Discovery: Signs of Mental Illness from a Mother’s Perspective

P82 Project Restoration

By Deborah Geesling


The following list is not meant to be a diagnostic tool and is not written by a medical professional. It is a collection of snapshots written from a mother’s perspective in an effort to help others. The following observations are not exhaustive, nor conclusive. But taken together, the information could inform you as to whether you see a pattern emerging in your son or daughter that warrants further intervention. Observations are listed intentionally beginning with moderate signs and increasing to severe.

Please seek the advice of a provider trained in understanding serious mental illness if you suspect your loved one needs help. For parents, we recommend a consultation with your primary care physician without your son or daughter so you can freely ask questions and discuss pertinent resources that may be available. In our opinion, not medical advice, a general MD is not as qualified as a Psychiatrist to bring an accurate diagnosis of a serious mental illness.

  • Reacts inappropriately to change or a new place they’ve never been before.

  • Has trouble concentrating in school and/or employment.

  • Does not stay focused on a sport or hobby very long.

  • Wanting to take up a hobby that they clearly have no aptitude for.

  • Inability to follow instructions with more than one step.

  • Abrupt, odd mood changes.

  • Tics like sniffing a lot, blinking, mumbling.

  • Increasing at-risk behavior, ie., running away, truancy, drugs, alcohol, stealing.

  • Increased agitation. Responding inappropriately to situations. Anger doesn’t fit the crime.

  • Taking drugs or using alcohol to extremes.

  • Isolating themselves. Example: when at a family gathering, they lock themselves in a bedroom.

  • Believing that people are thinking or saying things about them or misinterpreting cues. You are certain it is not true.

  • Thinking that they see famous people or people you know when you go out to public places.

  • Change in sleeping patterns, not sleeping for a day or two. Sleeping excessively. Increase in these patterns.

  • Laughing inappropriately, emotionally inappropriate responses.

  • Taking longer to respond to a question you ask. Needs the question to be repeated.

  • Have increasing moments where they hear people or animals talking, whispering.

  • Dressing inappropriately, ie., winter clothes in summer and vice versa. Wearing odd, outdated, clashing clothes.

  • Believes that they see objects changing shapes, colors, melting, etc., and is not related to drug use.

  • Repetitive behavior (ie., hitting a drum over and over) with a flat affect, staring off.

  • Grandiose ideas about themselves, extreme energy at inappropriate times.

  • Neglect of personal hygiene, lack of concern for smell/ appearance.

  • Opposite of neglecting hygiene: taking an excessive amount of showers, brushing teeth over and over.

  • Aggression or violence toward family member(s). Singling out a family member and/or believing that person wants to hurt them.

  • Family becomes increasingly afraid, locking doors at night. Afraid to leave pets alone with the child. Afraid to leave child alone.

  • Talking in a “word salad,” doesn’t make sense.

  • Extreme paranoia. Believes people want to harm them, government is spying on them, covering mirrors, windows with paper, etc.

**The information on P82 Project Restoration, Inc. is not medical advice. Do not rely on it. Discuss with your provider trained in understanding serious mental illness.

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