Mental Health Symptoms – What to Look For


Each day, many parents face a difficult family situation. Seemingly without warning, their child’s behavior takes a noticeable change for the worse. They become unusually sad or constantly disruptive. Their performance in school begins to decline, eating habits change or they avoid their usual friends.

How does a parent know if this is just a phase or truly a problem? The best way is to become familiar with the warning signs of emotional and behavioral problems and to seek professional help if they persist.

Pay Attention to Sudden Changes in Mood, Thoughts & Behaviors

It is especially important to pay attention to sudden changes in mood, thoughts, and behaviors. Also keep in mind that the onset of several of the symptoms below, and not just any one change, indicates a problem that should be assessed.


  • Feels sad or lonely and these feelings don’t go away
  • Feels guilty more than others
  • Feels anxious or worries about many things
  • Experiences prolonged grief
  • Has unexplained fears
  • Exhibits extreme mood swings
  • Is persistently unhappy
  • Has panic or anxiety attacks
  • Is persistently irritable
  • Is persistently fatigued, tired or has a loss of energy
  • Is restless, fidgety or agitated


  • Thinks they are worthless
  • Thinks they are controlled by others or by their minds
  • Is disorganized at school and at home
  • Daydreams and is unable to accomplish tasks
  • Thinks of suicide or that they would be better off dead
  • Hears voices that cannot be explained
  • Has poor concentration
  • Has difficulty making decisions
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Has racing thoughts


  • Cries more than the usual child
  • Overacts more than others
  • Has behavior problems in school
  • Has academic problems
  • Is losing interest in things that were previously enjoyable
  • Has changes in sleep patterns
  • Has changes in appetite
  • Isolates self from friends and family
  • Talks about suicide
  • Talks about harming others
  • Hurts or injures other people, or animals
  • Has difficulty sitting still
  • Must perform certain rituals or routines
  • Uses alcohol, drugs or other illicit substances
  • Destroys property
  • Breaks the law
  • Injures or hurts self
  • Overeats or restricts food intake
  • Excessively exercises, vomits or has diarrhea
  • Avoids going to school
  • Has difficulty separating from caregivers
  • Has difficulty following rules
  • Blames others
  • Has planned or attempted suicide
  • Has persistent nightmares
  • Eats large amounts of food and then forces vomiting; is abusing laxatives or taking enemas to avoid weight gain
  • Continues to diet or exercise obsessively although bone-thin
  • Has unexplained cuts and burns
  • Displays extreme moods

We Hear You and We’re Here to Help

If you or a loved one needs help, we hear you and we’re here to help. Our team includes more than 150 therapists, psychiatrists and allied health professionals who are committed to the mental health of our community, its families and its children. Don’t wait, if you or someone you care about is in crisis, contact us for help today.