As human beings, we’re all unique in so many wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) ways. Each of us has particular idiosyncrasies and foibles that make us endearing to some and annoying to others. But if something is “unique”, does that also mean it’s “abnormal”? After all, “normal” is one of the most subjective words in the dictionary. What’s normal to one culture is bizarre to another. And what’s normal at age 3 may be considered extremely abnormal at age 33. To help you, we offer 10 signs you may need mental health treatment.
It also doesn’t help that some people are not particularly insightful or self-aware. Or, perhaps they think they are, but they’re not. At. All. A given problem is obvious to everyone else except them. The fact, however, that you’re reading this suggests that you’re at least open to some potentially difficult introspection. If you’re worried that something might be wrong with you (or someone close to you), how do you know if you’re being a bit paranoid versus duly concerned?
Sometimes it’s impossible to know for sure without an evaluation by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. However, there are some telltale signs and strong indicators that psychiatric treatment is a likely necessity. Following are 10 signs that you may need to seek professional help:
1 – You’re having a very difficult time coping in general or functioning in your day to day life.
This is one of the first – and most salient – signs that you need to seek help from a mental health professional. Basic coping skills and functioning are vital if you want to live your life without depending on someone else to take care of you. If you’ve noticed that you’re not able to function as well as you once did, or in a way that would be reasonable to expect for your health and age, and there’s no reasonable explanation (e.g. you’re suffering from a known medical condition), then that’s a serious red flag. Some mental health conditions develop gradually, while the onset of others can be relatively fast. Any observable change compared to the previous functioning is problematic and warrants an evaluation.
2 – Consider mental health treatment if you have rapid or very obvious mood swings.
A stable mood is part of overall good mental health. However, some psychiatric disorders involve significant mood fluctuations. The changes may be very fast (e.g. with borderline personality disorder) or occur over several days or even weeks (e.g. with bipolar disorder). Drug and alcohol use can also contribute to erratic moods, as can certain medical problems. An evaluation can help determine the underlying cause.
3 – You feel sad, blue, hopeless, or down most of the time.
This is often a red flag for depression, one of the most common mental health conditions. While occasional feelings of sadness or feeling “down in the dumps” are a normal part of being human, it’s not normal for them to last for long periods of time. If other symptoms are present as well, such as poor concentration, sleep disturbances, low energy, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, depression is a very possible diagnosis. If left untreated, depression can cause significant problems in your life, which, in turn, feed the depression even more. Marriages, careers, and physical health can all be significantly damaged by depression. For some individuals, depression can also trigger suicidal thoughts and behaviors, potentially resulting in a tragic outcome. Depression can be a short-term experience for some. However, it can last for years and even decades for others.
4 – You worry excessively or feel anxious most or all of the time.
Anxiety or irrational fear is a common symptom of many different disorders, including OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias. Anxiety can be paralyzing, and its constant presence can wreak havoc with your health over time. Not to mention, it interferes with sleep and other aspects of functioning.
5 – You can’t shake the impact of past or recent traumatic events.
Trauma turns your life upside down and can take a very serious toll on your psyche. Unwanted images and memories are often branded into your brain, leaving you with the awful sense that you’re stuck – and there’s simply no way to heal and move on. Little, seemingly unrelated things can trigger those memories and leave you desperate to get rid of them.
If you’ve experienced any kind of trauma in your life – whether recent or past – it can come back to haunt you in a variety of ways. Nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety, disturbing images, and deeply painful emotions are just a few of the ways trauma can make life very challenging. Some of the more common types of trauma include almost dying in an accident, being assaulted, witnessing a tragic accident, being in combat, surviving a horrific natural disaster (e.g. a tornado or hurricane), or being physically or sexually abused as an adult or child.
6 – Seek mental health treatment if you’re seriously considering suicide.
A fleeting thought from time to time in which you wish you were dead or should just end it isn’t necessarily abnormal or a sign you need to rush to the nearest psychiatric hospital. Many people have those once in a while, but quickly dismiss them as extreme, foolish, or irrational. However, if you don’t dismiss them; if you’re thinking about suicide frequently or seriously, or if you have come up with a fairly specific plan to kill yourself, then you need to seek help as soon as possible. Suicidal thoughts can very quickly lead to dangerous suicidal behavior. Even if you don’t really want to die and don’t mean to die, suicidal actions can have tragic consequences. Although suicidal thoughts and actions are primarily associated with major depression and other mood disorders, the vast majority of mental illnesses significantly increase the risk of them occurring.
7 – You’re using alcohol, drugs (street drugs, prescription drugs, and even OTC medications), or other substances (or activities) to numb emotional pain.
This is often referred to as “self-medicating”. When you turn to things outside yourself in a desperate attempt to cope, it usually signals the presence of a serious problem. Not only that, your use of substances or activities as a means of escape can lead to addiction (yet another disorder) over time. In addition to alcohol and drugs, sex, food, and gambling are frequently used excessively or inappropriately as a form of self-medicating.
8 – You’re a ticking time bomb.
Another one of the signs you may need mental health treatment is feeling like a ticking time bomb. Significant irritability, hostility, rage, and frequent anger outbursts (i.e. “having a temper) are often red flags of a mental health problem. If it’s not dealt with, unresolved anger can and often does lead to many other, more serious problems. Not only does it drain your emotional and physical energy, but it also has a very negative impact on your health, relationships, and work. It can easily lead to substance abuse problems as well. Anger issues can lead to other very serious behaviors, including emotional and physical abuse of others, destruction of property, and self-destructive behavior.
9 – You have irrational fears that interfere with your life.
Irrational fears can involve a variety of things, including the fear that people are watching you or following you, and the extreme fear of objects (e.g. dogs, spiders) or situations (e.g. flying, social situations). Irrational fears can also become obsessive in nature, leading to persistent and intrusive thoughts that create significant anxiety. These include obsessive fears about having a serious illness (despite evidence to the contrary), being exposed to germs, or being gay even though you have no genuine attraction to the same sex.
Irrational fears almost always lead to irrational or extreme behavior. For example, if you’re extremely fearful of having a serious illness, you may spend tens of thousands of dollars and undergo endless – sometimes painful and intrusive – medical tests, even after several doctors have insisted you are healthy. Irrational fear also leads to avoidant or ritualistic behaviors. They can leave you emotionally paralyzed and make normal functioning impossible.
10 – If you have a very unusual, troubled relationship with food and eating – mental health treatment can help.
Often combined with a distorted body image (e.g. you see yourself as fat when your weight is normal or you’re underweight), this is a red flag for an eating disorder. Eating disorders can cause a whole host of problems in your life. Not only do they tend to consume a significant amount of your time and energy, but they also can have a very serious – and even fatal – impact on your health. Although the above list isn’t comprehensive, it covers a broad range of potential mental health disorders.
Of course, other things should also be given serious consideration, such as a long pattern of relationship difficulties, unusual perceptual experiences (e.g. hearing people talking when no one’s around), painfully low self-esteem, abusive behavior, and getting stuck in the grieving process. If any of the above sounds like you (or a loved one), help is available. If you’re abusing substances (even if other signs are present), it’s time to contact a drug or alcohol rehab center.
You may need “dual diagnosis” treatment, in which both a substance abuse problem and mental health condition are treating simultaneously. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on the path to recovery. For all the rest, contact a mental health professional or clinic and set up an appointment for an evaluation. A thorough assessment is the first step towards getting the help you need and deserve.
If you think you might be at risk of harming yourself or someone else, talk to someone immediately: Call a crisis line, 911, or a local mental health clinic, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. There’s no shame in having a mental health condition, whether it’s a substance disorder, PTSD, or depression. Help is available, no matter how difficult or embarrassing your concern.
Now You Know the 10 Signs You Need Mental Health Treatment. What Now?
If you recognize yourself in the 10 signs you need mental health treatment, don’t hesitate. Call Lucida Treatment today and get the treatment you need. We offer:
- Anxiety treatment
- Depression treatment
- Substance abuse treatment
- Eating disorder treatment
To learn more about the 10 signs you need mental health treatment, or to enroll in our programs, book an appointment today