14 Things That Scream “I’m Not Doing So Well Mentally”

More people than ever are battling mental illness nowadays. Even so, it can be hard to recognize the signs when it happens. Here are 14 symptoms to look out for.

Over 20% of American adults currently have a mental illness. That means around 66 million people around the country are experiencing some level of emotional, psychological, and/or social anguish every day. Experts say 50% of us will develop a mental illness at some point in our lifetime.

Despite how widespread it is, though, mental disorders can be hard to identify. Whether we’re looking at ourselves or our loved ones, we don’t necessarily connect the dots.

Knowing what to look out for can be incredibly helpful here. The quicker you realize what’s happening, the sooner you can get support, and the less likely things are to get worse.

I came across a Reddit thread on this topic recently, where people were discussing tell-tale signs that somebody’s struggling. While they’re not medical professionals, it’s still useful to learn how they recognize the onset of mental illness in themselves and others. Here are 14 insightful signs from the thread that are worth keeping in mind.

1. Lack of Motivation

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The most upvoted response was from a Reddit user who described how their motivation levels fall off a cliff when they’re struggling mentally. They wrote: “I can’t motivate myself to do simple things around the house that I actually never mind doing when I’m feeling okay.”

This lack of motivation and loss of interest in things is a big feature of illnesses like depression. Of course, this could be related to something totally different. But it’s worth asking the question if it happens.

2. Wanting to Be Alone

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People going through a tough mental time often stop seeing friends and family. They start avoiding social settings and cutting themselves off from the world. The same Redditor who described lacking motivation also wrote:

“I don’t want to see anybody. I don’t want to answer the phone. I don’t want to participate in any activities. I just want time to stand still.”

3. Fatigue and Lethargy

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A deep fatigue and a sense of lethargy may go hand in hand with a lack of motivation. Your life and experience of the world begin to narrow. One Redditor, agreeing with the person quoted above, said:

“This is me when I get in a dark place. I just want to eat, sleep, and watch TV. Everything is exhausting or an irritation. I don’t want to see friends, talk to anyone. Nothing. Leave me alone.”

4. Personal Hygiene Takes a Backseat

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Unwell people often struggle with personal hygiene. It’s easy to judge. But do you think taking a shower is a priority when you’re exhausted beyond imagination, full of self-loathing, and having suicidal thoughts?

This can be the first sign of struggling people recognize. As one Redditor wrote, “I stop brushing my teeth at night every so often, and that’s my sign to go to the gym and be intentional about self-care again.”

5. Oversleeping

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There are several reasons someone suffering mentally might sleep more than usual. As noted, they may be exhausted and lack motivation. They could also be on medication where fatigue is a side effect. And finally, being unconscious is also when they get a break from their anguish.

As one person put it: “Sleep has become a ‘safe’ drug of sorts. [I] don’t have to feel anything when I’m sleeping, and over time, it’s caused me to physically feel sleepy/tired even when I shouldn’t be…Toxic cycle that I have no clue how to break free from.”

6. Loss of Interest in Hobbies

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Have you lost interest in a hobby or activity you usually enjoy? Maybe you’re an avid reader but haven’t picked up a book in weeks. Maybe you love running but no longer feel the urge to lace up your shoes. Whatever it is, this loss of interest can suggest something isn’t quite right inside.

One Redditor said: “This is what tipped me off to how bad I was actually doing. I was bored out of my mind, but even though I have a lot of hobbies I enjoy, I couldn’t make myself do anything but sit on my phone.”

7. Numbness or Apathy

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Some people also seem to shut down emotionally. They’re detached to the point of feeling nothing. I don’t know what the science says, but this seems like a coping strategy. Things feel too rough, so something inside decides it’s better to feel nothing at all.

One Redditor said their sign of not doing well involves: “Not wanting to be alive but not wanting to be dead…just wanting to be nowhere. Be in a dark void with no emotions to feel.”

8. Low Mood

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It’s hard to feel thrilled about life when you’re suffering from social anxiety, depression, OCD, or whatever else. Mental illness saps the life from your bones. People might not look sad per se, but they’re unenthused, unemotional, and perhaps cynical, too.

As one Redditor put it, “You ask them how they are, and they say with no emotion, ‘Living the Dream.’” Another added, “Or ‘Still breathing’ with such disappointment.”  

9. Negative Changes in Spending Habits

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Many people on Reddit described how their mental struggles manifested in buying things, almost in a compulsive way. One wrote: “I just keep buying stuff hoping it’ll make me happy or content, but it never does.”

Somebody else put, “I’m depressed as hell and enjoy flight simulation. I just keep buying old aircraft, teaching myself how to start and fly them, then buying another one. Over and over to get a brief moment of happiness.”   

10. Talking Less Than Usual, Not Adding to Conversations

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Being part of a conversation can feel difficult when you have no energy, or want to be alone, or feel anxious, or lacking self-esteem.

One Redditor wrote, “There’s no fight left, we are tired. So whatever everyone else says is fine. AND in addition to that, honestly, my mind is not in the right place to be contributing. I’m thinking, or more accurately not thinking, about how numb everything is.”

11. Rapid Weight Loss or Gain

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Not everyone who puts on weight or loses it quickly is going to be mentally ill. But people on Reddit made it clear it can be a bad sign. A bit like someone shopping uncontrollably, maybe eating brings a sense of comfort. And a bit like personal hygiene becoming less important, maybe eating less is a sign of shifting priorities and looking after oneself less.

12. Crying for “No Reason”

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Many people going through hard mental times are often on the brink of tears. They might not show it in public, though. It’s when the workday is over, and they’re alone in their car driving home that the emotions show. Then, upon getting home, it’s all smiles again.

As one person wrote: “Sadly enough, high functioning depression doesn’t scream. There is little to [nothing] that gives it away. We just come home and cry in the shower.”

Keep an eye out for signs of tears. If you see someone with bloodshot eyes and a puffy face, they may be in dire need of a friend.

13. Subtle Self Harm

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Self-harm is a clear indication that somebody’s suffering internally. However, most people don’t realize self-harm can come in subtle forms. Sometimes, the acts are so far outside what someone associates with self-harm that they don’t even know what they’re really doing.

One Redditor gave a good example: “I’m a picker, especially at my lips. When I’m struggling mentally I rip them to shreds, but it’s easy to cover up with makeup or the excuse of chapped lips.”

Other people talked about their cuticles and fingernails. “The skin around my fingernails is a good proxy for how I’m doing that week (mentally speaking). During bad times, every finger will have some raw and/or scabbed areas.”

14. Being Overly Thankful

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This is another sign that won’t apply to everyone. However, maybe you’ll relate to it. Basically, one comment noted how being incredibly thankful for every little thing can be a sign of loneliness and low self-esteem.

“A huge sign of loneliness is how thankful the person is about everything. Chronically lonely people lack love and have really bad self-esteem so that if you say something nice to them, they actually feel cared for. But more importantly, they feel like somebody who has the ability to be cared for.”



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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.