Mental Health Warning Signs: When to Seek Professional Help
Reviewed by Kevin Stephens, MD.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just like you would see a doctor if you were feeling physically ill, it's important to seek professional help if you are struggling with your mental health.
Mental Health Warning Signs
Mental health warning signs can vary from person to person, but there are some common changes that could indicate a problem. Mental health challenges may also present differently depending on the person’s age.
If you are experiencing any of the following changes, it's important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional:
Changes in mood: Feeling sad, anxious, or angry
Behavioral changes: Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or energy levels
Physical changes: Headaches, stomachaches, or other unexplained physical symptoms
Warning Signs by Condition
In addition to the general warning signs listed above, there are also some specific warning signs that can indicate different mental health conditions. Here are some examples:
Depression: Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, changes in sleep or eating habits, withdrawal from friends and family, and changes in school performance. Persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, changes in sleep or eating habits, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of death or suicide. Presentation of depression might look different in adults and children.
Anxiety: Persistent and excessive feelings and thoughts of worry that interfere with your daily life. This can include symptoms like difficulty concentrating, fatigue, changes in sleep or appetite, stomach aches, headaches, and more.
Bipolar disorder: Extreme mood swings, from mania (high energy, racing thoughts, and decreased need for sleep) to depression
Substance abuse (like drugs and alcohol): Changes in behavior, such as neglecting responsibilities or spending more time using substances, and physical changes, such as weight loss or changes in appearance
Panic disorder: Sudden and intense episodes of fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and sweating
Psychosis: Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there) and delusions (false beliefs)
Suicidal tendency warning signs: Talking about wanting to die, making plans to kill oneself, giving away prized possessions, and withdrawing from friends and family
Is it a Minor Condition or Serious Mental Health Challenge?
It can be difficult to know if the changes you are experiencing are a minor condition or a serious mental health challenge. If you are unsure, it's always best to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. They can help you assess your situation and determine any next steps to best support you.
When to Seek Help
There are a number of reasons why you might want to seek professional help for your mental health. Here are a few examples:
You are experiencing any of the warning signs listed above.
Your symptoms are interfering with your daily life.
You have tried to cope with your symptoms on your own and they haven't improved.
You are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless.
You are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
How to Get Help
If you are thinking about seeking professional help, there are a few things you can do:
Talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a mental health professional or help you find resources in your community.
Look for a therapist or counselor in your area. You can search online or ask your doctor for recommendations.
Contact a mental health hotline or crisis support line. These services can provide you with immediate support and resources.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member. They can offer you support and encouragement as you seek help.
Getting Help for a Friend
If you are concerned about a friend or family member who may be struggling with their mental health, there are a few things you can do:
Talk to them about your concerns. Let them know that you care about them and that you are there to support them.
Encourage them to seek professional help. Offer to go with them to their first appointment.
Be patient and understanding. It may take time for them to accept your help and seek treatment.
Don't judge them. Mental health challenges are not a sign of weakness.
Encourage them to take care of themselves. This includes eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and moving regularly (if you are able).
If you are experiencing any of the warning signs listed in this post, it's important to seek professional help. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and there is no shame in seeking treatment. There are many resources available to help you, and you don't have to go through this alone.
You don’t have to wait for a mental health crisis in your life to find a therapist or seek support. It’s great to have one you know who you can call and talk to when you need to, as it can be hard to go through the process of finding a therapist when you’re having a hard time. Early intervention also leads to better outcomes and can help avoid those crisis moments.
Juno now offers virtual therapy for all New Yorkers! I'm Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC, mental health therapist and care manager here at Juno and I'm accepting virtual patients in New York today. Book your appointment online to meet me and get the support you need here.