Are you suspicious that someone you know or yourself may have a mental illness?

Jessica Bordelon Mashael
5 min readAug 27, 2023

Before we begin, no diagnosis is a trap or a barrier unless it is left untreated.

I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so you and I cannot diagnosis someone BUT… that also does not mean you shouldn’t show concern for mental illness in the same way you might notice signs of diabetes or cancer.

Mental illness is one of the most silent diseases in many cases because

a lot of the symptoms are excused as rude or strange quirks until they cause extreme harm

Oftentimes the people who are victims of abuse or those impacted by the strange behavior are concerned that they are misunderstanding or that they will seem crazy if they discuss their concerns with someone.

This is in fact how mental illness runs rampant, destroying lives.

Add on to that … in the US — we cannot (and should not) force treatment for physical or mental health on a person without their consent. The only time forceful intervention occurs is after the person has proven to be a danger to themselves or others in a very direct and dangerous way.

These laws about consent were put in place for good reason — in the past, there were folks wrongly trapped and experimented on against their will. We definitely do not want a return to that. In fact, “conservatorship” is still in existence and it’s scary AF because it can be used (as we have seen) to unjustly control a person’s life.

But we all need to be aware and protect ourselves and others when we notice signs of mental illness and the hope is — that the person with the symptoms faces that reality and gets treated so they can live a life more free and full.

DIFFERENT TYPES

Depression, anxiety and PTSD are the most common form of mental illness and those with these symptoms, usually recognize it and seek the care they need. But those with personality and bipolar disorders are often unaware of their symptoms, and since theirs are so extreme, it truly causes them and everyone around them a lot of suffering.

NOW FOR THE SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS

It is important to note that these symptoms do not happen everyday. It’s the reason why in an abusive relationship, the person is sometimes responsible, kind etc but then sometimes or occasionally abusive. If these symptoms occur often enough to be NOTICED that’s enough reason to be concerned.

1. Inconsistent stories about their life

The personality and bipolar disorders frequently involve dishonesty so the person has a very hard time keeping up with their lies. They also have more than one version of a story and forget who they told version 1 and version 2.

This usually gets noticed when 2 people are talking about the situation and realize they’ve been given different versions.

When they are telling the stories, they prefer one-on-one conversations because they’ve probably learned in their teen years, that this is best to avoid their lies being discovered.

2. A habit of emotional reactions well-above what the scenario called for (whether joyful, sad or angry — it’s the extremity that matters)

In childhood, we learn our socio-cultural norms. This is a symptom that should ONLY be discussed by people in the same cultural group because different cultures have different norms. So don’t assume your friend of a different culture is abnormal just because it’s not normal to you.

Nevertheless, when a person has not learned these norms due to biological reason or due to abuse or neglect, they have a very difficult time regulating their emotions and easily slip into the extremes anytime they feel the emotion.

Some times we think they are just eccentric or lively, when reality is this might just be one of several other symptoms.

IMPORTANT NOTE: all things exist on a continuum. Being lively or passionate alone is NOT a mental illness. If this is the only oddity you detect, let that person live. Except when their emotion causes verbal or physical abuse, damage to property, etc. Then it’s a problem no matter if it’s the only symptom or not.

3. Frequent changes in address, jobs, friendships and/or partners (It might only be 2 of these.)

This is one of the most common indicators of serious symptoms. Folks with personality or bipolar disorders have symptoms that create conflict on a regular basis.

This leads to a series of broken friendships and relationships, frequent job hopping, and frequently needing to move if that person does not own their own place.

The conflicts are often caused by #1 the lies and #2 the extreme reactions.

4. Fidgeting and fast or distorted speech

This one is less common and can sometimes indicate anxiety alone, so don’t assume just because someone fidgets or talks in an unusual way that it’s major cause for concern. They might just be dealing with a higher than average dose of anxiety chemicals.

This person might also struggle with PTSD from past trauma. Both anxiety and PTSD are treatable and most sufferers can tell you exactly what they are dealing with.

Personality and Bipolar disorder only sometimes disrupts speech. Schizophrenia more often does this but since schizophrenia is likely less common, we less frequently see this symptom.

But added onto the other 3, there is very likely cause for concern.

What should you do if you suspect illness for yourself?

You should visit a doctor and get proper assessment, therapy and treatment as determined by a professional and degreed doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

It is NEVER a reason to give up on yourself if you notice these signs or if someone points them out for you.

You have been living in a haze if you have these illnesses and just like a child who cannot hear receiving hearing aids for the first time, once you get treated, you will finally hear the music of life a lot more clearly.

Where can you locate help?

IF you are a friend or family member of someone suffering, click HERE to locate a support group near you through this amazing organization known as Al-Anon. It’s hard on you as well when someone you love is suffering, whether or not they are receiving treatment. Al-Anon connects you with ways to heal and cope for yourself.

If you want to be checked for symptoms, click HERE to ask your questions. This page has several organizations and hotlines you can call to learn more and find your best options.

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Jessica Bordelon Mashael

I am all the stuff of Millenials — Multitasker, Hustler, Unapologetic, Humanitarian. I write about Growth: wealth, relationships, spirituality and more. :-)