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10 Signs of an Ailing Mind

Experts describe the physical and mental signs that may indicate emotional distress.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Maybe you're having that proverbial "bad day" - or perhaps a rough few weeks: Feeling down, anxious, overstressed, as if you're one breath away from the "last straw."

If so, you may be surprised to learn it's quite common; doctors say it's part of the human condition.

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"The presence of anxiety, of a depressive mood or of a conflict within the mind, does not stamp any individual as having a psychological problem because, as a matter of fact, these qualities are indigenous to the species," says Charles Goodstein, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

But if living on the "last straw" has more or less become your way of life, experts say there's something on your mind that is crying out for your attention.

"The key is how often you are feeling this sense of distress, how bad it gets, and how long it lasts; that is what can help determine the seriousness of your situation," says Abby Aronowitz, PhD, the director of SelfHelpDirectives.com.

To help you gain some important perspective on the problems in your life, three experts helped WebMD put together this list of symptoms you should not ignore. If any of these signs seem true for you, speak to your family doctor and request a complete physical. If everything checks out OK, ask your doctor if you might benefit from professional counseling.

Sleep and Weight

1. Sleep disturbances. If you're sleeping more than usual or less than usual, if you can't fall asleep or wake up after only a few hours and can't go back to sleep, experts say emotional distress may be looming large in your life.

"If you have recurring disturbances of sleep more than once or twice a week, and there are no physical reasons your doctor can identify, your problem may be linked to a psychological problem -- most commonly, anxiety or depression," says Goodstein.

2. Dramatic weight fluctuations/changes in eating patterns. Have you gained or lost a significant amount of weight without any changes in your diet or exercise regime? Do you find yourself constantly thinking about food -- or repulsed by the thought of eating? If so, experts say it could be a sign of emotional distress.

"Constant preoccupation with food, weight, and body image is a sign that an eating disorder is sapping energy from other areas of life," says Aronowitz. In women and young girls a loss of menstruation in conjunction with changes in appetite can also be a sign of trouble.

Also look out for a lack of appetite. Goodstein says it can sometimes be a sign of depression.

Unusual Symptoms and Short Fuses

3. Unexplained physical symptoms. If, despite a complete physical workout and even a visit to a specialist or two, no one can find a reason behind your physical complaints, it may be your body's way of letting you know that your mind is in distress.

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