21 Uncomfortable Mental Health Symptoms We Don't Talk About
We’re reaching a point where, as a society, people are finally being more open about their mental health struggles. It seems like every few weeks, another celebrity steps forward with their own experience. I see friends and acquaintances, some of whom I’d never guess were struggling, reveal a depressive episode or a panic attack in a public place. It’s heartening to see stigmas being broken all the time.
That said, there are still some elements of life with a mental illness that we don’t speak about openly. Perhaps it’s an embarrassing bathroom-related symptom (I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced those), a habit we feel ashamed of or something we feel like others just won’t understand.
That’s why we asked our mental health community for their own uncomfortable mental health symptoms that people don’t often talk about. Their answers are open, honest and revealing, and we couldn’t be prouder. Remember: no matter how uncomfortable, embarrassing or misunderstood the symptom, it is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s all a part of our everyday struggles, and is more “normal” than you could ever imagine.
Here’s what our mental health community had to say:
1. Lack of Hygiene
“Lack of hygiene and people assume you’re lazy. It’s very uncomfortable to tell someone you haven’t showered in days or such. You’re viewed differently and that it’s not your ‘mental health’ at all causing it. I was told that ‘I’m a woman’ and should shower every day. It should be talked about.” — Tofu F.
“Most of the time, I can’t even remember when I last showered or brushed my teeth. Only a few people know this about me, and whenever I talk about it, people just look at me like I’m kidding or something. No, I’m not. I can’t get myself into the shower. I can’t find a valuable reason to brush my teeth, or just take care of myself in general.” — Andreia M.
“Lack of hygiene. My teeth are terrible now. And I hate smiling. It’s embarrassing to be judged about something as mundane as brushing your teeth. How do you explain how such a simple task seems like the hardest thing in the world to do most days?” — Erin S.
“Chills. Why is being depressed so cold?! I’m a very warm blooded, well-insulated woman. There is no sense to me needing three blankets in June.” — Naoko P.
3. Diarrhea and Vomiting
“Nervous poops. When my anxiety is high, I have constant diarrhea. That’s the part no one wants to talk about. I was diagnosed with a nervous stomach when I was very young; I had constant flu-like symptoms including the vomiting and diarrhea. Nowadays, when I’m stressed and my anxiety becomes too much, I have those same symptoms.” — Brittny C.
“Anxious poops, for sure!” — James T.
“Definitely anxious poops! Bad diarrhea and vomiting, in my case. When I first started dating my boyfriend, it was so hard to explain. I would be so nervous and I would have to make frequent trips to the bathroom. One time I couldn’t make it and he held my hair while I vomited out the car door. Anxiety can be debilitating sometimes and the diarrhea and vomiting are symptoms that really hold me back. I’ve been checked for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and I don’t have that. Just anxiety.” — Brittany C.
“I often become constipated due to anxiety. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and usually not talked about. People struggling with this symptom should know they are not alone and deserve help.” — Caroline R.
“I break out in hives and have, over the last eight years, got these patches on my skin that itch and leave dark marks after my stress has subsided.” — Tawanda T.
“When I’m more anxious than I can handle, I break out in hives on my hands and arms.” — Aislin B.
6. Quietness in Social Situations
“Taking so long to formulate and rehearse the perfect response to something that you miss the opportunity to use it because the conversation has moved on, resulting in appearing snobbish or ultra shy because you don’t converse much.” — Alison M.
7. Sudden Mood Changes
“The unpredictable change in mood. Someone could’ve seen you a few hours ago and you seemed fine, and then they are shocked that you are now feeling really low and sad.” — Krystal B.
“Mood swings. I can feel them changing quickly and I can’t do anything to control them. The biggest issue is that I feel my emotions so intensely it becomes physically uncomfortable and painful.” — Courtney G.
8. Self-Deprecating Humor
“There are many symptoms, but I’ve never seen humor mentioned or spoken about. I tend to use self-deprecating humor and humor about my mental health to try and diffuse tension within situations and within my own mind about it. I’ve met a lot of people who cope that way as well, but it’s often incredibly awkward and uncomfortable when a mentally healthy person doesn’t understand it, or feels threatened by the fact that we’re speaking so freely, casually and humorously about being unstable. I think the most uncomfortable part is when you really are just joking about your instability, but your family members and friends are unsure of how to react because they can’t tell if you’re joking or not. It makes me feel as though I’m walking on eggshells when I speak about my mental health in any way other than a serious way.” — Justine A.
“Overthinking… feeling trapped in my mind, especially in public because I just don’t want people to know I’m not OK. And it’s hard to not burst into tears or start skin picking.” — Jade S.
“Constant, obsessive overthinking. You wouldn’t know it, but my mind is racing all the time, every waking moment of every day. No matter how hard I try, I cannot turn my brain off.” — Jessa P.
10. Panic Attacks
“I’ve had panic attacks so extreme that I’ve vomited multiple times, begun sweating uncontrollably from the chest and neck despite being cold and passed out. Social anxiety, it’s a laugh a minute.” — Rachel P.
“Panic attacks in public. I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and can go into flashbacks for numerous reasons. When these happen in public, I end up feeling so incredibly uncomfortable because people stare and point. It’s horrible.” — Arwen J.
11. Tense Muscles and Limbs
“My limbs tense up when something triggers me and I stay frozen until I calm myself down… it’s very uncomfortable and scary not to have control of my body. I went to hospital in a wheelchair and it lasted for five hours. I didn’t know what was going on with me; the doc said it was from an anxiety attack” — Tash R.
“Feeling your muscles tensing or tensed up from fear so you can’t ambulate correctly, sort of like you can’t control your legs or arms. I’ve actually fallen a few times because of this. They were nasty falls too, it’s really embarrassing.” — Cathy P.
12. Maladaptive Daydreaming
“Still talking to imaginary friends as an adult. I have severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety and depression, so talking to people is difficult. I was bullied so badly as a child that I started doing maladaptive daydreaming that spiraled into me having friendships with people I’ll never actually meet. I’m 25, still doing it even though I’m in a stable relationship and have a small circle of close friends. I’ve tried to stop but to no avail.” — Tiffany S.
“Maladaptive daydreaming has been a lifelong thing for me.” — Simone B.
13. Others’ Reactions to Self-Harm Scars
“I have always struggled with self-harm. I know it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism. At times, people would ask me about my scars. I was never embarrassed by them as for me they are my battle scars, but unfortunately there is still stigma with self-harm. It’s funny how, when kids ask me about it, that’s the only time I feel embarrassed about it. I wouldn’t be able to tell them the truth. I wouldn’t want to introduce them to self-harm, so I always lie about being scratched by an animal.” — Ri I.
14. Brain Fog
“Brain fogginess. I have depression/anxiety disorder. At least half of the year, I feel like my brainwaves are trudging through molasses. People confuse it with low IQ, but they don’t realize that my brain is stopping my brain from thinking properly.” — Sharonne D.
“Hypersexuality from bipolar disorder. It gets pretty embarrassing when friends and family notice very different behaviors and new ‘friends’ I’m spending time with. But really, I just feel embarrassed for the dangerous choices and lack of control. It’s not pleasurable. It’s a little slice of hell.” — Nicole S.
“High libido and inappropriate sexual activity. To talk about it makes people uncomfortable. And it is uncomfortable. When I’m in it, it’s all I think of. Other people act like it’s a dirty thing. Then I start thinking I’m dirty. And since no one talks about it, it never gets broached or dealt with.” — Lena L.
16. Lack of Libido
“The lack of libido. I’m a person with a naturally high libido but when my mental health takes a turn for the worse, my libido goes with it. It’s really difficult to go from wanting and maybe having sex every day to being too mentally exhausted to even think about being touched. It’s hard to tell someone that you have no energy for sex but wish you did so you can feel normal. It’s especially hard, if you’re in a relationship, to explain what’s going on. It’s hard to talk about this when no one really talks about sex anyway, much less in the mental health community.” — AnaLucia P.
“Libido. Either having too much or none at all. There is no middle ground. It’s what ended my last relationship because he didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t ‘want’ him. Broke my heart because I tried and tried. Even got my meds adjusted to help but he didn’t think it was enough.” — Nancie C.
“Going on a date and having a flashback because he’s wearing a shirt that’s similar.” — Angela J.
“Flashbacks have been really prominent for me lately. People don’t realize how real they can be and just say to ‘think about something else.’ But I’m not thinking, I’m living. You don’t say live something else, so you can’t say think about something else with flashbacks either.” — Rebecca F.
18. Social Isolation
“Giving up on people or withdrawing from society. You promise yourself that you’ll respond to friends and you may even want to, but your desire to be social and ability to think of small talk is so completely gone that you simply say nothing. This can last days, weeks or even months. You’re then unsure of how to get those relationships going again, especially when you don’t know the person well, so many end up losing friends this way.” — Amanda P.
“Sweating so much, you soak your clothes.” — Danielle W.
“Sweating. I tend to wear skirts and dresses or really light clothing year round just to avoid overheating and sweating. When people comment on my clothing — like, ‘You’re wearing a dress? But it’s winter!” Or, ‘You’re dressed so cool despite the weather!’ — it makes me even more painfully aware that it’s ‘weird’ to sweat so much, apparently. Then I get nervous and start sweating. I carry around two tiny bottles of lotion, two perfume sprays and hand sanitizer because even a little bit of heat makes me anxious and start getting nervous. Then the nervousness leads to sweating, and then sweating leads to more anxiety and it’s just a cycle of anxiety and sweat and me trying to hide the fact that I’m sweating.” — Clarissa C.
“My meds make me hot and so sweaty all the time. It’s so embarrassing to be dripping sweat at a gathering.” — Teresa A.
“Anger caused by anxiety, depression, etc. Nobody talks about the fact that someone can get snappy or angry when struggling.” — Paula H.
“Having a short temper. People say I look sad and sick and ask if I’m OK, and I appreciate it, but sometimes they ask so many times and I get cross with them because I’m trying to hide it. I know it isn’t good, bottling up your feelings, and my family is just trying to help me, but sometimes it just happens. Then I feel so guilty for pushing them away like that.” — Ruby M.
“The unadulterated rage and cynicism. People often glamorize the ‘sadness’ and ‘innocence’ to make us seem helpless and like good people who just went through trauma, but ignore the fact that our illnesses can sometimes make us really nasty people. I’m ashamed of it and everyone I know who also has a mental illness is as well, but no one talks about it. The anger, the frustration and medication/therapy/whatever else can make us irritable, snappy, rude, closed off and selfish at times. While that behavior isn’t OK, admitting to it and accepting it as a part of our experience is one step toward coping better.” — Ryann M.
“Anger. Inconsolable, rage-full, intense anger! I am starting to not be able to handle people at all. I find myself hating everyone because I perceive everyone as having happiness but me. I see everyone at having enough love and friends and respect, and I feel like I cant feel happy or content.” — Meredith K.
21. Sensitivity to Sound
“For me, it’s sensitivity to sounds and noises. My anxiety and depression tend to get worse if I’m around loud noises. Leaf blowers, cars driving by with loud bass, people yelling, neighbors pounding or stomping, etc. It tends to turn my anxiety into anger and rage. I still haven’t found a manageable way to deal with it besides trying to escape.” — Seraphina L.
“When I can’t regulate my emotions or an unexpected change, I go from what looks like a fully functioning person to sensory overload. Sounds are louder, light is brighter and I stand there rocking, scratching, coving my ears.” — Zoe T.
What would you add?