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Mental Health conditions that we often miss

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Mental health problems are one of the most common conditions affecting older adults in the UK. However, despite how common they are, decades of stigmatisation and a lack of understanding mean they can be hard for the average person spot. Some people may see small changes in the person affected but often fail to recognise what is happening until the illness is quite prominent. However, there are plenty of early warning signs and the sooner the illness is identified, the sooner it can be treated.

These are 11 of the most common symptoms to look out for:

Social Withdrawal

Many people experience mental health problems choose not to speak about them, and start removing themselves from social situations or even isolating themselves completely. Although it can have other causes, it is one of the symptoms you may notice first.


Just like social situations, someone with mental health problems may avoid other activities altogether and may lack initiative. Some activities that they usually like may not provoke the same enthusiasm as before. Drops in performance, productivity or functioning

Failing to perform well at work, school or in sporting or social activities is often a good indicator that something is not quite right. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health disorders and can reduce someone’s functionality. Work related stress is a separate condition that can also exacerbate any underlying mental health problems.

Reduced thinking or memory capabilities

Most people have experienced an inability to concentrate or think critically or remember something before, and it may often pose an obstacle for people without a condition. However, a reduction in these abilities may have an underlying cause. Head injury, depression and other cognitive problems may be an underlying cause. The inability to find the words to convey what we mean is also an indicator.

Nervousness, Fear or Paranoia

Fairly normal situations can cause someone with mental health problems to become very nervous, and they may even become overly nervous about upcoming events or new situations. This often goes hand in hand with a sense of paranoia and being overly suspicious of other people. This may even lead to developing conspiracy theory like beliefs

Delusions and Hallucinations

Having delusions about one’s own abilities (both physical and mental) and significance can be quite a prominent indicator that someone is experience mental health problems. These can include thinking that one is impervious to damage, having super human strength, being able to influence the outcome of events with ones mind or presence, and beliefs that place them at the centre of important world events in the past, present or future.

Hallucinations are sensory delusions. The most common hallucination related to mental health conditions is hearing voices. People may also see, feel, smell or taste things that don’t exist, however these hallucinations are usually more temporary and may not always be an indicator of un underlying problem. For example, people can hallucinate as they are falling asleep or when they are waking up.


Instead of sensing things are aren’t there, some people may find their senses over-stimulated by light, sound and touch and may actively avoid sources of stimulation such as daylight and crowded areas.

Rapid and large mood swings.

Although mood swings are fairly normal, and often associated with changes in environment or after an event. However, regular or extreme swings are symptoms of personality disorders and bipolar disorder. The emotion may also be exaggerated or out of proportion with the change, such as experiencing euphoria or terror.

Appetite sleep habits

Lack of sleep, sleeping at odd hours or falling asleep randomly can often have normal circumstantial causes, but they are often linked with a number of mental health or sleep disorders.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Although drugs and excessive alcohol can produce some of the symptoms above, excessively taking these substances regularly can often be an indicator of an underlying problem. Alcoholism, depression and anxiety disorders are often linked.

Thoughts of Suicide or Self Harm

When people spot this symptom, they will usually intervene at this point. Unfortunately, this is also a symptom of some of the most common mental health conditions including depression. So spotting others earlier on may even save someone’s life.

What to do if you spot these symptoms?

Confronting someone you believe has mental health problems can be difficult. Advice from Rethink suggests your first steps are talking to the person and encouraging them to seek help whilst remaining sympathetic, and raising the subject in a non-confrontational setting and manner.

You may need to suggest that they may be able to cope better with help and to reassure them that that you will be there to support them and accompany them. It may be a good idea to remind them that mental health disorders are common, affecting one in four people in any one year and many can be easily treated without the need to be admitted to hospital.

With treatment, the severity of mental health illnesses can be reduced and early intervention can stop them from developing any further altogether.

If you would be interested in helping people with mental health issues full time, please look at our jobs page for our current vacancies. 
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