What’s Normal, What’s Not

I recently appeared on the Global Morning Show to discuss a prevalent issue in mental health.  Quite often, individuals struggle with seeking help for their depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, because they do not know how serious the issue is. They often wonder, “Am I depressed, or just sad? Do I have an anxiety disorder, or just a nervous personality?” I have summarized some facts here to help you decide whether you need the support of a mental health care practitioner, or if you simply have a case of the blues.

How do you know if you have a mental health condition?

Are your symptoms interfering with your ability to perform your job? Are they causing strain in your relationships? Have you made significant life changes as a result of your symptoms? For example, have you consistently stayed home from social events due to sadness or nervousness? Have you become overly reactive and pushed others away due to your anger issues? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may require support from a psychotherapist to work through these issues, and return to a level of functioning that allows you to fully enjoy your occupational and personal life.

However, if you are feeling sad, anxious, or worried in reaction to a big life event, such as a divorce, loss of a loved one, new job, moving, etc, and your symptoms are not interfering with your ability to carry out your day-to-day tasks, these feelings are most likely temporary, and should pass with time. However, we often need support during big life changes, and it is perfectly normal to seek temporary counselling to get through a difficult time in your life.

How do you know if it’s a mental disorder or if it’s physical medical condition?

Occasionally, sadness, lethargy, heightened emotions, and anxiety can be caused by a physical medical condition, such as a hyperactive thyroid or a vitamin deficiency. Talk to your family doctor to rule out physical ailments that could be impacting your mood.

When do you need to be assessed or need treatment?

Seek assistance from your family doctor, or a mental health care practitioner if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Inability to cope with problems or daily activities
  • Prolonged sadness that interferes with your functioning
  • Substance abuse
  • Extreme mood swings and/or violent behavior
  • Thoughts or ideas that seem “unlike” your usual personality

If you are thinking or talking about suicide, seek help immediately.

How do you talk to someone who may have a mental disorder but does not know it?

If a friend or family member seems to have changed, and their mood issues are interfering with their ability to work, socialize, and participate in their usual activities, you can let them know that they have your support. You can gently mention some of the changes you see in their behaviour, and provide a listening ear if they feel like talking. Do not offer solutions or advice, but perhaps share a time when you felt down, sad, or just not like yourself. If you have seen a therapist in the past, you may want to share with them how that was helpful.

Above all, if you feel alone, hopeless, and worried that you are just not yourself, meet with a psychotherapist or discuss these feelings with your family doctor. Every mental health issue can worsen over time if you do not receive support. For more information, here is the link to my appearance on the Global Morning Show: http://www.globaltoronto.com/video/nicole+mccance/video.html?v=2285574931

To book an appointment with myself or one of my therapists in your area please call: 416-619-0442 or email: admin@nicolemccance.com. Our psychological services are covered by most employment benefits.

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