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Mental Health Professionals Share Red Flags That May Seem Normal But Should Be Checked Out

Knowable

Mental health is health. End of story.


For millions of people, the idea of mental health is wrapped up in this strange idea that unless you're hearing voices or having a full-on movie-style nervous breakdown (spoiler alert: those almost never happen that way) then there's no need to get your mental health looked into.

That idea has cost countless lives and made millions of people unnecessarily miserable. It needs to stop.

Reddit user Pixel_Pig asked:

Psychologists, Therapists, Councilors etc: What are some things people tend to think are normal but should really be checked out?

Mental health professionals chimed in, but so did patients, loved ones, friends, etc. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Mental health affects us all.

Warning: Some of the following entries contain descriptions of abusive behavior.

Regulation

Inability to regulate your own emotions. Also, negative self-talk. we talk to ourselves way worse than any person could.

- Greeneyedgirl17

Parental Responsibility

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Child Psychologist here. It bugs me how much parents don't think they're responsible for their kid's behavior.

- Sqweegel8

Yes - it's the main reason I hate doing counseling with kids under 12. I spend more time trying to convince the parents that they play a role in their children's lives and ultimately are responsible for their behavior. A great many seem to think just bringing their child to counseling is the extent of their involvement.

- Softerthanever


I don't remember much of my earlier childhood, but what I do know is that I've always got easily frustrated and cried a lot, only to have my dad threaten me to stop crying when I was younger. I spent practically all of my free time from the end of primary school through to university playing video games because I didn't think I liked anything else, and couldn't seem to stick with anything else. I've always feared strangers, and been incredibly sensitive to the negative opinions of those I do know. My teeth are badly yellowed because I couldn't bring myself to brush my teeth often as a kid.

For as long as I remember, I've struggled with knowing what I feel, with knowing if I'm ever in the right, with knowing what I want, with knowing who I am, with being easily overwhelmed, with overthinking, with overly negative thoughts, with mood swings, with doing any work not last minute... the list goes on. I've always felt that something was wrong with me, that this wasn't how life was supposed to be lived, that I wasn't nearly as happy as I could be, but when I've reluctantly confided in my family, I've just been dismissed as overthinking again, or trying to blame something other than myself -- despite how utterly out of control my own actions felt.

I sat through 16 months of a toxic relationship with a girl diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and was subjected to constant emotional manipulation including threats of suicide if I didn't call her, and yet I stuck by her because I just didn't know if I was in the wrong. I got counselling at university and felt bad for taking up the space of someone who will very likely need it more, and later that year I failed my degree because of what I felt was a rational decision that physics just wasn't for me anymore -- but neither was anything else.

Fast forward through a year and a bit of working full time in fast food, but working on myself through introspection, experimentation and research, I'm in a MUCH better place now; I've even got offers to study psychology at university next year. Despite this stark contrast, and an explicit collection of the ideas that helped me to overcome my own issues, my parents are reluctant to believe I have ever suffered with mental health issues of the anxiety and depression variety, and are insistent that my social difficulties must instead stem from Autism -- something out of everybody's control.

In having a conversation about the idea of Childhood Emotional Neglect, and explicitly telling them that it isn't placing blame, or preventing progress, and telling them how this idea has resulted in a huge amount of personal progress, they were still reluctant to believe it because they believe me to be just trying to place blame on them. Autism seems more viable to them because 'what normal person gets up at 8am every day and goes out to go to the gym and stuff?'

They completely deny that they've had any negative role in my upbringing, even after my mum has admitted that she never tried with anything in her life, including raising me.

I guess I ranted all this because denying parental responsibility/contribution does more than just bug me, it's hurtful and tragic. It could have been a never-ending generational loop of suffering were it not for a subtle but pervading inkling that life could in fact be better than this. And worst of all in my experience it seems to all have stemmed from a single stupid misconception about who we are. If there's anything we desperately need in these modern times, it's awareness about psychological ideas. Nobody is born to be a depressed recluse with no idea of what they want from life.

- Five_High

Causing Impairment

A good rule of thumb as to whether a behavior or symptom should be checked out is the same we use to determine a diagnosable disorder : if it causes impairment in one or more areas of life.

The range of what is normal is huge - but if something keeps you from going to school or work, keeps you from maintaining basic hygiene, from maintaining your friendships/ familial relationships/ romantic relationships... It's causing impairment and you should seek help.

- pgbilotto

If Your Toddler Is...

Research psychologist checking in:

If your toddler is doing socially unusual behaviors such as:

Not responding to name

Not responding to a social smile

Not pointing/ using gestures

Using your hands/arms as if they were a tool or extension of their body

Engaging in repetitive behaviors

Not responding to your use of gaze to direct their attention to distal objects

Check with the pediatrician about getting assessed for autism spectrum disorder.

- I_are_facepalm

Not Your Job

Therapist here. If you grew up with or currently are a part of a family where the whole family has to work to keep one or more members of the family in a good mood or appeased, that's not healthy.

People are in charge of their own feelings. It is not your job to appease others so that they can emotionally regulate themselves.

- babyrabiesfatty

That was me growing up. Everyone had to make dad happy. Never knew if something was going to set him off. And when we pissed him off, it would go on for weeks. Outbursts, throwing breakable items, verbally degrading you, and sometimes it would get physical.

That man threw me into a wall while he was drunk. Would have gone all the way through but there happened to be pipes.

And then he would use us like therapists telling us all the traumatizing stuff he went through as a child and expecting that to explain his behavior. He'd be the first to admit that he needed therapy and medication but never actually did anything about it. Fortunately, he's no longer in my life.

- becmar1989

Not Typical For Everyone

There have been a lot of my patients who have been pretty surprised when I've told them "hey, that's anxiety/depression" when they just thought their behaviors were typical for everyone.

  • not being able to maintain friendships
  • constantly being nervous about the safety of your child, to the point where you hate being alone with your child without your partner
  • not being able to motivate yourself to do things, especially things you once enjoyed
  • feeling excessively tired all the time
  • not being able to calm down and just thinking about the same thoughts over and over and feeling worried


Other things we can help with:

  • having a hard time trusting others
  • trying to recover a relationship from infidelity
  • not knowing why your kid is misbehaving so much and needing guidance
  • helping to improve communication within your relationships

It can be hard to bring these topics up! I totally get it.

Some things you can try are:

  • writing these things down and bringing them to therapy
  • making a mood journal for a week where you track how your moods are and how you're feeling with different activities, and using that as a conversation starter
  • two tools we use to measure depression and anxiety are the PHQ-9 and the GAD-7. If you google those, they're questionnaires that bring up some of these questions. You can fill those out and bring them in to your therapist
  • you can bring a friend or family member to help advocate for you if that would be easier.
  • you can write a letter reflecting on things you think you've made progress on in therapy and goals you have in moving forward and use that to start a convo with your therapist.


If you experience these things (and more!) therapists can help! Let us help you. I hate that cost is such a barrier for people. :(

Sometimes colleges offer free or discounted therapy from their students. When you're training to be a therapist, you spend at least 1 year working as a therapist while meeting with a supervisor each week to consult on your cases and get guidance on moving forward.

My college unfortunately didn't offer discounted sessions, but I know many do. It might be worth checking out.

Some systems also have charity care options for people with low incomes. That can be worth pursuing as well.

To find a therapist, if you're in the US and have insurance, you can call your insurance company and get a list of places that take your insurance. That's a good place to start.

- MinyMeeny

Sabotage

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Self-sabotaging behavior can ruin your life quickly. If you have an event in your life that has affected you negatively and you seem to find yourself exhibiting irrational or incongruent behaviors- see a counselor.

You don't have to have any certain pathology to seek mental wellness counseling.

- TRAMZ14

Other People Have It Worse

I've seen a lot of people dismiss their depression/other mental illness because it's "not that bad" or "other people have it worse" or "I can/should be able to handle it on my own."

You shouldn't have to suffer through mental illness even if you technically can. You deserve to be happy and therapists and psychiatrists are there to help you learn how to help yourself. It's not a weakness to find someone who can assist you in figuring out coping skills or prescribe you medications to help fine tune your brain's neurotransmitters.

- CatastropheCat_97

Your Child Doesn't Need To Hear That

The need for some parents to speak with their children about adult problems. No, your young child does not need to be aware that 'daddy slept with the lady next door'.

The parents that tell their children that they are going to 'go and speed my car into a tree purposely', 'kill myself while you are at school', or 'slit my wrist when I shower tonight'.

And, parents that feel they need their children 'fixed' as it's the child and not the family unit as the whole that needs support and/or assistance.


Your child doesn't need to hear that you are struggling financially - I'm talking more on the extreme side and towards children that have been extremely hurt and 'money talk' was used as a tool to make the child feel at fault and guilt to some degree.

I'm currently working with a child now that is triggered whenever he hears talk about finances and feels it's his fault they will eventually become homeless. They won't, but this is what he is told. If only he didn't eat so much, if only he didn't have so many school fee's. Not to mention the arguing between carers over finances - this must be his fault to though, they're yelling and shouting because of this.

- wingless-angel-13

Some Things Regularly Seen

Psychotherapist here.

Some things I see regularly that could have been caught earlier before they became a problem:

  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms. For example, drinking "to relax" frequently or smoking a lot. Even something like promiscuity can be a red flag that a person is trying to avoid dealing with something stressful by distracting themselves.
  • Self harm. Hitting yourself, banging your head on things, burning yourself on purpose, cutting yourself, etc. - all of those things indicate that it's time to talk with a professional.
  • "Normal" child/teen behaviors that are not actually normal, like running away or getting into fights.

  • Not communicating. When this happens, something is usually wrong (not always, as some folks are quieter than others). But if a child/teen/adult rarely speaks or if they are silent in the presence of their parent or significant other, it's time to get them to see a professional ALONE to have their safety assessed. I've seen individuals who are literally shut down due to having been profoundly abused by the people they live with and one of the main signs of that is silence. I've also seen people in perfectly good homes who cannot communicate due to extreme anxiety and without professional help it's hard for them to overcome this.
  • Mood swings. When a person's moods change from one extreme to another fairly often/regularly that is another concerning symptom. Sometimes they are considered eccentric or hormonal, but that sort of thing can be a sign of many problems from bipolar disorder to post traumatic stress disorder.

- Glitzyn

Definitely Not God

New nurse here! Did my rotation for mental health and one patient in particular took quite an interest in me, he was very polite and very kind, he was chatting up a storm, answered everyone's questions and repeatedly asked my name. Later, we got to look at patients files and I got his. He had a psychotic break and started hearing God. She told him her name was Courtney and that She had chosen him and he was to find Her and marry Her.

Guess what my first name is. Courtney. They ended up moving me to another part of the hospital after that because he was quite interested. Can confirm: I am definitely not God. Way too much responsibility. Obsessive behaviors and thoughts like that should definitely be checked out.

- Dorfalicious

No Exceptions

  • Extreme emotions
  • Lack of or struggle with impulse control
  • Blackouts
  • Extreme irritability
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Muted or bottled emotions
  • Feeling like an alien
  • Feeling like everyone has an ulterior motive
  • Self-isolation
  • Preoccupation with pleasing others or avoiding conflict
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Feeling like a part of your identity is missing or you don't have an identity of your own
  • Subtle tendencies to latch on to others (especially romantic partners or crushes — maybe sometimes you feel like you're just a tad "too much" or maybe you've heard that from some exes).

LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:

TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services

TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386

TrevorText — Text "START" to 678678. Available 24/7/365.

TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/

Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel

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