical exams.

Working with a mental health professional can help you find productive solutions. Whether seeking care for yourself, a family member or a friend, do not worry about being labeled or feel that you should be able to handle the situation on your own. If the issue or condition affects daily life, creates obstacles to achieving goals or interferes with quality of life, it’s time to get help.

What are signs I should seek professional help for my child who is struggling?

Seek outside help when:

  • Your child seems anxious, depressed or angry beyond his or her years
  • Your child is endangering himself or threatening to harm himself
  • Your other children are unhappy, frightened or upset by their sibling’s behavior or a parent’s response to that behavior
  • The child’s behavior is interfering with his daily life or the family’s functioning
  • Disagreements about how to handle a child’s problems put a strain on your marriage or partnership
  • As a parent, you don’t know what to do


The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, mental health providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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