When to Seek Help

Posted May 14, 2021

Determining when to ask for help with mental health challenges can be difficult. However, it’s essential to get the assistance you need.

  • If thoughts, feelings, or behaviors interfere with your ability to function, you may need professional help.
  • A qualified professional can use research-based tools to reach a diagnosis.
  • Look for someone who understands your culture and the unique challenges you face.

People have such varied personalities and individual characteristics that it’s sometimes difficult to know what is “normal.” If you are worried that you or someone you love might need help with a mental health condition to live a happier and more fulfilling life, here are some things to consider.

What Is Mental Health?

Before we can understand when to seek mental health assistance, we must clearly define what mental health is. Mental health is the comprehensive state of a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When something happens to disturb one or more of these areas, individuals may have trouble functioning. Those difficulties may interfere with a person’s ability to maintain a relationship, perform in a job, participate in social activities, and learn new things. Mental health standards vary by culture and environment, so no single definition exists that applies everywhere worldwide.

How Is a Mental Health Disorder Identified?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, abbreviated DSM, is the definitive guide for mental illness diagnoses. The American Psychiatric Association publishes this manual for use by mental health professionals. It lists symptoms of hundreds of mental health conditions. The DSM uses measurable criteria such as duration, nature, and impact of mental health symptoms to guide professional evaluation. The publication also helps practitioners understand how mental illness conditions develop over time, risk factors for each diagnosis, and common co-occurring disorders.

In addition to the DSM from the American Psychiatric Association, professionals may also rely on the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases or ICD. Your health insurance company probably follows the DSM and the ICD to determine coverage and reimbursement rates for mental health counseling.

The professional will consider several factors in determining a mental health diagnosis:

  • Your complete medical history, including any previously diagnosed mental health conditions and any substance use disorders
  • A family history of physical or mental health disorders, including any traumatic family crises
  • A thorough physical examination
  • Honest conversations with you about why you feel you need help, any recent major life events, and any feelings of self-harm or harm to others
  • Diagnostic tests, surveys, or questionnaires
  • With your consent, interviews with the people who know you best

When Should You Seek Help for a Mental Health Disorder?

Every person is different, and only a qualified professional can correctly diagnose a mental health condition. However, here are a few signs that it may be time to consult professional help:

  • Withdrawing from activities that the person once enjoyed
  • Feeling disconnected from people around you
  • Sudden, unexplained changes in habits or personality
  • High levels of anxiety that interfere with daily life
  • Long periods of sadness or depression
  • Thoughts of suicide or attacking others

These are just a few of the signs of possible mental health problems. Many people live with these symptoms for so many years that they don’t consider them abnormal. They don’t know when to seek mental health help or the reasons why it could help them. Others are embarrassed or ashamed of having these issues. However, just as you would see a doctor if you thought you had pneumonia or heart disease, you should never hesitate to seek help when you need it. Medications, counseling, and peer support can help you deal with mental health challenges, like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorders, and others.

What Are Some Things to Consider When Seeking Help?

The main thing to remember when seeking a mental health professional is to find someone with whom you are comfortable sharing your personal and private health information. These considerations may help you find someone who is a good fit:

  • Look for a mental health professional who understands your culture, your religious beliefs, and any other characteristics that are important to you.
  • Look for a provider who is a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or similarly credentialed professional. Your primary care doctor can help you with referrals if necessary.
  • Check with your insurance company to see what type of professionals they will cover. Some only cover therapists with a doctoral degree, such as psychologists, while others will pay for services from a master’s level professional.

You may find it helpful to put together a written list of questions to ask a mental health treatment professional who you are considering. These are some common interview questions that might be helpful:

  • What are your credentials, and what kind of therapy do they allow you to provide?
  • How do you define success for your clients?
  • Have you treated other clients with symptoms like mine?
  • How are your sessions structured?
  • What are some of the therapies and treatments that you use in your practice?
  • Will you include my loved one or family members in my treatment plan?

How Can MHS Help?

We offer a full range of mental health treatment for adolescents and adults in group and individual settings. MHS seeks to help you reduce the signs and symptoms of mental health issues through three levels of service:

  • Intensive outpatient, also known as day treatment
  • Standard dialectical behavior therapy
  • One day per week for those at low risk for safety concerns

Our team of professionals includes multiple levels of qualification from the master’s to the psychologist level. They can assess your needs and help you connect to the right level of treatment. If you are struggling with mental health concerns, don’t suffer any longer. Reach out to us for help today.

Featured Image: chainarong06/Shutterstock