Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Mental Health is a complex thing. If you are someone, like me, who struggles with their mental health or mental illness you will know, it can be very erratic. It can change quickly and often. But also it can stay in both good and bad patches for long periods of time.
We all wish we could prevent the bad patches and in my experience they often seem as if they come out of nowhere. However, if you look closely there are lots of signs we can pick up on to see the decline happening.
From there you can then take steps to stop it from spiralling out of control. Or changing quite so often.
Don’t beat yourself up if you are unable to notice the signs until it is too late. It took me years and years to finally understand what I was looking for. And even now there are times when I still get hijacked. I miss the signs or I just don’t have the energy to do anything about them.
Below are 25 signs I have noticed when my mental health starts to decline again;
25 signs my mental health is on the decline
I start to sweat more often. At times when I shouldn’t be sweating. During times of heightening anxiety, I can feel the wetness under my arms and on my back. The sweat also smells instantly of strong BO.
My breathing quickens even when I am not doing anything which would make my breath quicken. Short shallow breaths replace deep long breathing.
Increased heart rate
I can feel my heartbeat much more prominently. Sometimes it feels as though my heart is trying to beat out of my chest.
Like any other headache any other time. The pain varies from specific places to general pain and pressure around my whole head. Unlike a normal headache, it is constant though. Not usually incredibly painful, more of an annoying irritable pain that doesn’t go away.
This one usually comes on a bit slower than the rest. For me, it’s usually the first thing in the morning when I notice it. I wake up a little more groggy. It then takes me a while to get out of bed. Throughout the day I can tell I’m not 100%. Then at night, I can’t wait to crawl into bed. Each day it gets a little worse and rest doesn’t do much help for it either.
Not a common one for me personally. Unlike the others, it comes when I’m already in the pits of it. I feel sick to my stomach and want to throw up. But it never quite happens.
Sleep is sacred to me so this one bothers me the most. The mornings take a little longer at first. It becomes harder to open my eyes. Getting out of bed then becomes a chore. Sometimes getting out of bed doesn’t even happen. Feeling rested is a thing of the past.
At night, my mind races. I’m exhausted but relaxing my mind is impossible. Until eventually I somehow finally sleep.
Lack of appetite
My appetite quite literally disappears. I know I should be eating but I can’t bring myself to. Food doesn’t taste quite the same. And I don’t have the energy to cook.
Stomach pain and needing to go to the bathroom constantly
A big one for me as I also suffer from IBS. My bathroom usage increases for both bowel movements and urination. 5+ bowel movements a day is fairly common during this time. I will also need to use the bathroom multiple times before leaving the house.
Decreased sex drive
Quite the burden when you are in a relationship and generally more annoying when you are single. The desire and ability to have sex/masturbate/become aroused/ejaculate all become a tremendously difficult and unenjoyable experience. More often than not, not engaging in such things is easier.
Having more panic attacks than usual
If my mental health is good I usually don’t experience panic attacks all too often so when they start happening I know something is not right. Panic attacks are debilitating. They last for around 20 minutes and at times have made me think I am about to die. My heartbeat increases, I sweat profusely, my breathing becomes rapid, I lose the feeling in my legs, I need to get to a bathroom as quickly as possible, I feel sick and start to heave, my head becomes really heavy and it is one of the worst things imaginable to experience.
Less interest in doing anything
All the things I typically enjoy doing, I no longer become bothered about. I don’t have the energy for one and they no longer bring me any joy. Lying in bed mindlessly watching TV or a film is about the best I can do.
Being by myself feels like the best thing to do. I don’t want to burden others with how I am feeling and I become much less pleasant to be around. If I know I am actively spending more time alone then things are not looking good.
I get agitated over insignificant things which aren’t going to impact me or I would usually pay any attention to. For example, reading or watching the news about bad things happening across the world or posting a picture to Instagram and certain people not liking it.
Little things that normally wouldn’t bother me start to irritate me and make me angry. Like cars driving slowly in front of me or people touching my things.
Engaging in safety behaviours
Safety behaviours are coping behaviours I use to reduce anxiety and fear. Isolating myself is one of them as well as using the bathroom multiple times before leaving the house. These are the things the anxiety wants me to do and in doing so gives the anxiety more control over me.
My senses feel like they are dialled up to 12 and there is no off switch. It feels like my mind is searching for any possible danger both externally and internally.
Inability to concentrate
Because I am hyper-aware and I am constantly looking and listening for danger. I can’t then concentrate on anything else. I am hijacked and stuck in my own head.
Feeling as if something awful is going to happen
Being stuck in my own head and searching for danger there is always an impending feeling of that something really bad is going to happen. This makes me feel on the edge like I am on high alert waiting for the awful thing to happen to me.
Increased negative thoughts
When I have the impending feeling of that something really bad is going to happen, my mind races and starts coming up with every single possible negative thing which could potentially happen. They usually never do but that isn’t going to stop my mind from thinking that they might.
Lots of general worrying takes place about the past, the future and the present. It can be incredibly draining as one small worry can lead me down a really long path and I end up worrying about worrying which then feels like I am stuck in a never-ending cycle of worrying.
Going over and over certain situations in my head. Also thinking a lot about bad experiences which have happened to me in the past.
This a general feeling of being below my usual baseline. I’m not quite at the point of a full-blown depression but everything feels like it has had the edge taken off of it and almost like I am running slightly behind with a bit of lag.
Experiencing highs and lows in quick succession can be draining. One minute I can feel on top of the world and the next that world has come crashing down. This feeling can go back and forth quickly but also stay at either place for long periods of time.
For a lot of these signs, there isn’t anything specific to help each individual one. The best thing to do is to take care of your mental health as a whole to prevent such signs and symptoms from coming back.
Helping yourself is the number one priority but if that isn’t enough then seeking professional help is a must.