How to Identify the Early Stages of Mental Health Issues 

 March 23, 2022

Mental health issues can grow to become mental illnesses if treatment isn’t considered earlier. But, before seeking treatment, understanding the symptoms is absolutely necessary to make an informed decision about the treatment procedure and financial management. This article focuses on informing individuals about identifying early mental health issues in children, teens, and adults.

It is important to note that there is a significant connection between mental health issues and substance abuse. People with poor mental health often fall prey to various addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, heroin, etc. Smoking weed in excessive quantities may also result in addiction. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, getting them into rehab is the first step to do. Most rehabs offer both inpatient and outpatient programs. For patients who would like to continue their normal lives while getting treatment, outpatient treatment must be the best choice. For patients who are severely addicted, we recommend inpatient addiction care that involves a residential stay for availing the personalized therapy and individualized care.

stressful patient consulting with doctor

Below are some of the signs and symptoms that can cause stress and hinder the ability of individuals to function, so seeking help is absolutely necessary. There are various mental health services that one can engage in to address mental health issues immediately. These services provide support and solutions to help combat the grave effects of mental health problems.

How to Identify Early Mental Health Issues in Children

Detecting mental health disorders in children are pretty challenging. As they go through various changes in childhood, serious mental health issues go unnoticed. And as mental health symptoms vary from person to person, the child’s inability to express how they feel contributes to the factor even more.

Social stigma also prevents a fraction of individuals from seeking treatment for their children even if they might suspect something. The cost of healthcare and usage of medicines are also contributing factors.

Warning signs of mental health issues in children include:

Depressive Behavior

Depression in children and adults varies greatly. While adults can self-diagnose to a certain extent, children can’t. If the feeling of sadness lasts in a child for more than two weeks, They might be showing depressive behavior.

Some other symptoms of depression in children include:

  • Anger or crankiness
  • Sensitivity to rejection
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Low energy and fatigue with social withdrawal
  • Feeling guilt

Avoiding Social Interaction

Although interactive behavior among children varies widely, most of them show intent to actively participate in social activities like playing games and meeting friends. If a child suddenly deviates from their usual behavior, it could be a cause of concern.

Hurting Oneself

Self-harm inflicting behavior among children is a major cause of concern. Children often seem reckless because they don’t understand what might hurt them. But, a child, who inflicts self-harm even by knowing that it might cause damage, could be showing symptoms of mental issues.

Change in Appetite and Weight

Deviation from usual appetite and a decreasing weight can be a sign of mental health issues in children. If your child has not been eating as they usually do or is losing or gaining weight, consider consulting with a mental health professional.


As their brain is still developing, children need a lot of sleep to function properly. If a young child isn’t getting adequate sleep, it’s a cause of physical and mental health concerns.

Difficulty Concentrating

Children aren’t the best individuals to concentrate on something that doesn’t peak their interests. But not being able to concentrate on the things that they usually focus on is a major identifying factor of mental health issues. 

How to Identify Early Mental Health Issues in Teens

Adolescence is the time when most individuals are introduced to poverty, violence, and abuse. With their body and mind, their lifestyle also starts changing around this time. As teens are more exposed to the open world and have more chances of being subjected to something that they never intended to face, mental health issues are most prevalent in them.

Some identifying signs of mental health issues among teens are:

Risk-Taking Behavior

Teens indulge themselves in risk-taking behaviors like substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, and violence to cope with the emotional roller coaster. Depending on education, economic status, and social involvement, the severity of the risk-taking behaviors may vary but should be considered as a sign of mental health issues in teens.


Delusions and hallucinations are symptoms of psychosis. Symptoms of psychosis mostly affect early adults. Psychosis can hinder a teen’s daily activity and can cause human rights violations to others if psychosis isn’t treated early.

Suicidal Behaviors

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among teens. In contrast to children who don’t have access to serious means to self-harm, teens are well-capable of hurting themselves severely. A teen talking about suicide shouldn’t be neglected.

How to Identify Early Mental Health Issues in Adults

The challenge with the identification of mental health issues with adults is that they want to keep it private. Be it a social stigma or financial fear; most adults try not to even discuss their issues with their families. As most early symptoms of mental health issues in adults overlap with the general day-to-day reaction to events, it becomes challenging for friends and family members to differentiate the two.

Early mental health issues with adults include:

  • Constantly worrying about things
  • Feeling of prolonged sadness
  • Problem keeping focus
  • Feeling of euphoria or extreme mood changes
  • Avoiding friends and families. Not wanting to attend social gatherings.
  • Lack of empathy and having trouble understanding others
  • Weight loss and sudden change in appetite
  • Psychosis. Difficulty perceiving reality. Hallucinating.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fear of changed appearances

Mental Health Issues That Can Be Detected Early

Most of the mental health issues that occur without a genetic or physical condition can be detected early. Some of the epidemic mental health issues that can be identified early are:

Anxiety Disorders

Children are mostly affected by anxiety disorder because of their inability to effectively manage stress. Children who have obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, and social phobia are more prone to develop an anxiety disorder in later life.

While it’s normal for a child to worry about their studies and life-changing decisions, if the stress becomes excessive, they might not be able to function properly.

Teens and adults, who never showed any critical symptoms of anxiety disorder, may also fall victim to stress and anxiety.

Common symptoms of anxiety disorders are:

  • Feeling of restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Fatigue and sweating
  • Trembling

Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

A lack of concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior are early signs of ADHD. Individuals, especially children, who show one or all of the above symptoms are more prone to develop ADHD later.

Symptoms of early ADHD involves:

  • Aggressive impulsive behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Cognitive disability

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD affects a child’s ability to communicate and interact socially. ASD can be detected in very young children, typically before the age of three. Although ASD affects a child’s communicative and learning skills, the conditions can be improved with therapy.

Some typical symptoms of ASD are:

  • Difficulty with communication
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Repetition of words or tasks
  • Learning disability

The Bottom Line

It’s the responsibility of the parents and friends to identify the early stages of mental health issues in children and teens. For adults, as they are considered more mature, the identification and prevention of mental health issues fall upon themselves. The early symptoms of mental health issues often include depression, PTSD, and extreme mood changes, which can escalate to attention deficiency, insomnia, and substance abuse pretty soon.

It’s important that the individuals and caregivers understand the symptoms and take on the issues at an early stage.

You may also like: 5 Mental Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

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