What are the symptoms of psychiatric disorders?

Symptoms of psychiatric disorders rarely occur suddenly. In most cases, symptoms develop over time. Close friends and family members of people with psychiatric disorders may realize that something is wrong or not quite right before the disorder itself is recognized. Recognizing early warning signs and getting help may prevent the disorder from becoming serious and may even save a life.

Common symptoms or early warning signs of psychiatric disorders

According to the American Psychiatric Association, experiencing several of the symptoms listed here may mean that a psychiatric disorder is developing (Source: APA). Contact a mental health provider for proper evaluation if the following symptoms are present:

  • Apathy or loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity that was previously enjoyable including sex

  • Difficulties with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech. These problems are hard to explain and are not caused by medical or physical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, menopause or stroke.

  • Dramatic sleep and appetite changes

  • Fear or suspiciousness of others or a persistent, strong nervous feeling

  • Hallucinations
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch, or avoidance of over-stimulating situations

  • Illogical thinking typical of childhood but in an adult

  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or mood swings

  • Recent social withdrawal or loss of interest in others

  • Sense of unreality or a feeling of being disconnected from yourself or your surroundings

  • Uncharacteristic or peculiar behavior

  • Unusual drop in functioning, such as problems at school or work, quitting sports, failing in school, difficulty performing familiar tasks, or deterioration in personal hygiene

  • Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events

Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition

In some cases, people with psychiatric disorders may pose a threat to themselves or others. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have the following serious symptoms:

  • Changes in mental status, such as delirium or extreme agitation

  • Disordered thoughts or speech

  • Irrational beliefs (delusions) or loss of touch with reality

  • Serious disturbances in perceptions (hallucinations)

  • Severe changes in mood, thoughts or behavior

  • Suicidal, threatening or violent actions or behavior

  • Thoughts or threats to hurt oneself or others

Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening drug reaction

In rare cases, people who take certain antipsychotic drugs to treat some psychiatric disorders may have a serious and potentially life-threatening drug side effect (adverse event) called neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • Abnormal, uncontrollable movements (chorea)

  • Changes in mental status, such as extreme agitation, delirium, lethargy or unresponsiveness

  • Fast or irregular heart beat

  • Fast or shallow breathing

  • High body temperature (hyperthermia)

  • Involuntary muscle contractions that lead to repetitive twisting movements (dystonia)

  • Severe muscle rigidity with or without tremor


What are psychiatric disorders?

The term psychiatric disorder means a mental disorder or illness that interferes with the way a person behaves, interacts with others, and functions in daily life. Psychiatric disorders are also sometimes known as mental health disorders or mental health illnesses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, classifi... Read more about psychiatric disordersintroduction


What causes psychiatric disorder

The exact cause of most psychiatric disorders in not known. Mental health experts believe that psychiatric disorders result from a combination of genetic or inherited dispositions and a triggering event. Triggering events may include environmental factors, stresses of various kinds, and even physical health problems. The line between physical health and mental health is becoming more blurred as... Read more about psychiatric disorderscauses


How are psychiatric disorders treated?

The first step in treating psychiatric disorders is getting a complete physical examination to rule out any physical diseases or conditions that may be causing symptoms. This may include extensive testing and follow-up appointments.

Treatment of psychiatric disorders will depend on the specific disorder. Early treatment may help prevent a lifelong, disabling disorder in many cases... Read more about psychiatric disorderstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior