Skip to content

Mental Health Center

Font Size

10 Signs of an Ailing Mind

Experts describe the physical and mental signs that may indicate emotional distress.

Unusual Symptoms and Short Fuses continued...

"Unusual symptoms that resist the million-dollar workup can be a sign that your body is expressing some kind of emotional upset," says Goodstein. Problems commonly linked to emotional distress can include headaches, a rumbling stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and chronic pain -- especially backaches.

4. Difficulty managing anger or controlling your temper. Are you fine when you're by yourself but frequently get provoked to an explosion by your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers? If so, you may be on stress overload, a situation that is dangerous to your physical and mental health -- and unhealthy for those around you.

"Not being able to control your anger is a sign of inability to manage feelings. And this is the one symptom that has the biggest impact on other people; children and women especially are affected," says Anie Kalayjian, EdD, RN, adjunct professor of psychology at Fordham University in New York City.

Generally, she says, folks who have anger-management problems do not recognize the symptoms because they feel fine when they are by themselves. "This is something that only comes into play in relation to another person -- so it's easy to blame the other person for what is really your symptom," Kalayjian tells WebMD.

Even if you don't see the signs in yourself, Kalayjian says consider counseling if your boss, co- workers, spouse, family, or friends are frequently telling you to calm down and watch your temper.

Obsessive, Tired, or Forgetful?

5. Compulsive/obsessive behaviors. Are you washing your hands -- or feel a compulsion to do so -- even though there's no logical reason? Has the fun gone out of life because you are constantly worrying that something bad is going to happen? Does it take you an hour or more to leave your home because you're bogged down with a series of "rituals" -- like touching things or rechecking locks, the stove, the iron? If so, you may have more anxiety in your life than you can handle alone.

"Obsessions are repetitive thoughts which resemble worry and are accompanied by anxiety. Compulsions are behavioral acts designed to eliminate the obsessions. And sometimes if your mind becomes so cluttered with obsessions, and your day so filled with compulsions, life as you know becomes completely taken over by anxiety and counterproductive rituals," says Aronowitz.

6. Chronic fatigue, tiredness, and lack of energy. "When the body cannot handle emotional overload, it simply begins to shut down. And that is often manifested by a sense of extreme tiredness and fatigue," says Kalayjian.

Goodstein adds that feeling too "beat" to do the things you used to love -- even when a physical checkup shows everything is alright -- can be a sign of emotional distress and depression.

7. Memory problems. Lots of things can temporarily interfere with your memory, from the hormonal changes of menopause, to a preoccupation with a work problem, to a lack of sleep. But it can also be caused by stress, a reaction to a traumatic event, or sometimes an illness such as Alzheimer's disease. How do you know the difference?

"You need a physical examination first and foremost," says Kalayjian. If everything checks out OK, she says, then anxiety, depression, or sometimes an unrecognized reaction to a traumatic event you have yet to deal with may be behind your forgetfulness.

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
Plate of half eaten cakes
mother kissing newborn
Woman multitasking
colored pencils
Woman relaxing with a dog

WebMD Special Sections