mental health

Signs you might have a mental illness

After my last blog about what kind of help you might need, I heard from a few people I should do one explaining at the different types of providers and licenses. I’ll get there, I promise. But first, I think I might have put the carriage before the horse. What if you aren’t even sure if you need help? How do you know?

We are all going to feel bad or uncomfortable sometimes in our lives – sadness, stress, worry, thinking we hear our name being called occasionally, some impulsive decisions here and there – these are all things that everyone experiences at some point and are part of being human. And I am NOT in the business of turning every little thing into a diagnosis. Even for the “small” things that are less intense or don’t require an evaluation, counseling can be helpful.

But these and other things can become problems when they are interfering with our lives. They might even mean you have a mental health diagnosis and you could benefit from testing. This is probably the biggest sign that you might need to get some help – whatever the problem, it has gotten strong, intense, and just does not go away – it feels like it is running your life. It is getting in the way of relationships, school, work, or all those things.

So, here are some signs you should look for help. These are not the only signs, but it is a good place to start. Keep in mind anytime is says “odd” or “unusual” you want to compare it to what is “normal” for your culture.

Behavior problems

1.      Impulsive risky behaviors (spending, sexual behavior, substance abuse, gambling)

2.      Frequent and dangerous sexual acting out

3.      Frequent or intense physical aggression to others

4.      Frequent or intense destruction of property

5.      Frequent or intense verbal aggression to others

6.      Sexual aggression to others

7.      Frequent and intense tantrums in children

Mood problems

1.      Excessive worry or fear that you can’t control

2.      Extreme sadness or loss of interest

3.      Thoughts of self-harm or thoughts of suicide

4.      Intense and frequent mood changes

5.      Increasingly easily agitated

6.      Frequently feeling empty or numb

7.      Feeling very on-edge and easily frightened

Relationship problems

1.      Trouble understanding or relating to other people

2.      Difficulty getting along with others

3.      Lack of empathy for others

4.      Changes in sex drive (in either direction)

5.      Strong feelings of fear or suspicion of others

6.      Trouble making and keeping friends

7.      Difficulty maintaining relationships

8.      Intense fear of rejection

Thinking problems

1.      Problems with memory or confusion

2.      Trouble speaking so that others understand you because your thoughts are jumbled

3.      Significant problems paying attention

4.      Unusual beliefs about having personal powers of understanding or influencing that others find odd

5.      Decrease in your functioning at work or school

6.      Often thinking about bad experiences from the past

Physical problems

1.      Flashbacks or nightmares related to past bad experiences

2.      Headaches, aches, and pains that your doctor cannot explain

3.      Intense preoccupation with weight or appearance

4.      Severely restrictive eating

5.      Making extreme efforts to lose weight when not medically necessary

6.      Changes in weight and appetite

7.      Changes in sleep and need for sleep

8.      Fatigue and tiredness even with enough sleep

Other problems

1.      Feeling disconnected or like things aren’t real

2.      Unusual behavior

3.      Seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear

4.      Substance abuse

5.      Inability to carry out daily activities

The more of these problems you have, the more likely it is there is something. What we know about mental health is generally the earlier you get help, the better. Early help can prevent things from getting worse and help you feel better sooner.

How might getting help improve your life?

If you are ready to get some questions answered, schedule a call with me so we can see if I can help. If not, I’m happy to direct you to someone who is a better fit.

Mental Health and Mass Shootings

It happened again today, at a school again too.

I want to be surprised, but I think at this point I would be more surprised if it did not happen.

I am going to need to take care of my mental health today, and you might too. I will be posting more resources about that on my Facebook page. But for now, since it is mental health awareness month, I'd like to focus on that.

We like to think we know a lot about gun violence. But the truth is that what we know is limited because research on gun violence has been limited for a long time. And the information we do have depends on how people define "mental illness" and "mass shooting."

I am not going to say that a mass shooter is someone who is mentally well. I think we can agree that someone who is mentally healthy does not see mass shooting as the best plan of action. However, I do want to clearly state that being mentally healthy and not having any mental health diagnosis are not the same thing.

A person can have a mental health diagnosis such as Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, etc. and be mentally healthy. They can be taking good care of themselves, seeing a therapist, taking prescribed medication, have a good support system, know their personal signs of worsening and have a plan to follow, purposefully keep themselves away from weapons if that has been a concern. A person can also have no mental health diagnosis and not be mentally healthy. They might misuse substances, have anger issues, not learn how to manage their emotions, not be taking care of themselves, or simply have never sought treatment. 

We do know a couple things about gun violence and mental health that seem pretty clear. One is that death by gun by suicide is actually more common than death by gun by homicide. But again, a diagnosis does not mean suicide and no diagnosis does not mean no suicide. We also know that there is a relationship between domestic violence and gun violence.

So today, think about how you are going to take care of yourself or others, and make a commitment to think critically when you see people "taking sides" between if it is a gun problem or a mental health problem - there is a lot of grey in between and the truth is, the answer is rarely black or white in the real world.


Cure Stigma

Mental health awareness continues this month! My last post got you thinking about how we define mental health. Now, let's talk about stigma. NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is taking on stigma this month with their Cure Stigma campaign. NAMI also has some wonderful suggestions on how to help reduce stigma here. Unfortunately, we create and reinforce stigma daily. When we don't understand a person's behavior we say they are "psycho" or when someone's mood changes we call them 'bipolar." Then, we avoid talking about it when a person actually has mental health concerns and needs help. The truth is that the words we use (and don't use) matter because of the meaning behind them. In this case we are sending the message "there is something wrong with you" and "if there really is something 'wrong' with you, don't talk about it." We are building stigma in a BIG way by using words and diagnoses when they don't apply to the person and by sending the message that those words and diagnoses are bad. We are building stigma when we refuse to talk about mental health. Let's start talking and thinking about the message we are sending! I try to do a lot of things to keep my table level - talk to friends, practice yoga, sing, read, bike, sit in the sun, listen to happy music, build my "tribe." What are you doing to support your mental health? 

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