Just like physical illness, mental illness has many different symptoms.  Proper diagnosis requires a qualified professional who will analyze all aspects of the symptoms to determine the most suitable course of treatment.

Mental illness requires a thorough investigative process for proper diagnosis.   Bipolar and psychotic disorders cannot be self-diagnosed, as many of the symptoms occur in other mental health problems.  However, there are some common indicators of psychotic and bipolar Disorder that should prompt a person to seek professional help.


Key Indicators of a Psychotic Disorder

  • Hallucinations: The most well known symptom of a psychotic disorder is hallucinations.

Hallucinations are  perceptions in the absence of real-world stimuli.  The brain will evoke a physical sensation of something that does not exist. Those suffering from Psychotic Disorder may hear voices, see visions, smell odours or experience unusual tastes in the mouth.  In some cases, they may even feel the physical sensation of being touched.

Because the brain is interpreting internal thoughts as physical reality, the person suffering hallucinations cannot distinguish what is real from what is imagined.  They may not even be aware of the hallucination.

  • Delusions: Similar to a hallucination, a delusion infiltrates a person's way of thinking, rather than their physical perception.

While a delusion may have some grains of truth, the person may have thoughts or ideas that have expanded into something that cannot possibly be real.  As with hallucinations, the person is likely unaware they are experiencing delusions.  They will convey peculiar, bizarre and eccentric ideas with absolute sincerity and a sense of unfounded logic.

  • Unusual Speech and Behaviour: A psychotic disorder usually causes changes in a person's speech patterns, such as rambling or incoherency.  It may be difficult for the person to stay on track when trying to relate an idea or thought.  Behavioural changes are also noticeable, such as a disregard for appearance or hygiene. It will be difficult, if not impossible for the person to engage in social functions, go to work, or handle routine daily tasks.
  • Lack of Emotion: The person is noticeably detached from others emotionally.  They appear cold and uncaring to others, and have difficulty maintaining relationships.  Lacking empathy and understanding in their responses and interactions, they are emotionally isolated.


Changes of Mood May Indicate Bipolar Disorder


Also known as manic-depression, bipolar is characterized by mood swings. However, the mood does not change immediately like the flip of a switch. Episodes of mania, or extreme highs can last for several months to several years, before dissolving into elongated periods of depression.

Manic episodes don't necessarily mean happiness and depression does not immediately refer to being sad.  Mania is a sense of elevation or heightened emotion, while depression (its polar opposite), is a sense of lowered emotion.


Symptoms of Mania:

  • Irritability or agitated mood.
  • Restlessness, lack of concentration and inability to focus on a single task without becoming distracted. A person may start projects with fervour and then leave them incomplete to start something else.
  • Delusions of grandeur (impressiveness or importance). More than just boasting; a very sincere belief they are above others in talent, ability or skill.  The person may be genuinely dismayed by their lack of success or fame.
  • During a manic episode, the person is filled with racing thoughts and ideas. The mind is alert and active much of the time, which prevents long periods of sleep.
  • Indulgent high-risk behaviour, such as promiscuity, gambling, lavish shopping sprees or risky business ventures can be detrimental during a manic episode, because the person is unable to consider the potential consequences of their actions. Even if pregnancy or excessive debts occur, the person is still unable to resist the behaviour.

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Manic episodes may have a person seemingly involved in everything, while periods of depression are characterized by withdrawal.
  • Pulling away from family and friends, declining invitations for get-togethers, and exhibiting little desire to talk to or see anyone.
  • Constant tiredness and exhaustion. Emotionally, the person lacks the enthusiasm to do even routine things such as taking a shower or shopping for groceries.  Physically, sleep patterns may be quite unusual, as the person may sleep and nap much of the time.  Alternatively, the person may have difficulty falling asleep and wake up too early, since the mind may be rehashing negative thoughts.
  • Weight changes are common, and the person may look gaunt from lack of sleep and withdrawal from activities. Manner of dress and style diminishes from lack of grooming.

The most notable symptom for any mental illness is a dramatic change in regular performance levels.  For students, a downward shift in grades is a distinct signal that something isn't right.  In the workplace, changes in performance, missing deadlines or clashing with co-workers may indicate emotional or mental instability.


Misguided Fear of Treatment


While media has done nothing to reverse the stigma of mental illness, diagnosis and treatment is both safe and well sanctioned. For example, in Canada, provincial and federal Human Rights Commissions recognize treatment of mental illness as a legitimate requirement for employee accommodation within the workplace.


In fact, corporations throughout the country are implementing mental wellness programs to educate and support employees in need of treatment. Privacy laws are strict and unyielding, allowing anyone to seek treatment without being forced to reveal the diagnosis.


There is no need to hide from treatment, since it is highly unlikely that you'll be hospitalized without consent.  In fact, most of the myths about treatment are untrue.  Dealing with mental illness is about learning to cope with it successfully so you can live a regular life.


The serious nature of mental illness requires professional diagnosis and treatment.  It ranges from stress and anxiety, to more complicated problems like bipolar and psychotic disorders.  While researching symptoms may be helpful, it is far better to reach out to the mental health community, through hotlines, clinics or hospitals.  If you're not sure where to go, start with your family doctor.

Author's Bio: 

Child psychologist Dr. Tali Shenfield has been working with patients suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for over 15 years. She is very well known for her clinical work, educational and research articles. Dr. Shenfield is an author of online child anxiety test. You take this free anxiety test here. You can follow Dr. Shenfield on Twitter as @DrShenfield.