Mental illnesses can be so difficult to explain and understand — like how a “mental” illness can have physical symptoms; or when you’re dealing with multiple mental illnesses and you can’t pinpoint which one is causing what. On top of that, stigma can make us feel ashamed of what we’re going through, an unfair addition to what people with mental illness are already going through.
That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us the symptoms of mental illness people typically don’t talk about. Because by opening up the dialogue and making people aware of these difficult symptoms, we can continue to break the walls around shame and stigma, reminding one another we are not alone in this fight and resources are available if we need help.
Here is what they had to say:
1. “Dissociating. Driving home from work and realizing you only know where you’re going because it’s routine. Looking in the mirror and not knowing when the last time you actually saw yourself was. Not knowing how long you’ve been out of it and not knowing when you’ll be back.” — Haylee M.
2. “Suicidal thoughts. Even if I’m not actually suicidal, I still have suicidal thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. People do not feel comfortable talking about suicide.” — Taylor B.
3. “The constant feeling of not knowing what is the truth and what is your head twisting you to believe.” — Lisa M.
4. “I completely turn into a hermit. I don’t want to be around a single person or technology for days when I’m normally the talker, cheerleader and extrovert of the social setting.” — Melisa W.
5. “Personal hygiene is not talked about enough. And people get so judgmental about that aspect, but it needs to be talked about more. In one particularly bad depressive episode I had, I didn’t shower or brush my teeth for 10 days, but I didn’t know how to talk to my therapist about that struggle without sounding disgusting and subhuman (which I already felt).” — Kaity
6. “For me, it’s the numbness. Not so much from my mental illnesses, but from the medications I take for them. Without them I would have extremely low lows, but now I feel like I can’t feel true happiness anymore either. It’s like being in limbo.” — Karina W.
7. “Panic attacks seemingly out of nowhere are the worst. It feels like you are in one life threatening situation after another, over and over again. The body was not made to go through this much fight or flight. It is soul crushing.” — Nancy S.
8. “Aggression, because it’s an intimidating and confrontational aspect people don’t understand. It’s comes out in facial expressions and tones that people don’t want to know about and to explain it means most run away scared.” — Tracy R.
9. “The daily exhaustion. It’s exhausting just living. Having to fight intrusive thoughts, fighting sensible thoughts, fighting anger and rage. Every day is a struggle just to make it through the day, and the side effects of medication do not help.” — Walter C.
10. “Instead of telling others how you really feel, you say ‘I’m just tired.’ Wiped out, fatigued or drained would be better words. It’s easier to say your tired than the truth because you feel most really don’t care to hear about your emotional pain.” — Gregg A.
11. “The decrease in my cognitive functioning and the memory loss. I always had a great memory and was sharp as a tack. Now some days I feel like I can’t remember my own name or how to formulate a complete thought. It is heartbreaking.” — Holly M.
12. “The feeling of being trapped. There is a bright, funny, vivacious young woman inside me and she is screaming to be free; but she is caged by phobias, anxiety, depression, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder.” — Shannon D.
13. “My mood swings and my emotions — one minute I’m fine the next I’m crying.” — Pip H.
14. “The physical symptoms like stomach problems. When you are having to run to the restroom while you feel worthless and are crying.” — Amy S.
15. “The guilt. Guilt of knowing you should be doing your chores, work, taking a shower, brushing your hair; and knowing those around you expect you and need you to do those things, except you just can’t. And the guilt basically crushes you.” — Bailey G.
16. “Wanting to hurt yourself. Not feeling safe because of your thoughts. Being so scared that you actually will hurt yourself this time. Isolating, pushing everyone away. Loneliness. Constant numbness.” — Stefanie L.
17. “Not feeling human, feeling like you’re nothing and mean nothing to everyone even family and friends. Depression for me is what the eye cannot see, but the pain is there” — Cara H.
18. “Feeling alone even when you’re hanging out with close family and friends and actively participating. I still often feel like they just put up with me and would have a better time when I’m not around.” — Anna G.
19. “Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy. I used to love making things. I was an artsy person — crafty and creative. I loved Halloween, dressing up and making my own costumes. I’m slowly starting to rebuild those passions.” — Anna Marie G.
20. “Racing thoughts are hard to understand and even harder to stop. Sometimes I’ll have to ignore or even distract myself in order to get them under control.” — David M.
21. “The physical pain that comes from emotions influenced by bipolar depression. When something hurts or upsets you, it feels like your chest is being ripped open. And you sit there clutching it as if you’re hands might be able to hold it together.” — Morgan T.
22. “The insidious delusions. Certain things, phrases or gestures become something else to the point that you are living a different story than other unknowing people in the same setting or even family.” — Jay B.
23. “Lack of motivation. Being stuck in a mood/situation/downward spiral and most times not knowing how to get out of it. Even worse, when you do know how to get out of it because it’s a reachable goal, but the motivation isn’t there, therefore nothing gets done and then the mood/situation/spiral gets worse and the motivation gets less and less. Everything is so close, yet so far. It’s a toxic cycle.” — Jaida-Louise K.
24. “Uncontrollable blackout rage. One minute I’m here and an hour later I’m exhausted with bleeding knuckles from punching a wall. Trying to explain to people that I don’t recall why I reacted the way I did or that I don’t specifically remember what happened is frustrating. They think I’m a liar. It’s not something I have ever enjoyed.” — Desi C.
25. “I have ‘high-functioning’ anxiety but I don’t feel anxious 100 percent of the time. I got told for years that I didn’t have anxiety because it wasn’t 100 percent of the time and ‘everyone gets anxious.’ My worst symptom is that it isn’t even around all the time for people to care about me.” — Teesha W.
26. “The weird ideas that suddenly pop up in your head and the fear of your own thoughts. Refusing the society around you and yourself included.” — Nahla Z.
27. “When everything just feels wrong. You don’t feel exactly anxious or depressed or sick — but everything feels wrong. You can’t sleep, everything that you normally find fun or that normally distracts you is just too boring. It’s like all you want to do is do something but you don’t seem to have the energy to do anything.” — Anastasia O.
28. “Constant, stubborn thoughts of suicide or self0harm that I won’t act on but that won’t go away. Usually that is a signal I am headed into a mixed manic episode. I am afraid to tell others or even talk about it out of fear others will freak out or try to commit me, or worse, abandon me.” — Lauren Q.
29. “Insomnia. I was exhausted after working my eight hour shift. Twenty-six hair cuts. I thought I was going to pass out the moment I got into bed. Two hours later and I’m wide awake and have to work at 8 a.m.” — Shelba M.
30. “The battle between wanting to remember and being terrified to remember, because terror is the essence of the memories and I’ve kept them locked away for so very long. I’ll get through this though.” — Janice D.
31. “Disconnecting from people. You lose friends, wind up looking rude or flaky for not hanging out or reaching out. Not being able to be there for others in times of need because you feel empty.” — Catherine W.
32. “Shame. I blame myself for my problems and that I deserve it. The fact that I need help makes me feel guilty because I don’t think I’m worthy of it.” — Mira K.
If you experience any of these symptoms, please know you are not alone and help is out there. You should not feel shamed or stigmatized for struggling. You deserve help and happiness.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
Unsplash photo via @gambler_94