Mental health crises can be devastating to those going through them. If you or a loved one is at risk, recognizing the biggest signs that someone might be dealing with a mental health challenge is critical.
The first step in identifying warning signs is knowing what they are and how they present themselves. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms of a mental health crisis and how to spot them in yourself and others.
Understanding the Concept of a Mental Health Crisis
An estimated 20% of American adults live with a mental illness. These illnesses vary in terms of severity — symptoms can range from mild to completely debilitating. When a condition’s severity suddenly increases, it could indicate a mental health crisis.
Mental health crises are highly disruptive. Experiencing mental turmoil can make it hard to function normally and may render your typical coping methods ineffective. For those who know they suffer from a mental illness, a crisis marks a sudden worsening of existing conditions.
The triggers for a mental health crisis vary for each person. Loss, traumatic events or a change in mental health treatment can all lead to a worsened condition. Those with preexisting conditions or recent economic losses are typically more susceptible to crises.
The terms “mental health crisis” and “mental health emergency” are often used interchangeably, although their meanings differ. A mental health emergency generally refers to a life-threatening situation. A crisis, while distressing, usually doesn’t mean a person is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others.
While a mental crisis isn’t directly life-threatening, it can lead to an emergency if left untreated. This makes it important to address crises before they become dangerous. Identifying the signs of suffering is the first step toward taking action.
5 Biggest Warnings Signs of a Mental Health Crisis
Mental illness presents differently depending on the person. The uniqueness of each person’s experience means the signs of a crisis can also differ. Still, mental health crises have several common elements. Together, these overlapping symptoms form a list of warning signs that may indicate an oncoming crisis.
Familiarizing yourself with the following signs can help you identify a developing crisis and seek assistance before it becomes too severe.
1. A Desire to Cause Harm
The most critical and biggest sign that someone might be dealing with a mental health challenge is a desire to harm themselves or others. This desire marks a severe mental crisis that may turn into an emergency. Plans or attempts to act on such urges require immediate attention, ideally from a mental health professional.
2. Behavioral Changes
Behavioral symptoms can affect your ability to function normally. Working, taking care of yourself or even getting out of bed can seem like impossible tasks.
When experiencing a mental health crisis, you may start engaging in risky or out-of-control behavior or become abusive toward yourself or others.
Withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities is another common symptom of mental health crises. You may also isolate yourself from those around you, including close friends and family.
3. Emotional Red Flags
Sudden emotional shifts are often a forewarning of a developing mental health crisis. You might experience mood swings or grow furious at the slightest inconvenience.
A feeling of pointlessness is also a common warning sign, especially when coupled with suicidal ideation.
4. Physical Symptoms
Physical symptoms can be disruptive and wide-ranging. During a crisis, you might experience changes in your sleeping or eating habits, leaving you feeling tired or without an appetite. Some people experience severe weight gain or loss.
Fatigue is often an indicator — those in crisis frequently suffer from a constant lack of energy. Recurring ailments with no discernible cause are also common. These can include headaches, nausea and a vague sense of aches or pains.
5. Cognitive Issues
Cognitive issues are less physically painful, but just as debilitating. They can include excessive worrying, fear or paranoia.
In some cases, hallucinations or delusions can occur, making it difficult to perceive reality. Similarly, you might experience a prevailing sense of confusion or disorientation, making it hard to focus even for short periods.
An inability to recognize changes in your feelings or behavior is another warning sign. This symptom can be hard to identify on your own, making it even more vital to develop a strong support system.
If you suffer from a mental illness, you may already experience some of the above issues. The onset of new symptoms or a sudden worsening of existing ones can signal an approaching crisis. Staying alert to the subtler signs of an impending crisis may also help prevent the development of more severe symptoms.
Taking Action: Support and Resources for Mental Health Crises
Recognizing the signs of an oncoming mental health crisis is just the first step in mitigating it. Once you identify the symptoms in yourself or others, it’s important to seek help.
If you have a preexisting mental health condition, it can be hard to separate everyday symptoms from those connected to a crisis. For this reason, it helps to understand what’s normal for you.
Reaching out to those in your support system can give you the strength needed to stop a crisis before it becomes dangerous. This is especially true in times of loss or turmoil, when you may be more susceptible to a mental emergency.
There are various other resources available to those in the midst of a mental crisis. Staying in touch with a mental health professional can help you navigate crises and prevent them from recurring. If you believe you may cause harm to yourself or others during a crisis, walk-in urgent care can be a useful resource.
It’s never too late to seek help for a mental health crisis. At Restore Mental Health, our knowledgeable and caring team is ready to provide you with the support you need. Give us a call today to take the first step toward a peaceful life.