Mental Health Problem or Mood?

Everyone has days when they feel sad or tense. That’s life. But sometimes those bad days become more than just bad days … they become mental health issues. The challenge is knowing the difference and then dealing with it.

“It can be hard to tell what normal fluctuations in mood are versus changes due to something more serious,” Dr. Douglas A. Misquitta, a psychiatrist at the Ohio State University told US News & World Report.

Trying to tell if you or a friend is having a “bad day” or a mental health problem? Here are some ways to know the difference.

Cause. Sometimes bad moods just sneak up on us, but there’s usually an underlying, identifiable cause. A romantic break-up. A stressful day at work. Homefront annoyances. A reminder of loss. Those kinds of things can put your mood in a bad place. But if feelings of sadness or anxiety have no logical cause, it might mean you’re having a mental health challenge.

Duration. While a “bad day” might not always be 24 hours in length, it is usually relatively short, ranging from a few hours to a couple of days. However, if sadness or anxiety persists for a long time, you might need some mental health support.  

Frequency. Do your “bad moods” occur regularly or once in a blue moon? If you experience regularly recurring mood problems, your feelings might be more than moodiness.

Impact. If your mood slows you down a little, that’s to be expected. But if you are truly distracted from what you should be doing, are unable to handle basic responsibilities or activities, or withdraw from your normal life for an extended period of time, you might need help.

If you’re still not sure whether you’re experiencing moodiness or a mental health problem, try some things that often change your mood and see if they help. Engage in activities you enjoy. Make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep. Get together with friends. Exercise. Eat well. Take time to rest and destress. Think positive thoughts. Here are a few resources that are meant to help you wherever you are on your mental health journey.

If none of these activities can lift your spirits, if bad feelings persist and restrict your ability to do what you need to do, and if a sour mood affects your relationships, then it might be time to seek professional mental health support. If you’re not sure where to turn, contact your doctor or, if you have one, an employee assistance program. Or tell someone who cares about you, and let them help you get the help you need.

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