Sssshhhhhh. We don’t talk about mental health. Let’s ignore it and it will go away. Or let’s pretend it’s not happening and burn ourselves out by overcompensating to appear like everything is OK. Guilty? I know I have been. Mental health hasn’t been talked about a lot in America as a society. Thankfully, it is starting to pick up some steam. So, let’s talk about how to know when your mental health might be declining.
Mental health in general, refers to the state of how you regulate your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So, when should you be concerned about your mental health? What are the symptoms? What is “normal”? I put normal in quotes because we are all individuals and unique so there is no exact normal or standard. I like to use the work common or typical instead.
Why does mental even matter? If your mental health is not in a good place it can affect a lot of areas in your life. I can affect your relationships with friends and family, your energy and productivity levels, your decision-making skills, your joy and happiness, our interests and hobbies, your functioning at work or school, your physical body, and much more.
Here are some things to look for in adults and adolescents as indicators that your mental health could use some tending to and talking about.
1. Excessive worrying or fear
Some worry, fear, and anxiety is healthy and expected. It’s what kicks us into gear and helps us get things done, keep ourselves, safe, prepare, etc. However, sometimes we may take the worry and fear too far to the point of unhealthy and unhelpful anxiety which may present in panic attacks at it’s worst.
2. Feeling excessively sad or low
This will look different for everyone but often some indicators may be struggling to get out of bed or out of the house, struggling to find joy in anything at all, or crying/tearing up often.
3. Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
Often times when we are feeling overwhelmed or highly dysregulated emotionally, we will struggle to concentrate or learn. We may notice that we are being a lot more forgetful than typical and can’t seem to focus on getting anything complete.
4. Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
When we are feeling stuck, this may lead to our fuse being short. We may find we are annoyed and irritated with pretty much everyone over pretty much everything. We may notice that things that don’t typically bother us are really getting on our nerves.
5. Avoiding friends and social activities
Isolating can be a sign that we are not in our best mind state. Possibly we are avoiding people simply because we don’t have the energy. Or it may be that we are avoiding people because we are ashamed/embarrassed to let them in on what is happening in our lives. Or maybe we just feel too overwhelmed to take on other people’s stuff when we feel we can’t even handle our own.
6. Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy and changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
When we are struggling with our mental health, it often shows up in our body. We may struggle to fall asleep or we may be so drained we are sleeping too much. We may also be too stressed and anxious to eat or we may turn to eating to comfort and numb our feelings.
7. Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
When our mental health is at risk, it is not uncommon for people to use drugs or alcohol to numb and drown the difficult thoughts and feelings.
8. Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
Just as our sleep and appetite may be affected when our mental health is not in its best place, other physical ailments may pop up as indicators that our mind needs some tending to. The mind/body connection is strong. Think of the symptoms like the indicator lights on your vehicle when it’s low on gas or needs an oil change.
9. Thinking about suicide
At its most severe, thoughts of suicide may cross your mind when you are struggling with your mental health. It is not uncommon to have thoughts, but it is something to not take lightly and to make sure you get in to talk to a professional about.
Keep in mind that one or two of these symptoms alone does not necessarily indicate problems with mental health, but it may be a signal to pay attention to the symptoms and kick up the self-care and coping skills that you have. If a person is experiencing several of these symptoms at a time, it is recommended to get into a professional provider to do a mental health assessment.
Finally, if a person is having suicidal thoughts, intent, or thoughts of harming others, this person will need immediate attention.
Wishing you peace,