When someone's struggling with a mental health issue — like depression or anxiety — they may try to ignore the problem, or hope that it goes away. This is especially true for parents, who often try to put on a brave face for the fam. That's why, if your mom has a mental health issue, you shouldn't be surprised if she acts like nothing's wrong.
"Because emotional and psychological problems are scary, have a stigma attached to them, and are often thought of as only happening to the person suffering, parents ... often do not come out and say anything," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow tells Bustle. "[Your mom] may not be ignoring it as much as not sharing it with you."
If you think that could be the case, you might want to consider telling your mom it's OK if she wants to talk. "You need to express your concern and be ready for defensiveness," Klapow says. "Let your mom know you are noticing these changes, and that you'd like to know a little more about them." Ask if she's noticed them, too, or if she's concerned. "This is is important because it communicates to your mom that you are not jumping to conclusions and that you want to understand."
Once you've opened those doors of communication, hopefully your mom will feel more comfortable and supported, and hopefully she'll get the help she needs. Below are some signs she might be struggling, so you'll both know what to watch out for.
1. She Has Extreme Mood Swings
The occasional bout of crankiness is nothing to worry about, but you should be concerned if your mom's mood swings all over the place. "If your mother seems to fluctuate between happy and sad or lashes out at you for no reason, these are signs of a mental health issue," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Among the many possibilities, she could have anxiety, depression, or even bipolar disorder.
2. Nothing Seems To Make Her Happy
If your mom is no longer finding joy in things that used to make her happy, Hershenson tells me this could be a sign of an issue. Same goes for her lack of interest in seeing friends, or if she's suddenly quit all her favorite hobbies. This lack of motivation coupled with a desire to isolate could point to an underlying issue she's been ignoring, like depression.
3. She Somehow Manages To Make Everything About Her
If your mom's behavior is extra strange, it could be pointing to something else — like Narcissistic Personality Disorder. "Narcissistic mother's tend to display an exaggerated sense of self importance and may overstate their achievements or the role they play in their children's lives," couples therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, tells Bustle. If this sounds familiar, it may explain a lot.
4. She Doesn't Seem To Have Any Boundaries
Another sign of a potential personality disorder? Your mom's total lack of boundaries. As Derichs tells me, she might make rude comments and disguise them as "honesty," or barge into your house without calling first. Boundary issues like these can cause major problems, and yet this is one instance where your mom could be totally unaware she's creating tension in your family.
5. She's Been Experiencing Aches And Pains
Going back to symptoms of anxiety and depression, do take note if your mom has been complaining of aches and pains. As board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Leesha Ellis-Cox tells me, you might want to check in with her if she's been to the doctor a lot lately, but they can't seem to find anything wrong. That's a classic sign of depression-induced body aches, that don't necessarily have a physical cause.
6. She Hasn't Been Taking Care Of Herself
Another symptom to watch out for, according to Ellis-Cox, are any "changes in self care." If she no longer does her hair, or if you call in the middle of the day and she's still in bed, it could be a sign of a problem. She might also stop showering, stop exercising, or give up on cleaning the house. But, due to the nature of depression, she might not realize (or care) that it's become a problem.
7. She's Keeps Canceling Your Plans
Isolation is a big sign of a mental health issues. So, as Ellis-Cox tells me, you should be concerned if your mom suddenly doesn't want to meet up for brunch, or cancels your weekly dinner plans. This is especially true if the issue is ongoing, and you can't seem to get her to stick with a plan.
8. She's Been Staying Home And Missing Work
In the same vein, take note if your mom has been calling out of work. As Ellis-Cox says, it's worth checking in if "you discover she is missing a lot of days at work and she had not mentioned to you anything about being sick." It could be she's struggling with an issue that's zapping her energy, like anxiety or depression.
9. She Looks A Bit Different
Follow up if your mom seems to be gaining or losing weight, or if she's stopped taking care of her health. "Food is sometimes used as an unhealthy coping skill in order to deal with issues of anxiety or depression," says Hershenson. If she's experiencing unintentional fluctuations in this area, it could be she's trying to ignore a problem.
10. She Been Complaining About Feeling Tired
Changes in your mom's sleep patterns could also be what tips you off. "If your mother tells you she struggles to get out of bed and is sleeping all day, or she has difficulty sleeping at night, these are signs of a mental health issue," Hershenson says. Sleep changes like these often mean something's up.
11. She Struggles To Control Her Anger
As Klapow tells me, someone dealing with a mental health issue might struggle to control their anger. They might not also understand why they're suddenly so anxious, or why they've become cynical about the future.
If any of these signs ring true for your mom, set aside some time to ask her what's up. If you're in the position to do so, you can assure her she's not alone and that you're there to help, if need be. It might be just what she needs to hear in order to make that first step towards feeling better.
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