Many people joke about mental health issues and are perfectly comfortable doing so. “Oh, I’m just a little OCD” they say while straightening photos and lining up pencils. Or maybe explain with a slightly guilty laugh “You know me, always late and forgetful, blame it on my mild Bipolar.”

All kidding aside, there are times that the “slight OCD” or “mild Bipolar” is something more.

Even the strongest and most practical among us can be overwhelmed with the ups and downs of life. Whether you’re down-to-earth and handle everything on an even keel or a free spirit who gives way to every passing emotion, mental health professionals are often told by clients that the initial phone call is the hardest. After all the education and awareness campaigns on mental health issues, there is still a pretty big stigma attached to actually seeking help from a professional.

Being able to recognize when life skills are not in sync with coping abilities makes it somewhat easier to make that call, at least for some. Others may need a friend, sibling or parent to step in. It helps to know some of the signs of spiraling out of control.


1. Feeling “off” - People normally experience cycles of happiness or sadness, ups and downs so to speak. However, from time to time a person may experience being off, or not quite themselves, for no apparent reason. If this goes on for weeks or months at a time, and there have been no major life changes to explain it, it can indicate a need for professional help.

2. High stress - Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which is perfectly normal and experienced by most people at least once or twice in a lifetime. However, if your stress level never subsides, even when the cause has been dealt with, it can be a sign of a mental situation in need of treatment.

3. Suicidal thoughts - One might think this is a no brainer and yet, almost daily we hear about suicides, young and old, rich and poor. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. Go to the nearest Emergency Room.

4. Major changes - Most people sort through life’s major changes and cope easily enough while others shut down, fall apart or avoid dealing with it altogether. Examples of the kinds of life changes that lead to mental health problems include divorce, grief, relocation, diagnosis of a long term illness or even becoming a parent.

5. Self-Medicating - We think of drinking excessively as self-medicating and that is one method people use to deal with problems. Other forms of self-medication involve the use of sex, drugs, shoplifting, nail-biting, skin picking and cutting. If you defer to any of these means of coping, it’s vitally important to take a step back and consider counsel.

6. Becoming closed off - People have been known to hibernate from time to time, close themselves off from all social activity outside of absolute must-dos and sometimes excuses are made to avoid those as well. It’s natural in some cases to feel like being alone but concerning when it goes on and on. If you find you aren’t as social as you used to be or cannot be bothered with activities that once made you happy, perhaps seeking help is the solution. After all, you’re probably missing out on hobbies, friend and family gatherings and fantastic dinners at the local pub. Don’t be the guy or gal that sits and stares at television or the cat for weeks on end. Get help and get back into life again.


The first step is often the hardest but once that is done, you can be on the road to recovery. Rely on someone sympathetic among your circle of friends or family if you need a push making that first appointment.


Not all patients require a life-long series of sessions. In fact, a 2001 study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, found that most people feel much better within 7 to 10 visits. In another study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 88 percent of therapy-goers reported significant improvement after just 1 session.

However, each patient requires a different approach and some do take much longer than others to open up and be perfectly honest about why they are there in the first place.

For most, simply talking about issues in a positive, nonjudgmental environment can be liberating to most patients. Many report feeling better, much more positive about life in general after a few sessions with a good counselor.

With today’s technology, many mental health care providers can assist patients remotely. For people with difficulty traveling or disabilities, this could be an excellent option.


Patients needing counsel are not alone. Regardless of the stigma, admitting the need for mental health treatment isn’t a weakness. In fact, the strength to seek counsel shows mental fortitude. It’s one thing to know when it’s time to seek help and another to make the call. If you are experiencing any of the warning signs, don’t hesitate a moment longer. Your life is waiting.

Author's Bio: 

Alexander Wise is a writer and web marketing expert based in Florida. He keeps a personal blog at Drinks Refined.