9 Signs Your Personality Changes May Actually Be Because Of A Health Issue
Everyone grows and changes throughout their life. But a major personality change usually isn't part of this process of growing up. While the causes of personality changes can vary from mental health issues to brain injury, the symptoms that indicate that something more serious might be going on share a handful of common traits.
It's vital to know the difference between a change in behavior, and a major personality shift. "Although a person's behavior may change under different circumstances, personality is fairly stable and not easily altered," Dr. Michele Leno, DML Psychological Services, PLLC, tells Bustle. "A major shift in personality could represent underlying pathology." So if you, or the people around you, are noticing a major shift, it's likely worth noting.
A lot of it comes down to gut feeling, as well. "Following intuition, listening to your body and mind, and recognizing what is normal and not normal for you [is vital]," holistic health advocate Dr. Ron Ehrlich tells Bustle. "If personality changes are triggered by a certain event and continue for weeks or months, then it is often an indication that there is an imbalance in the body." If you need a little help listening to your body, however, there are a few things to look out for.
Here are nine signs your personality changes have to do with a greater health concern, according to experts.
1. You're Experiencing Changes In Outlook
If your personality changes include changes in the way you view your future, whether short-term or long-term, it's likely worth looking into whether a bigger issue is at play as well.
"Someone who was once full of joy, hope and a glass-half-full attitude has now consistently and for a significant period of time become angry, irritable, easily frustrated, and glass-half-empty [might have a greater health concern]" Tiffany Ashenfelter, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Dallas, TX, tells Bustle. If this is the case for you, and is either staying the same or getting worse over time, check in with a doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can.
2. You're Having Changes In The Way You Spend Your Downtime
If your personality is changing, but you find yourself able to still take part in and enjoy your normal daily life, everything is likely alright.
What concerns experts is often what happens to someone's social life, and motivation to do regular activities. "[I'd be concerned] if they normally enjoy spending time with others and going out but now find they'd rather be alone, stay home and are more isolated," Ashenfelter says. So if you find yourself not enjoying things as much, it's likely a sign that it's best to check in with a professional.
3. The Way You're Caring For Yourself Is Changing Too
Self-care isn't just a way to enjoy yourself — it can also be a gauge for how you're feeling overall. So if you stop putting the same effort into taking care of yourself, there might be something worth noting on a more serious mental health level.
"This doesn't have to mean they aren't taking showers and wearing sweats everywhere," Ashenfelter says. It can, instead, be seen in more subtle changes, like always putting your hair up, or abandoning some of your morning routine to stay in bed. If you've noticed this start to happen, it's worth looking into.
4. You're Also Feeling Increasingly Anxious
Feeling increasingly anxious along with other personality changes can be caused by a variety of diagnoses, and all are important to look out for. "[Anxiety] can look like being in a constant state of heightened energy, difficulty sitting still, racing thoughts, [or] irritability," Ashenfelter says. And while these symptoms may be a sign you're developing an anxiety disorder, they could indicate other health problems as well.
One of these problems is a vitamin deficiency. "A deficiency of B12 can cause psychiatric issues such as anxiety or panic attacks," Dr. Ehrlich says. "B12 is essential for a healthy nervous system, hence a deficiency can cause problems." This diagnosis is just one of many examples where mental health problems can be caused by physical issues.
5. You Have Noticed Depression Symptoms, Too
Depression is one of the diagnoses that is most likely to cause personality changes. These co-occuring symptoms might look different than you'd expect, however. "[Depression] can effect our sleep, our appetite, our concentration, our outlook on life, and how we spend our downtime," Ashenfelter says. It can also make you feel numb or apathetic, and, of course, generally melancholic.
Depression, of course, is a mental illness on its own, but it too can manifest as a symptom of a physical issue. One of the heath issues that can cause depression is hyperthyroidism. "Much like menopause, hyperthyroidism results in a number of changes in hormone levels which could induce a number of changes in personality such as stress, anxiety, mood swings and even depression," health and wellness expert Caleb Backe of Maple Holisics tells Bustle. So open the conversation up, and make sure you monitor other symptoms, too.
6. You're Feeling Unusually Fatigued
In almost any context, feeling more tired than normal with the same amount of rest is worth a visit to the doctor. If it comes alongside personality changes, it's particularly noteworthy. "[Fatigue] can be an early sign of biochemical imbalances in the body and should never be ignored," Dr. Ehrlich says. "Sleep quality and quantity is often overlooked or missed and should never be underestimated." Practicing sleep hygiene and caring for your mental health might help.
More serious sleep issues, like sleep-disorder breathing, could also be at play. "For instance, sleep apnea can interfere with the body's ability to achieve a restful night sleep," Dr. Ehrlich says. "It can also increase inflammation in the body, which has a knock on effect for other conditions." Poor sleep and low energy can cause personality changes, so it's important to get to the bottom of these symptoms.
7. Your Body Is Changing Along With Your Personality
If your body is physically changing alongside your personality changes, experts agree that it's likely time to check in with a professional.
"Whether ... skin changes, hair thinning or otherwise, physical changes can be a sign of key nutrient deficiencies and will require further exploration," Dr. Ehrlich says. "If you're under stress, you may not be absorbing even the best food or supplements." Keep track of the changes you're noticing, and go into the doctor with a list of questions.
8. You've Hit Your Head, Even If It Never Knocked You Out
Getting a brain injury can be a lot less obvious than you might think. "People with closed head injuries and traumatic brain injuries may develop post-concussion syndrome and demonstrate significant personality changes," Dr. Leno says. "However, they may not notice the change immediately or associate it with their injury." So if your personality has been changing, think back to whether or not you've hit your head. If you can think of even a seemingly-minor bump, it's worth bringing up to the doctor.
9. You Haven't Been Eating Enough Recently
If your personality is changing, but you've also noticed a marked change in either your appetite or the food you eat, you might have a nutrition-related health problem going on. "If you don't replenish your body with nutrients, energy, vitamins, and the adequate levels of hydration it needs to function correctly, your mental and physical faculties will not operate as they usually do, and this could in turn result in a number of different changes in personality," Backe says. If you think this is the case, a trip to a registered dietician or a primary care physician could help.
Personality changes could be a natural part of getting older, or they can be a sign something more serious is going on with your body or mind. Whatever it is, it's always important to listen to all the ways your body is talking to you. If you notice one symptom, take inventory and see if there are any others. There are likely more signs to look out for than it seems.