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How Do I Know if I Need Mental Health Services?

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If you have ever wondered if mental health services are right for you and have been reluctant to reach out for a consultation, here's a quick reference questionnaire that may help you determine that.

Everyone experiences difficult times throughout their lives accompanied by deep emotions and sometimes distressing symptoms. Life does not discriminate, we are all susceptible.

However, if these often troubling symptoms persist and begin to interfere with your ability to function on a day to day basis, or you've noticed changes in your temperament, like mood swings, a negative outlook on life, persistent irritability, edginess, etc., it's worth talking to a mental health professional and getting a proverbial check-up from the neck-up.

Mental disorders are very common in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 in 5, or roughly 43 million Americans, suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. And, although these may not be the disabling kinds of conditions, nearly 10 million American adults do indeed suffer the types of impairments that prevent them from living normal lives.

Research shows that due to social stigma regarding mental illness in the U.S., people who suffer from these conditions often wait years before seeking help. Or they end up never reaching out and remain isolated and completely cut off from the many excellent treatment services that are available.

For the most part, sufferers remain in the shame closet because they are resigned to their illness and fear being marginalized and alienated by others. Or, they come from a culture that frowns upon "baring one's soul" about personal matters especially regarding the mind. Another reason might be that their spiritual or religious community relies on the counsel of clergy, rabbi, etc., and/or the specific teachings of their own faith. Or they may have had previous experiences with mental health professionals that were negative and have given up as a result.

Hence, the natural reflex is always to default into silence-a fatalistic method of self-preservation and a naive attempt at damage control.

Remember, the longer you delay, the risk for symptoms getting worse increases and the possibility of an unsettling decline in your social and or occupational functioning does also. Nobody got time for that!

Two of the most prominent and widely treated mental health issues in this country are depression and anxiety. Assuming we are discussing the types of depression and anxiety symptoms that are significantly more serious than the mild "ups and downs" of life.

Depression

The CDC reports that depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26 percent of the U.S. adult population. In addition, future projections estimate that depression will be the second leading cause of disability, trailing only heart disease throughout the world. Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), here are some symptoms of depression to look for:

Signs and symptoms of mild or moderate depression:

Do you feel sad, hopeless or "down in the dumps" for prolonged periods of time?
Do you find yourself crying more often than usual?
Do you often feel disappointed with yourself, worthless and lacking in purpose?
Do you find yourself isolating from others and staying home more often than not?
Do you have difficulty concentrating at work or school?
Have you lost interest in things or activities that usually give you pleasure?
Have you noticed a change in your sex drive?
Do you feel guilty about things you did or didn't do in the past or present?
Do you feel fatigued for most of the day and lacking in motivation?
Have you noticed a difference in your appetite and sleep patterns?
Have you ever had recurrent thoughts of death or suicide and wanting to just "end the pain"?

Anxiety

Anxiety is also one of the most common types of mental illnesses in the U.S. Despite the fact that anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress with many benefits as an adaptive function of the body, for many, it can become debilitating. Anxiety encompasses many different types of disorders like panic disorder, social phobia, PTSD and OCD. Anxiety frequently co-occurs with depressive disorders, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), here are some symptoms of anxiety to look for:

Signs and symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety:

Do you excessively worry or "stress out" about the future?
Do you often obsess and "spin" about specific things over and over again?
Do you often have a fear of impending doom?
Do you tend to be overly perfectionistic about everything and afraid of making any mistakes?
Do you tend to perform repetitive behavioral rituals or mental rituals to help ease your stress?
Do you feel "keyed up," edgy and restless?
Do you often feel like you are going crazy?
Are you easily irritated and impatient with others?
Do you often have headaches, neck and back pains or tense muscles?
Do you feel afraid of being negatively evaluated by others?
Do you often worry about personal health related issues?
Have you begun avoiding people, places and situations because you are too anxious or scared?
Do you struggle with indecisiveness and fear the negative consequences as a result of your choices?

Do you experience physical symptoms of anxiety like:

Rapid heartbeat
Labored breathing
Sweaty palms
Racing thoughts
Tingling sensations in your finger tips and toes
Dizzy and lightheaded like you are going to faint
Trembling, shaking

Note: This questionnaire is NOT meant to be a substitute for a genuine clinical evaluation with a qualified mental health professional such as a licensed psychotherapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. It is simply meant to be a quick reference guide to see if any of these symptoms resonate with you. Or perhaps you may know of someone close to you like a family member or friend who resembles having some of the symptoms listed above. As mentioned, the sooner you get the treatment, the better the prognosis in the near future.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.