Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness
"I just had this feeling..."
"Something wasn't right..."
"No....a lot of people go through things like this, I just need to let this get better on it's own..."
A lot of people wait until things get bad... really bad...but if they're honest they knew...had a gut feeling....that something was wrong. Other people knew it too, but no one was ready to admit that "it" was that big of an issue.
Due to the fact that there is such a stigma surrounding mental health, you might be afraid to get help. You might rationalize in your mind that things are ok...until they aren't. If you're one of those people who has had the courage to advocate for help - bravo! Continue to advocate for yourself (or your loved one) for as long as you need to, because every journey looks different. Some people only utilize therapy for 6 months, while others utilize therapy for 6 years. Some people take advantage of therapy one year, move on and then things re-surface later in life and they need to use therapy again.
If you're one of those people who is rationalizing in their mind that things will get better on their own, I'm going to challenge you to think differently today. Don't get me wrong - this post is not to make you feel bad about whatever decisions you've made or not made. Instead this post is going to make you think about whether you need to get additional support for yourself or your loved one. Stay with me for a minute and know that if it starts to sting - that's a good thing! It helps to identify the problem, which will lead you to get help. Getting help will eventually lead to a happier, healthier life...if you're willing to do the work it takes to get there.
The following warning signs (and this post in general) is not a substitute for a diagnostic evaluation. While it can be helpful to figure out warning signs, these signs do not indefinitely confirm a mental health diagnosis. Please consult a professional regarding your specific situation. Let's get started...
We all have trouble concentrating at certain points throughout the day or in certain conditions. I'm not talking about when you're running off of pure adrenaline, because you've had 3 hours of sleep! I'm not talking about that week you did really bad on your finals or project at work, because a loved one was in the hospital. I'm talking about a regular pattern of trouble focusing on a task. People in your age group (or your child's age group) typically are able to focus for <insert time limit> mins at a time. This could simply be a matter of training yourself to be able to sit still and focus on a task in a world where technology so easily steals our attention. Or when paired with other symptoms, it could be a warning sign to get help.
OVERLY INFLATED SENSE OF SELF ESTEEM
Feeling more alive than ever before? Feeling invincible? Feeling like you have some magical secret that the world doesn't know? Do these feelings come one day and then disappear the next? What do you do when you're feeling invincible? Do you tend to do dangerous things that concern those who love you? It's true. You were created unique and special! However, if believing this causes you to put your life in danger to prove it...it might be time to get help...
DECREASED NEED FOR SLEEP
Are you on an emotional high that's so intense you can function without sleep? Are you the most focused in your life you've ever been? Some life events (like getting married or sitting for a 4-hour exam) cause us to function from pure adrenaline. Those aren't the events I'm referring to. I'm referring to a frequent, vacillating need for sleep or lack thereof. Again, when paired with other symptoms, this could be a sign that you need help.
INTENSE FEELINGS OF WORTHLESSNESS
Feelings of worthlessness paired with feelings of hopelessness and/or thoughts of suicide is concerning. Everyone has bad days. Everyone has days they want to give up. However, if your bad days seem to linger for an extended amount of time, this could be a sign that you need help. Don't wait too late to communicate this to someone, because no matter how bad the situation - someone somewhere needs you and wants you to get better!
WITHDRAWAL FROM PREVIOUSLY ENJOYED ACTIVITIES
You no longer find joy in activities you have loved for years! People don't understand why you're not interested anymore. You want to come straight home from work (or school) and climb into bed to be alone. It may be time to let someone bear the burden with you. You don't have to struggle alone...
SIGNIFICANT WEIGHT LOSS/GAIN
Have you suddenly picked up weight or loss weight due to increased or decreased appetite? Changes in appetite could be linked to physical conditions or mental conditions. Ladies, I'm not referring to that time when Mother Nature drops by for a visit! I don't mean when you're trying to slim down according to the latest diet you're testing out.
HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY TO CERTAIN THINGS
Are you sensitive to loud noises? Do you feel freakishly overwhelmed or overstimulated around crowds of people? Do certain smells make you sick to your stomach? These signs could be enough to warrant a physical evaluation as well as a mental status exam.
If you fall into one or several of these categories, the next thing I'm about to say isn't to sell you a fairytale or make you feel like there is some magical pill to make you feel better. I continue to say encouraging and positive things at the end of each post, because relief is actually possible. The task will not be easy, but it will be beyond worth it. Regardless of what you've heard in the past:
You don't have to suffer in silence! There are people that can help you get on with your life! a better life is possible!