4 Red Flags For Your Mental Health That Experts Say You Might Not Be Paying Attention To
Conversations surrounding mental health often focus on identifying what a mental health struggle feels like, but do you know what a mental health struggle looks like? No two mental health issues are the same, so it makes sense that these sorts of experiences wouldn’t all look the same, either. But there are some definite red flags for your mental health to watch out for across the board, and they might just be subtle enough to miss if you aren't careful. The problem is, on the surface, these common habits might genuinely seem like harmless behaviors you picked up out of the blue. But mental health conditions have faces in the same way that they have names, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs. Otherwise, you might put yourself at the risk of suffering longer, not to mention more severely, as time goes on.
While the public perception and understanding of mental health is slowly but surely undergoing an important transformation, the fight to end any stigma surrounding this topic is still a work in progress. It's not easy to discuss mental health in any capacity, let alone fully understand the various psychological struggles that people can go through, but that doesn't mean these things should ever be pushed under the rug. Rather, it means it's that much more important to not just define and discuss what mental health truly means, but to also identify what mental health struggles actually look like.
Mental health is synonymous with mental wellness, and it's something everyone struggles with from time to time. To put it into perspective, Carl Sheperis, PhD, NCC, CCMHC, MAC, ACS, LPC, interim president and CEO of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates, recommends thinking of maintaining mental health in the same way that you would maintaining your physical health. For example, let’s say it’s Jan. 1, and you’ve got that new-year-new-me glow about you as you sign your very first gym membership contract. You have every intention of working out at least three times a week, and you start off strong, but eventually, your workouts grow inconsistent. “With mental wellness, people do the same thing,” Sheperis tells Elite Daily. “They might start by working on some daily mindfulness exercises with the intention to achieve better life balance, but the practice takes a backseat when life gets busy.”
When life gets in the way, it’s easy to push any focus on well-being to the side — but the second that happens, that's when your mental health can start to suffer, says Sheperis. Depending on how you cope with stress, a busy schedule that leaves little to no wiggle room for “me time,” and just your general day-to-day regimen, the signs that your mental health is suffering might take the shape of common, everyday struggles, such as a lack of sleep, anxiety, or loss of interest in going out with friends. “ When these issues begin to have a significant effect on overall functioning, then they are more serious and may be signs of mental illness,” Sheperis explains. But until you start noticing this kind of shift, subtle signs are the ones to look out for.
Below are a few tell-tale signs your mental health could be struggling. If you're picking up on any of these symptoms, don't hesitate to reach out for professional help, and be sure to check out the National Institute of Mental Health, MentalHealth.gov, and MHResources.org for more information.
You're Choosing To Isolate Yourself From People
It's normal every now and then to decide you're going to take a weekend to unplug, check in with yourself, and indulge in a little self-pampering. Trust me, we all need a break from reality (and, TBH, people), but if isolating yourself has become a habit, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, says this could be a violently waving red flag indicating that something isn't right.
"Withdrawing from social activities is often seen as a red flag for anxiety, depression, or those who may be suicidal," Glatter tells Elite Daily over email. "While the need to rest and recoup can be part of a plan to rejuvenate oneself, it’s the subtle nature of 'checking out' that can actually be a cry for help."
You're Sleeping Or Eating Way More Than You Usually Do
There's sleeping in, and then there's sleeping excessively. There's having a large appetite, and then there's emotional eating. When someone is feeling depressed, Glatter says it's not uncommon to take these types of behaviors to the extremes. So if, all of a sudden, you notice yourself feeling bags-under-the-eyes exhausted, even after eight hours of shut-eye, or that you're practically starving before, during, and after every meal, Glatter says these things could be a sign that your emotions are off-balance in some way.
If your anxieties aren't keeping you up at night or causing a loss in appetite, whatever's eating at you could have the opposite effect, Glatter tells Elite Daily. This could lead to "sleeping excessively and eating more than normal to self-medicate, feeling sluggish, having no energy to exercise, and having trouble with memory, comprehension, and focus at work."
To address these things ASAP, Sheperis says, make sure you're leaning on resources like guided meditations to manage your stress levels during the day. Once you feel at ease, he explains, it will become easier to then "eat nutritious meals, drink plenty of water, maintain a good sleep routine, and exercise." And again, never hesitate to reach out for professional help if these strategies don't seem to be working for you.
You're Not Sleeping Well, So You Wake Up Early AF Every Morning
While mental health issues could cause you to feel exhausted all the time, there's also a chance that your body will respond to these types of struggles by causing you to toss and turn all night. Personally, I typically sleep like a baby, so when I can't sleep, I'm going over the events of my day to identify what might have caused my mind to stress itself into sleep deprivation. "Difficulty sleeping and early morning awakening are signs of someone with an anxious component associated with their depression," Glatter tells Elite Daily. In other words, your body is mirroring your busy mind, causing you to lie awake and wonder what's up.
Instead of counting sheep, try rattling off a list of things you're grateful for when sleep is nowhere in sight. According to Sheperis, focusing on the positives can help combat any negative thoughts lingering in the dark, which will hopefully trigger a sense of comfort and help you sleep with a more content conscience.
You Feel Super On-Edge All The Time
Are you irritable? Be honest — no one's judging you here. I know myself, and whenever I feel stressed out, my initial reaction is to dish it out to anyone who will take it. It's not always pretty, and it's something I'm working on, but according to Glatter, feeling constantly on-edge is a sign that you're struggling with something internally. It's not necessarily an excuse, but it's normal and understandable.
"Palpitations, an elevated heart rate, and being 'on edge' are quite common [when someone is struggling with their mental health]," Glatter tells Elite Daily. And the sooner you can recognize this behavior, the better, because you can actively start implementing strategies that calm you down in the moment, like guided meditation, taking deep breaths from your diaphragm, squeezing in a quick workout to work off some stress, or just sipping a cup of tea and letting the warmth relax you.