First things first: if you find yourself Googling this, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to check in with your mental health. Unfortunately, societal stigma around mental illness can deter people from seeking help. However, mental illnesses are actually very common. Mental illness effects nearly a fifth of the population! Millions of Americans struggle with anxiety, depression, OCD, or the myriad of other disorders that can interfere with the ability to function in day-to-day life. These disorders can be caused by a number of complex factors such as stress, childhood trauma, or chemical imbalances in our brains.
For many people, the idea of reaching out to a psychiatrist or therapist for help can be overwhelming or scary. It may feel daunting to begin unpacking negative life experiences. It may feel embarrassing to be vulnerable about the symptoms you are experiencing. You may even be ashamed of needing help at all. Whatever your reservations may be, the overall benefits of addressing mental health problems far outweigh the fear or shame you may be currently experiencing.
The first step is recognizing and admitting you are struggling and need help. Here is a list of signs that it could be time to seek out a psychiatric evaluation.
Feeling out of control of your emotions
We all experience tough emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear, but when these emotions spiral out of control and take over your ability to function, it may be an indication that it’s time to talk to a mental health professional. This also includes experiencing extreme changes in moods and emotions or extreme highs and lows.
Consistent, excessive sadness or worry
If you are feeling consistently sad for multiple weeks or months in a row, this may be a sign of an underlying mental illness. If you worry so often that it effects your ability to focus on anything else or make rational decisions, it may be time to reach out for help.
Worsening performance at work or school
If you, your coworkers, or classmates start to notice poor attendance, inability to meet deadlines, or declining quality of work, this may be a sign that your mental health is affecting your ability to function.
If you find yourself avoiding social situations, family gatherings, or date nights with your partner, this could be a sign of an underlying mental illness flaring up. If you are skipping activities you normally enjoy and feeling the urge to isolate yourself, it may be time to ask for help. Additionally, if your relationships have become strained or unsatisfying, you are having trouble connecting with people, or are regularly encountering interpersonal conflicts, these may all be signs that your mental health needs attention.
If you or a loved one notices that you have started using substances more frequently or in higher quantities, this may be a result of coping with an unaddressed mental health issue. If you feel like you can’t relax or feel happy without a substance, it may be time to seek psychiatric help.
Drastic changes in sleep or diet
Our sleep and diet patterns can be directly influenced by our mental health, so don’t ignore it when you suddenly lose your appetite or have trouble sleeping. It is also of note if you start to eat or sleep much more than usual. Lack of good sleep and diet can be caused by mental illness, and can worsen your condition over time.
Significant life changes
Struggling to adapt after loss of a loved one, moving to a new city, switching jobs, or experiencing a traumatic event are all signs that it could be time to seek psychiatric help. If you are experiencing extreme distress or dissatisfaction due to significant life events, a psychiatrist or therapist can help you cope with these stressors.
If you feel consistently numb to all emotions, or you feel like you are disconnected from yourself, your body, or your surroundings, it may be a sign that something more complex is happening in your brain chemistry and needs psychiatric attention.
If a loved one has told you they are worried about you
If you are reading this today because a friend or loved one approached you to tell you that they are worried about you and think you need psychiatric help, don’t just brush it off. Often the people around us can notice changes about us that we may be blind to. If a loved one has told you that they have noticed significant changes in you recently, it may be time to reach out to a mental healthcare provider.
If you are having suicidal thoughts
If you have thought to yourself, “the world would be better off without me,” or “things would be easier if I was dead,” then this is an indicator of suicidal ideation, which should be taken very seriously and addressed promptly. Even if you have these thoughts but believe you would never act on it and take your life, it’s still an indicator of a possible mental illness that should be treated.
If you related to one or more points on this list, you are not alone. So many people have a hard time realizing and admitting that they are struggling and need help with their mental health. Luckily, there is a huge network of mental health resources available all over the world that are ready and waiting to meet you right where you’re at. Mental health professionals are trained to provide you accurate diagnosis and create a treatment plan to tackle whatever is holding you back from achieving your goals and living the best life you can.