It’s not always easy to identify when someone may be going through a hard time, especially if you’re not sure what you should be looking out for.

There are dozens of potential signs that someone is struggling, but they are not always obvious. In this blog post we’ll explore some of the more common signs of mental illness. Please bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive list; nor should you expect to see all these signs outwardly.


Changes in sleep or appetite

Dramatic changes in sleeping or eating patterns are quite common symptoms of a wide variety of mental disorders. This could mean sleeping more or less than usual, as well as eating more or less than usual.


Social withdrawal

Have you noticed a friend or loved one isolating themselves socially? A loss of interest in hobbies and activities they previously enjoyed could be an indicator of challenges.


A dip in functioning

Similarly to withdrawing socially, many people struggling with their mental health will find work, school or sports activities more difficult and less interesting than before. You may also notice your friend or loved one having trouble completing tasks they used to find easy.



Nervousness or feeling anxious without a clear reason why is another common symptom of several different conditions. If you notice your friend or loved one appearing to be more nervous than usual, and they find it hard to explain why, it might be a sign of challenges they’re going through.


Mood changes

Many mental illnesses are characterised by sudden or dramatic changes in mood. Moods changing rapidly, or a persistent low feeling are among the most common outward signs of mental illness.


Loss of patience or short temper

In a lot of cases, depression and other mental health disorders can take up a lot of emotional bandwidth. This can leave your friend or loved one with less energy or patience, leading to more irritability and a shorter temper.


Unusual behaviour

It’s not easy to be specific here, as one person’s unusual behaviour could be another person’s typical Sunday afternoon. However, if you notice odd, uncharacteristic or peculiar behaviour from a friend or loved one, this could be cause for concern.


Problems concentrating

Many disorders that affect mood and personality also have an enormous impact on your ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand. This often goes hand-in-hand with increased feelings of apathy and a loss of interest in hobbies.


Increased sensitivity

This is a less common symptom of many disorders, but it is relatively easy to see. A sudden increase in sensitivity to noise, light, smells or touch could be evidence of changes in a person’s state of mind.


Suicidal thoughts or ideation

If a friend or loved one mentions feeling suicidal, or thinking about death a lot, this is a definite sign that something’s not right. If you are concerned for their safety and think they may hurt themselves, contact 999 in an emergency.


An increase in drink or drug use

Increased substance use, or self-medication, is extremely common among people struggling with their mental health, since drink and drugs can ‘numb’ their troubles. Substance abuse is a serious issue that can mask any number of conditions.


Experiencing reality differently

If your friend or loved one mentions feeling ‘disconnected’ from their surroundings or appears to see or hear things that aren’t real, this could well be a symptom of an underlying condition.


If you’re concerned about a friend or loved one who appears to be showing some of the signs in this list, it might be time to ask if they’re ok.

It’s not easy caring for someone going through challenges with their mental health, but we’ve compiled some common-sense tips below:

Don’t change how you act. Mental health disorders don’t fundamentally change who you are; your friend or loved one are still the same person, so try to enjoy time with them in the same ways you used to.

Include them in activities. If your friend or loved one starts withdrawing socially, don’t stop reaching out to them; it’s important that they know their friends still care.

Don’t force it! It’s never easy to admit to yourself or others that you’re struggling with your mental health. If a friend or loved one chooses to open up to you, try to recognise that this is a huge step. Try to gently remind them that help is out there for them, and when they are ready you will help.

Help with the practicalities. Offer to do their shopping or help around the house! Just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can make it extremely difficult for people to care for themselves and maintain their daily lives.


When your friend or loved one is ready to reach out, Socium are here to help. We offer a wide range of private mental health services, from complex case management to in-home care from registered mental health nurses.

After an initial assessment with a senior clinician, we can help you find a route forward. Call the Socium team on 0203 384 0007 or leave a message on our website to arrange an assessment.