Call Now: 615.455.3903

What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

A man holding his head battling with his thoughts, next to the sea

For a person with mental illness, their disorder impacts every aspect of their life. It can make it difficult to simply exist and complete the most basic daily tasks. Mental illness can manifest at any time in your life, so it’s important to be able to answer the question, “What does mental illness look like?” Knowing the answer could help you or equip you to help a loved one in need.

While the symptoms vary among mental illnesses, there are notable shifts you can identify in yourself or your loved one to help you know if you need to seek professional help.

What is Mental Illness?

Mental health disorders refer to a spectrum of health conditions that impact your well-being. Your thinking, mood, and behavior are all directly impacted by a mental illness. 

In the U.S., nearly one in five adults experience some form of mental illness throughout their lives. One in every 24 people experience a severe form of mental illness that keeps them from functioning. 

Various factors cause most mental illnesses, not just one thing. People who have more risk factors are more likely to develop mental illness. A mental illness can develop over time, or a stressful event can trigger it. 

Risk factors for mental health disorders include:

  • Genetics. Mental illness often runs in families.
  • Environment. Living in a stressful environment can make you more prone to mental illness. For example, living in poverty or with an abusive family can trigger mental illness. You can also learn and adopt mental illness traits from a parent with mental illness.
  • Trauma. Experiencing a death or near-death experience is traumatic and can result in mental illness.
  • Childhood Trauma. Childhood traumatic events, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences, can have a long-lasting impact on your life. They can even cause mental illness in adulthood. This type of trauma includes a history of childhood neglect or abuse.
  • Stressful Events. Experiencing significant stressful events such as financial difficulties, divorce, or the death of a loved one can result in mental illness.
  • Negative Thoughts. Your self-image and self-esteem have an impact on your mental health. Constantly putting yourself down or expecting the worst can cause mental illness.
  • Unhealthy Habits. Habits like not getting enough sleep or not eating well, can exacerbate your chances of developing mental illness. 
  • Drug and Alcohol Use. Drug and alcohol use can trigger a mental illness. Substances also can make it more difficult to recover from mental illness. Addictions can form if you use drugs or alcohol to cope with mental illness.
  • Medical Conditions. Living with ongoing chronic medical conditions such as diabetes can cause mental illness. Also, a traumatic brain injury can cause mental illness.
  • Brain Chemistry. Mental illness involves an imbalance of natural chemicals in your brain and your body.

Regardless of the cause, recognizing what mental illness looks like is pivotal for you to catch it and seek treatment


A worried woman looks out the window longingly

Types of Mental Health Disorders

What mental illness looks and feels like varies based on what kind of disorder it is. The type of care required also varies, based on the diagnosis. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed and treated by a trained professional.

Types of mental health disorders include:

Those with a mental health disorder experience a change in their thoughts, mood, behavior, and even personality. While people may be able to lessen symptoms on their own, they likely need professional help to manage or recover from a mental health disorder.

Symptoms of Mental Illness

Each mental illness comes with a unique set of symptoms and behaviors. But it’s helpful to know some of the symptoms to look for. This information can help you know if you need to seek help for yourself or others.

Symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Excessive paranoia, worry, guilt, or anxiety
  • Extreme mood changes, often with sudden highs and lows
  • Dramatic changes in sleep patterns
  • Excessive sadness
  • Difficulty perceiving reality
  • Changes in sex drive, either a sharp increase or decrease in libido
  • Confused thinking or impairment of concentration
  • Problems with substance use
  • Inability to handle daily stressors
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or society
  • Significant tiredness and fatigue 
  • Detachment from reality, including delusions or hallucinations
  • Excessive or irrational anger, violence, or hostility
  • A significant shift in eating habits
  • Suicidal ideations

Seeking Help for Mental Illness

If you’re struggling with daily life, relationships, or work, or if you show any of the symptoms above, you may need help for a mental illness. Knowing the symptoms of what mental illness looks like can help you identify whether you need to seek treatment. 

At Integrative Life Center, we offer various treatments for co-occurring disorders, anxiety and depression, and other mental health disorders. These treatments allow for individualized care plans. 

ILC therapies include:


If you’re ready to get help, contact ILC today.


Related Post

This is an invitation to take that next step if you need...

Contact Our Team

Start Your Healing Journey Today