If you tend to just power through life’s inevitable difficulties, then you probably know how to get things done. But sometimes, this behavior can make it easy to ignore your own emotional or psychological distress. Addressing your emotions, thought patterns, and behaviors as honestly and objectively as possible takes another kind of strength. And it can be hard to recognize when it's time to tap into that skill set. The signs that you’ve ignored your mental health for too long can show up all over your life.
There are may reasons why people may put off dealing with their mental health, clinical psychologist Deborah Offner, PhD tells Bustle. “One reason is a common perception that we need to ‘tough it out,’ be ‘strong’ or ‘independent’. Asking for help can seem like a sign of weakness or even self-indulgence. Though awareness and acceptance of mental health issues is in many ways higher than ever, stigma about acknowledging or attending to mental health still gets in our way.”
A lack of time or money can also create a barrier to getting much needed help, Offner says. “Working to pay bills, caring for children and sick or elderly family members — all of these things can come before tending to your own mental health needs.”
From your relationships, to sleep and work performance, key facets of your functioning can get compromised if your mental health needs aren't supported. No matter what form of help is best for you, whether it’s a support group, weekly friend nights, or regular therapy, you deserve to have your mental health needs met. Here are nine signs that your mental health may be at risk, and how to get help.
1. You Feel Extreme Worry Or Anger
2. Your Sleep Is Off
The link between mental health and sleep disorders is significant, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) writes. While mental health issues can disrupt sleep, so too can impaired sleep make mental illness symptoms worse. Seeking out ways to improve your sleep can help you manage your mental health, and if you’re sleep patterns aren’t improving on your own, checking in with a doctor or therapist might be helpful.
3. Your Eating Patterns Change
While your eating patterns may shift over time for various reasons, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can interfere with your appetite, writes BetterHelp. If you notice a significant disruption in your appetite that doesn’t resolve quickly, assess whether or not underlying mental health issues might be at play.
4. You Want To Ditch Work. A Lot.
Disillusionment and indifference about work can be signs of burnout, HelpGuide writes. Additionally, depression and anxiety can interfere with your functioning at work. If your workplace is toxic, this can harm your mental health over time. But even if you love your job, mental health issues can disrupt your routine in myriad ways. Don't hesitate to reach out for qualified help if you're regularly feeling distressed at work.
5. You're Isolated
A need for solitude as a part of self-care is one thing, but if you find yourself regularly isolating yourself from friends and family, or your isolation is getting worse over time, you might have an underlying mental health condition, writes Psychology Today. Social isolation doesn’t do your overall health any favors, so reach out.
6. Your Sex Drive Changes
Sex drives can vary super widely, depending on the individual. But if you find that your sex drive is suddenly nonexistent, or is deviating drastically from your personal norm, you might need to talk to a therapist about if there are underlying mental health issues at play, says Psychology Today.
7. You Lose Interest In Things You Used To Care About
If you no longer enjoy activities you usually care about, that could be a sign of mental health strain, Jackson says. Depression and anxiety can disrupt day-to-day life in profound ways, as can emotional fatigue and burnout. If your ability to experience pleasure in life is feeling muted, or you’re just not enjoying yourself, consider whether or not your mental health is getting compromised in some way.
8. You Have Unexplained Physical Symptoms
If you feel achey all over and can rule out any illness, it's possible that those feelings are stemming from anxiety. “Unexplained physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches are often a sign that you’re under more stress than you may realize, or that you’re feeling more internal strain than you’re consciously aware of,” Offner says. Keep a journal of your symptoms so that you can bring them to your GP; if there isn't a "physical" explanation, it's possible the treatment will have to do with your mental health. (Because physical health is mental health, too.)
9. You're Having Trouble Concentrating
While anyone can experience trouble focusing on an off day, ongoing concentration difficulties can signal a decline in mental health, NAMI says. If you’re not able to focus like you used to, especially if your daily functioning is affected, checking in with a therapist can help.
If you’ve managed mental health symptoms for a long time, you might not realize how deeply your life is being affected by them. Many people “just do not know that the symptoms they’re experiencing are much more serious than they thought,” says Jackson. “If [mental illness] is something you’ve experienced your entire life, or you’ve witnessed it in those around you, you may just think it’s ‘normal’,” Jackson says.
Moreover, mental health stigma can create a barrier for those who need help the most, Jackson notes. It can take courage to face your problems in a new way, especially if seeking help wasn’t modeled in your family. But no matter what your mental health challenges might be, help is available — and it's OK to seek it.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.