17 'Red Flags' That Might Mean It's Time to Pursue a Mental Illness Diagnosis


When you’re struggling with your mental health, there may come a point in time when you realize you need to seek help for what you’re experiencing. Part of this “help” might (but not always) mean getting an “official” diagnosis. Getting a mental illness diagnosis can be beneficial for a number reasons. For many, it means getting a word to describe what’s been going on in your head, and it can also help you and your treatment team decide what treatment is right for you.

But what recovery looks like for one person may be different than what it looks like for another. It’s important to remember every individual’s recovery journey will be unique to them.

With this in mind, we wanted to know what mental health struggles people have experienced that caused them to seek out a medical diagnosis. To open this discussion, we asked members of our mental health community to share a “red flag” that let them know they needed to seek an official mental illness diagnosis.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. I cried for five hours straight. Just sobbed and sobbed until no more tears would come. That was a Friday. I made it through the weekend somehow and called my doctor on Monday.” — Noreen A.

2. “I lost all emotions and I felt lost. It was like a huge fog in my head that I couldn’t escape. I also felt very heavy, I couldn’t hold myself up. I saw no reason to continue living. Every little task was like climbing Mt. Everest.” — Melissa Z.

3. “I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house for fear of answering the voices out loud and people looking at me like I’m ‘crazy.’ That was no way to live and I’m so glad I got help and medication so I can participate in life again. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m certainly much better off now.” — Jace P.

4. “[I had] angry outbursts for no real reason… way too much clutter in my head. [I] couldn’t control the negative thinking or talk myself down from those thoughts like [I] had been able to in the past…” — Trisha S.

5. “For me it was [because] I wasn’t taking care of myself anymore. I was angry and irritable all the time. I just felt numb and empty. I couldn’t get out of bed, shower, brush my hair… all those easy day-to-day tasks weren’t easy for me anymore.” — Erin K.

6. “[My] symptoms had become physical. The exhaustion was unbearable. It was tearing me down. I had actually been put on high blood pressure medication that I was able to come off of once we were able to find some control for my anxiety.” — Amanda L.

7. “I was losing it. Everything was falling apart. I had been cheating on my girlfriend, seeking out attention from others and I started self-harming again. I dissociated daily and had no real will to live. I was extremely irritable. It was definitely one of my lowest points and that’s when I decided I needed to talk to someone. I needed to get help.” — James S.

8. “When the thought of ending everything sounded best, I knew I needed help.” — Ashley L.

9. “I was listening to [the] song ‘Wake Me Up’ by Avicii, and I related so much to the lyrics that I just broke down and couldn’t stop. Called up work to say I wouldn’t be in then [was] off to my GP.” — Josh S.

10. “When I had a crisis last year, I had my first mixed episode and I knew it wasn’t ‘normal.’ I couldn’t function much, and that wasn’t like my depressive episodes at all, so I asked for help — not as an act of bravery, but to stay alive.” — Luz B.

11. “My friend pointed out that I was different, that I just wasn’t myself anymore. He said that something was wrong and he was worried about me. I was in such a haze, I hadn’t realized how bad the depression had become.” — Caron H.

12. “I panicked in the middle of a midterm and walked out, leaving it almost entirely blank. I was freaking out that the people beside me thought I had no idea what I was doing because they had already flipped their pages and I was still on the first page. I thought the professor was going to accuse me of cheating if I looked at the clock. I made a doctor’s appointment that day to get help.” — Erin W.

13. “When I stopped crying, when I literally felt nothing. When I realized I couldn’t even remember what happiness was. When I knew I had no motivation to do anything.” — Kristina C.

14. “I started to realize something wasn’t right when hallucinations started happening more and more each passing day and when my sleep was so off due to fear and anxiety. It was affecting my everyday life. My mind was a literal mess. I knew then something was up and what I was experiencing was not ‘normal.’” — Hollie M.

15. “Losing all of my friends and constantly getting into arguments for no reason. Going up and down with mood. Energetic to complete recluse in a matter of seconds. I knew I had an issue, this was around age 13, shortly after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with anxiety issues.” —Maci P.

16. “I screamed the house awake seven nights in a row [and was] unable to return to sleep after waking up hyperventilating. My foster mom took me to see doctors and I got a diagnosis of PTSD and night terrors along with medication to help me manage it. Thirteen years later and I still think her decision saved my life.” — Hope H.

17. “For me, it was when people started to notice. I knew something wasn’t right but thought I could figure it out on my own or ‘power through it.’ I had always kept it somewhat hidden. Once people started noticing I wasn’t doing well, I knew it was time to see a doctor.” — Brooke R.

Thinkstock photo via IconicBestiary.

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