8 Subtle Warning Signs of Mental Illness

If you’ve noticed that your teen is behaving differently lately, it can be hard to tell if your teen is showing signs of a mental illness or if they’re just stressed. To help you distinguish the difference, we’ve rounded up some subtle warning signs of mental illness for parents and teens to look out for.

If you notice some of these signs in your teenager, be sure to make an appointment with a mental health professional to discuss your concerns.


Rapid or dramatic changes in mood, inappropriate or unusual displays of emotion (such as bursting into tears for seemingly no reason in a public area) or a shift in one’s overall mood could be a warning sign of mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder.

boy-in-beachPhoto by Adrianna Calvo


A lack of interest in hanging out with peers or friends or a refusal to spend time with people at home, work or school could be a warning sign of anxiety or depression.

teen-in-hoodiePhoto by Adrianna Calvo

Illogical Thinking

Strange or exaggerated beliefs about one’s ability to understand deeper meanings and influence events can be a sign of a mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Other signs include thoughts that seem nonsensical or based on fantasy or the belief that they know celebrities or people they’ve never met.

boy-on-tree-trunkPhoto by Ben Waardenburg

Changes in Eating Habits

Binge eating, refusing to eat, constantly complaining about not being hungry or constantly counting calories can be warning signs of mental illnesses such as anorexia, depression or bulimia.

toastPhoto by Stocksnap

Changes in Sleeping Habits

Insomnia (the inability to get a good night’s sleep), constant sleeping, nightmares or an unstable sleep schedule could be warning signs of a mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety.

white-bedPhoto by Krista Mangulsone

Increased Sensitivity

A heightened sensitivity to sound, sights, smells or touch or an avoidance of situations that could be highly stimulating such as a concert or theme park could be a sign of a mental illness such as anxiety.

carouselPhoto by The Pic Pac

Detachment From Reality

A feeling of being disconnected from one’s self or surroundings, seeing or hearing things that are not really there or feelings of paranoia could be warning signs of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Photo by Adrianna Calvo


A lack of motivation to attend work or school or a loss of interest in activities that one once enjoyed could be warning signs of a mental illness such as depression or anxiety.

teen-at-cliffPhoto by Ilya Mazurkevich 

Feature Image: Tom Sodoge