Even in this so-called ‘modern age’, there is still a significant stigma attached to consulting a psychiatrist. There is worry that the person will be labeled as ‘psycho’ or ‘mad’. People are reluctant to consult a psychiatrist or seek help due to the taboo that is associated with mental illness. More often than not, the psychiatrist is consulted at the end stage: after exhausting all options. The situation is often out of hand, with both the patient and his family suffering considerably. People prefer to go to faith healers or try alternative medicine. They attribute supernatural forces, spirits, ghosts or curses as the causative factors of mental illness. This commonly leads to a delay in proper diagnosis and treatment. Delay in seeking treatment increases the duration of mental illness and worsens the outcome. For the best prognosis, it is essential that the patient is diagnosed and treated at the earliest.

How will you know if someone requires psychiatric intervention? These are some of the signs:

  • Behavioral changes or disturbance

Any behavioral changes or disturbances, especially those happening over a short period of time, are something to be concerned about. These can include decreased self-care or excessive grooming, odd or eccentric behavior, social isolation or over socialization, decreased speech or excessive talking, over familiarity or withdrawn behavior, etc.

  • Changes in sleep pattern

Any change in the previous sleeping pattern without any obvious causative factor is a cause for concern. This can be excessive sleep, decreased sleep, difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep, or lack of restorative sleep.

  • Appetite changes:

A sudden change in appetite, whether increased or decreased should be looked into thoroughly. Also, unexplained weight gain or weight loss should be investigated in detail.

  • Personality change

Abrupt personality change, whether from quiet to gregarious or from outgoing to reserved should be taken into serious consideration. 

  • Anger outbursts

Unprovoked outbursts of anger or violent behavior are a red flag. This also includes verbal and physical abuse, which may be unprovoked, on trivial matters or disproportionate to the situation.

  • Preoccupation with certain things

A newly developed preoccupation with details, rigid or inflexible attitude, and excessive stubbornness all require further examination.

  • Suspiciousness

Having suspicion that people are against them, talking about them, mocking them or plotting against them (in the presence of evidence to the contrary) is a sign of mental illness.

  • Irritability

Irritability over trivial issues can be a sign of a much more serious underlying problem.

  • Voicing suicidal ideas or harming self

Persons who voice suicidal ideations or have attempt suicide in the past or those who indulge in self-harm related activities are at a high for suicide. They also have some underlying mental illness which makes them feel so hopeless that they take such a drastic step.

  • Sudden deterioration in social or occupational functioning

A sudden deterioration in a previously well functioning individual is a definite cause for concern and has to be assessed thoroughly.

It is always better to be safe than sorry. If you notice any of the above signs in someone, seek professional help. Consult a psychiatrist at the earliest.