Today, the 10th of October 2017, marks World Mental Health Day – a day devoted to raising awareness and reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their lives, with many experiencing multiple problems, or re-emergence of old problems. These problems can develop and get worse over time, leading to more severe symptoms and further feelings of helplessness – however it is not all doom and gloom.
Research suggests that seeking help for mental health complaints early on can help prevent most mental health issues from ever becoming severe, meaning a speedier recovery and less interference in daily life. Identifying a problem as soon as it arises can make it much easier to manage and treat, meaning that mental health problems are less likely to escalate or get worse. Much as with problems surrounding physical health, mental health issues can get in the way of everyday life – but the earlier the problem can be identified and treated, the quicker and easier recovery tends to be.
The earlier a mental health condition is identified, the quicker treatment can be sought and you can begin feeling like yourself again, so knowing what to look for in yourself in terms of mental health issues can be very important. In this blog post, we wanted to help you do just that, by highlighting some of the key warning signs that may suggest that you should seek help, as it can be quite difficult to see these signs in ourselves. Don’t worry – you are not alone. Seeking therapy is nothing to be ashamed of, but simply a great way of looking after your own mental health.
Everyone feels sad, worried or stressed at times, however for someone suffering from a mental health problem, these feelings can be persistent and are notably more intense. Usually, the body regulates emotional responses, such that it is not unusual to feel happy and sad and scared and excited all in the space of one day, or even one hour. However, for someone suffering from depression or anxiety for example, feelings of fear or sadness are often persistent and overwhelming, such that normal functioning becomes difficult.
If you feel that your emotions or thoughts are becoming consuming or unhealthy, consider speaking to a therapist, or even just a loved one; as this may help to gage whether your reactions are unusual. Feeling anxious or stressed for short periods is completely normal, as often this is the appropriate reaction to cues in your environment, however if these feelings are ongoing, with no obvious cause, it may be time to seek help.
The term ‘substances’ can be used to describe anything which can be used in excess, ranging from drugs to junk food. Perhaps you have noticed that you are drinking or smoking more, or even that you are eating significantly larger or smaller portions – these could all be signs of an underlying mental health issue. It is fairly common for individuals suffering with their mental health to use substances such as alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, however even more common are changes to eating behaviours, such as skipping meals, or overeating.
Behaviours such as these are quite often carried out without thinking during times of extreme stress, anxiety or sadness, as they can have a numbing or distracting effect on emotions, although they can also have detrimental health effects. Long-term daily alcohol, drug or junk food intake can affect the way that the body functions, but not only that, these kinds of behaviours are unlikely to resolve any underlying psychological issues, so can cause a vicious cycle to begin. If you have noticed any extreme changes to your diet or substance intake, consider seeing a therapist to see if these changes could be indicative of a more serious mental health issue.
Irregular or disturbed sleep can be caused by a number of different factors, however persistent sleep disturbances can also suggest at an underlying mental health issue, especially when accompanied by low mood or stress. Of course, sleep disturbances themselves can cause negative feelings and a lack of motivation, however if ongoing this can lead to more serious mental health problems. If other treatments (e.g. herbal remedies, reduced device use, sleeping pills etc) fail to stop sleep problems, consider talking to a doctor or therapist about the potential underlying causes.
Sometimes loved ones can notice changes in your mood before you do, so it’s always important to listen to others when they suggest that you may not seem ‘right’. If people around you are showing a greater degree of concern for your mental health, such as asking if you’re doing okay, or explicitly expressing their concern, it may be time to consider that something is wrong.
For many people, it takes external influences for them to consider seeking help, but more often than not they are glad that they did. Often, our closest friends and family seem to know us better than we know ourselves, so don’t be afraid to open up to them and talk about what may be bothering you, or how you are feeling. If you’re not sure how you are feeling, that is completely normal – the most important part is that you are acknowledging that something isn’t right, and working towards making it right again.
Consider when the last time was that you played golf, caught up with friends or baked a cake. If things that used to be important or enjoyable for you are no longer appealing, or fail to bring you the same sense of joy, consider if this could be a sign that you’re mental health is declining. It is usual to change interests over time, but if you struggle to think of anything that makes you feel truly happy, it may help to consider when this began and why.
It is healthy to have vices, be it working out or simply chatting to friends on the phone, so when an individual begins to disengage with the things that they once enjoyed the most, it can be one of the greatest warning signs of a mental health issue. If you’re beginning to feel disinterested, unmotivated or simply continually fatigued, consider if your mental health may be the cause.
Dr Julian offers confidential online therapy sessions from the comfort of your own home. Speak to one of our therapists today about your mental health. The Dr Julian app is available for free from the App Store.
www.dr-julian.com

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