When is the right time to consult a mental health professional?

This dilemma arises as mental health issues do not show noticeable physical symptoms of fever, cold or a rash. They manifest in our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. For instance, one may feel low and sad persistently for several days, have thoughts of hopelessness or may want to withdraw from family and friends. Taking into consideration that these symptoms are intangible, it becomes difficult for the person suffering and their families to fathom what really is going on. In fact, often, people think the person is intentionally behaving in a certain manner to seek attention.

There was a client who was suffering from depression and found it extremely difficult to concentrate on her studies, mingle with her peer group and on certain days, even found it difficult to get out of bed. Her parents would nag her as they were unable to understand her condition and thought she was lazy. It took quite a few sessions with her parents to educate them about depression and tell them that it was actually a mood disorder.

Generally, people don’t think twice before consulting a doctor for a physical ailment like fever. However, a lot of hesitation is shown in consulting a psychiatrist or psychologist due to the stigma attached to it.

Here’s a good thumb rule: If your low mood lasts for more than two weeks or seriously interferes with your ability to function at work, impedes with your family and social life or causes you to contemplate suicide, it would be a good idea for you to consult a mental health professional right away. The points mentioned below are indicators that it is time to seek professional help:

  1. Feelings of sadness, rage and anxiety Feeling sad, hopeless and helpless for an extended period of time; uncontrollable anger, anxiety, crying spells without any apparent reason; insomnia, low appetite, wanting to be alone and isolated; reduced interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed; feeling of emptiness, fatigue and loss of energy;
  2. Using drugs and alcohol to cope When feelings become difficult to deal with and one resorts to drinking or other forms of substance abuse to relax or feel better, it’s a sign that you need help to develop better coping skills. As these substances are addictive, immediate treatment is of utmost importance.
  3. Grief Loss of a loved one or something important to you can be hard to deal with. More often than not,we hesitate to talk about the loss with our near and dear ones. The loss can be of a loved one to death, divorce, break up, of a pet or even a job.
  4. Trauma Whether one has faced trauma in their childhood or been a victim of a crime, accident, illness, it is helpful if one speaks to an expert at the earliest to develop better coping skills. These events are bound to have an impact on the quality of one’s life later on.
  5. Unable to do things once enjoyed earlier While going through a barrage of painful emotions and negative thoughts, many individuals tend to withdraw not just from people but also from activities. They even stop enjoying all the things they once enjoyed doing. Talking to a non-judgmental, unbiased professional will help to a great extent as they are unknown to family and friends.

Do not wait to hit rock bottom. The sooner you seek help, the faster you will improve the quality of your life!