The decision to seek professional help is undoubtedly difficult, as signs of severe emotional distress are not always easily identified. Can someone differentiate fleeting feelings of anxiousness from general anxiety disorder? How does one separate sadness and depression? How long can one let emotional, physical, and behavioral signs of mental strife manifest before deciding it’s time to seek help?
While it is not always the case, mental health crises can be evoked by external forces and events. Oftentimes, these events are significant hardships—deaths, breakups, separations, divorces, etc. Any and all of the aforementioned events can be traumatic and wreak emotional havoc on the person experiencing them. While everyone reacts and responds to hardships differently, there is no doubt that such an event has the capacity to damage an otherwise healthy mind. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your body and mind if you have recently experienced a significant hardship, to discover if your trauma is leaving a trail of negative effects.
While we work at dismantling the unfair stigma surrounding acquiring mental help, it is crucial to note certain fear factors, or warning signs, that tend to coincide with a depleting mental health. These clues can commence as emotional abnormalities, and manifest as physical pains and/or behavior patterns.
Sadness and Anger
Emotional and mental indications that professional counseling might be beneficial include experiencing unusually intense and fervent feelings. Among these feelings are sadness and anger—the latter associated with heightened irritability, or a short fuse. Interestingly, the opposite—emotional numbness—can trickle into an unusual indifference toward activities that used to be enjoyable and fulfilling. The latter is often considered a sign of depression—which definitely warrants a check-in with a therapist. Other emotional indications that professional help may be beneficial are feeling obsessive, forgetful, and/or helpless.
There can even be physical signs that allude to mental health in need of repair. Some of these are: headaches, stomach aches, and a run-down immune system. Sleep anomalies—oversleeping or difficulty falling/staying asleep—are also common, as are chronic fatigue and dramatic weight change (loss or gain). The key commonality between all these physical signs—they are recurrent, unusual, and their cause is unknown. As well, the signs that were initially emotional can implode and therefore compromise one’s physical health.
Changing behavior patterns often emerge as a method to manage symptoms of emotional anguish. One such pattern is abusive behavior, be it with a substance (drugs/alcohol), person (family/friends) or activity (like sex). What this means is that the sufferer is subconsciously seeking extra support—which is another behavior pattern that can develop along with significant emotional distress. Someone with an emotional affliction might suddenly avoid social situations, let impulse control their behavior, obsessively critique themselves, receive poor feedback at work, or take responsibility for other people’s problems. Like both the emotional and physical signs, the behavior patterns that coincide with severe emotional trouble are typically unprecedented and occur with an unknown culprit.
The Road to Recovery
Ultimately, sometimes self-treatment is insufficient. Professional counseling can help people understand themselves better, develop emotional clarity, and treat their mental disorders. While a stigma still surrounds mental health treatment, it has never been lesser, and mental health awareness has never been higher. The more people feel comfortable investigating what’s going on in their heads, cluing into the signs that treatment could be beneficial for them and others, the more we reduce the stigma, and the closer we get to a more empathetic and aware society.