It's normal to feel stressed or anxious now and then. But it's time to call for help if emotional issues persist for a significant period of time and interfere with your life, your job, or your personal relationships.
With all the mental health resources and effective treatments available these days, you don't need to suffer and wonder what's wrong. Education and awareness have done much to erase the stigma once attached to mental illness. Still, many people don't seek help for mental health needs.
Mental conditions are real, and can be life-threatening, but they're also common and very treatable. How do you know you need help? As with many physical conditions, change is the key. If you have a marked and persistent change in personality, mood, or eating or sleeping habits, that's a sign something may be going on.
These are other warning signs:
Feeling unable to cope with your day-to-day problems, work assignments, or usual household activities
Being overwhelmed by a deep sense of sadness, hopelessness, or helplessness
Having extreme mood swings, from high or hyper to down in the dumps
Abusing alcohol or drugs
Getting very angry or acting violently
Having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else
Having a plan of how you would commit suicide
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's better to get treatment sooner than later. These are warning signs that you definitely need help.
Get help right away any time you believe you might hurt yourself or someone else. Call 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) or your local crisis center. Or, look in the government pages of your local phone book for the numbers of emergency mental health treatment facilities near you. Finally, if you are in an immediate state of crisis, it is best to go to a hospital emergency room for temporary help. The emergency department doctors will also be able to tell you where and how to receive additional assistance.
Your health care provider. Your health care provider knows you and probably will notice any changes in your mood or personality. Your health care provider can also rule out possible physical reasons for your symptoms.
Employee assistance programs (EAP). If your company has an EAP, ask for a referral to an appropriate provider or treatment program in your community.
Community mental health centers. These organizations provide counseling and other services on a sliding-fee scale, based on your income.
Crisis centers. On-site mental health professionals provide immediate evaluation and treatment.
Support and self-help groups. Alcoholics Anonymous and the National Alliance on Mental Illness are examples of peer and family support groups that meet both online and in person.
Word-of-mouth referrals. These can come from friends or family.
Psychiatrist or medical doctor. These professionals can provide counseling and prescribe medication.
Psychologists. These professionals have doctorate degrees and specialize in psychotherapy and human behavior.