Is it time to seek help? When life gets too heavy counseling medication can help professionals say|
Is it time to seek help?
When life gets too heavy, counseling, medication can help, professionals say
By Misti Crane
We all have our quirks — those traits that make us who we are.
Having to arrange your pencils just so at your desk isn’t a big problem if it doesn’t get in the way of doing your job. A little anxiety about a big presentation at work or sadness because your dog died? To be expected.
But when things loom larger, some help navigating life’s roads is in order, experts say.
A good gauge of how well you’re managing without professional help or medication is how you feel when your head hits the pillow at night, said Jeanine Tell, a psychologist at Riverside Methodist Hospital. If your mind is racing with worries or overcome by despair, it’s time to think about talking to a professional, she said.
“Once that happens enough times — and for each person that’s different — I would absolutely encourage people to go to counseling,” Tell said.
Help is available in many forms: primary-care doctors, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, experts say.
Anxiety disorders top the list of mental illnesses for which people might go without treatment of some sort. More than one-quarter of American adults have some type of mental disorder in a given year, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.
“Most everyone has some sort of quirks that they deal with, or peculiarities unique to themselves,” said Dr. Kevin Vaughn Ware, medical director of psychiatry for Mount Carmel Health System. “Most people can navigate around their quirks.”
But when those quirks begin to interfere with social, interpersonal or occupational pursuits, that’s when treatment is in order, Ware said.
If a person has obsessive-compulsive traits (such as only going through a certain door or taking a certain path to his or her desk), that’s not necessarily a disorder, he said. But if those obsessions and rituals take up an hour or more per day and interfere with your life, it might be more than a peculiarity, Ware said.
People suffering from mental illnesses sometimes have trouble recognizing the symptoms in themselves, and friends and loved ones can be helpful in those situations, said Ken Yeager, a social worker who counsels people at Ohio State University Medical Center.
“The people around them can see they aren’t who they used to be and they’re not interacting how they used to,” he said.
The key is to be gentle, to explain that the person seems to be acting differently and to ask if he or she would like a hand finding someone who can help, Yeager said.
“Looking at the person and saying, ‘You know, you’re a hot mess,’ is not a good way to go about it, but there’s nothing that can’t be said if you say it with kindness and honesty.”
Some signs that can help people recognize anxiety in themselves include procrastination that interferes with your work or constant worry about whether you’re making the right decisions about minor things, Yeager said.
Listlessness, an inability to engage in things you normally enjoy and irritability all are hallmarks of depression, he said.
There are people with strong coping skills who can weather mental illnesses on their own, but medication or therapy can make that journey much easier, experts say.
“We can all get through this on our own, but what’s the most effective way to get through it? Pain is required, but I think suffering is optional,” Yeager said.
Seeking help for a mental problem also can uncover physical illnesses with symptoms that mimic depression or anxiety, he said.
Tell said many people are apprehensive about medication, and she wishes more people understood that the medications can be mild and aren’t necessarily a life-long commitment.
“It’s no less a medical issue when it’s a mood disorder,” she said.
People also should understand that they might not see a drastic improvement after the first or second counseling appointment, Tell said. “They can become hopeless and assume that counseling doesn’t work.”
Sometimes, medication can get them through until the counseling does some good, she said.
Tell also wishes that people understood that counseling isn’t something you do only in extreme circumstances — that you can go in and out of it when you need some help navigating rough spots.
“I view minds and bodies and souls much like our automobiles and appliances. You don’t have to wait until everything breaks down to get service,” she said.