Mental health is an extremely important aspect to living a balanced, healthy life. Our mental health comprises of emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing and impacts how we think, feel, and behave every day. It contributes to our decision-making process, how we relate to others in our lives, and how we cope with stress. The mental health of an individual depicts their ability to navigate through the ups and downs, and unexpected moments in life.
WHO (World Health Organisation) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Yet, whenever we think of health, we tend to prioritize our physical wellbeing at the expense of our mental health. It should be tackled in the same way as physical health by addressing the foundational forces that cause us to be sick or unwell.
Many mental health issues are under-reported due to numerous reasons including the differences of opinion within the mental health field and across populations and cultures. The social stigma revolving around mental health involves the prejudiced attitudes of others and the self-perceived stigma of a person who is facing such challenges.
Now that we have established the importance of mental health and how it must be taken seriously, there are some strong indicators that your mental health is deteriorating. It’s always best to get an evaluation from a certified psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professionals, but here is a list of some tell-tale signs that your mental health needs attention.
1. You feel down, hopeless, sad, or blue most of the times
Feeling sad, hopeless, down, or blue often is a serious red flag for depression, which is one of the most common mental health conditions. While occasional feelings of sadness or feeling down are a normal part of being human, it’s not healthy for them to last for long periods. If other symptoms like sleep disturbances, poor concentration, hopelessness or worthlessness bother you, it is very likely that you are suffering from depression, and must immediately visit a mental health professional.
Depression can cause significant life problems, which, in turn, feed the depression even more if it is left untreated. It can even trigger suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and sabotage your marriage, physical health, career, etc., quite significantly.
2. Suicidal thoughts or behaviour
A fleeting thought wishing you were dead occasionally is not abnormal or alarming if you manage to dismiss them as extreme, irrational, and foolish. However, if you have suicidal thoughts frequently and seriously, and you are not able to dismiss them, then you must immediately seek help. Suicidal thoughts can very quickly turn into dangerous suicidal behaviour.
3. You are anxious or worry excessively most/all of the times
Irrational fear or anxiety is a common symptom of several underlying mental disorders such as generalised anxiety, PTSD, OCD, social anxiety disorder, phobias, etc. People suffer from anxiety with different magnitude. Some people can shake it off easily and overcome it, but for some people, anxiety can be paralyzing. The constant presence of anxiety at the back of one’s brain can wreak havoc on their health over some time. If you worry excessively or feel anxious most/all of the time, and it interferes with your sleep and other aspects of functioning, you should seek mental help from a professional.
4. Problems coping with the general functioning of day-to-day life
This is one of the most salient signs that your mental health needs attention. If you’ve been noticing that you have trouble coping with general functioning in a way that is unreasonableand has no justification, then it’s a serious red flag. Any observational change compared to the previous functioning is problematic and warrants an evaluation as soon as possible.
5. Impact of traumatic events from past or recent years
Trauma can turn your life upside down and can take an extremely serious toll on your overall health. Unwanted memories are stuck inside your brain, leaving you in an emotionally awful situation, and most of the times, it’s hard to move on from it. Petty and seemingly unrelated things can trigger those memories and haunt you. Nightmares, disturbing images, severe anxiety, painful feelings, and flashbacks are just a few ways in which trauma can be challenging.
6. Extreme or rapid mood swings
Being in a stable mood is an indicator of good mental health. However, if you are experiencing significant fluctuations in your mood, it could be a symptom of some underlying serious mental illness and needs to evaluated by a professional.
7. Substance abuse
If you have been using drugs (prescription drugs, street drugs, or even OTC medications), alcohol, or any other substances to numb emotional pain, it’s a red flag for the presence of some serious problem. The use of substances or activities as a means of escape can lead to addiction over time, which is yet another disorder. Excessive or inappropriate use of drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, and food is a sign that your mental health needs attention.
8. Irrational fears
Extreme irrational fears such as people watching or following you, fear of objects, or situations, etc., that are interfering with your life cycle is a symptom of mental health-related issues. Irrational fears can also become obsessive, leading to persistent and intrusive thoughts that give birth to significant anxiety. These irrational fears almost always lead to irrational or extreme behaviour and make normal functioning difficult.
9. Unresolved anger
If you continuously feel like a ticking time bomb and suffer from significant hostility, irritability, rage, and have frequent anger outbursts, you are likely suffering from a mental health problem. Unresolved anger can and often leads to many other, and serious problems. It will not only physically and emotionally drain but also severely damage your health, work and relationships. It can lead to serious problems like destruction of property, emotional and physical abuse of others, and self-destructive behaviour.
10. Unusual or strained relationship with food
This is often a red flag for an eating disorder, often combined with a distorted body image. These disorders can cause other problems and even have a serious (sometimes fatal) impact on your health. If you have a troubled, and very unusual relationship with food and eating, seeking mental health treatment can help.