How Do You Know If You’re Not “Ok”?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Amongst many of the excellent social changes that are emerging to overcome mental health stigma is the national “R U OK?” day. The main purpose of this day is encourage people to check in with their friends, family and others in the community to make sure that they are “ok” in their mental health, and to of course encourage help-seeking where needed. The notion of the cause is great – it is often through this type of conversation where people gain the courage and/or knowledge that they need to take the first step towards dealing with their ‘not okayness’. But the premise of this model is the person in need can properly identify when they are not ok and respond to their support network accordingly. While the line drawn between being ok and not ok is not black and white, below is a list of 5 strategies to help you gauge whether your level of okayness might need some investigation by a health professional.

 

  1. You feel that something is ‘off’

When experiencing mental illness for the first time, it may be difficult to access the vocabulary around the symptoms that you are experiencing other than knowing that something within you is ‘off’, or, not quite right. While others may have not noticed any changes in you or your life may not have shifted in any dramatic ways, you have an inclination that you are not your normal self. This is a common symptom of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

 

  1. The feeling of “offness” has persisted for longer than 2 weeks

While there are a limited number of mental disorders that may develop in a very short period of time, most of them are not considered pathological until they have persisted for two weeks or longer. A good way to determine whether this is the case for you is to reflect back to the last time that you felt like ‘yourself’, and count how much time has passed since then. It’s also important to keep in mind that, there is no benefit of ‘waiting things out’ to see if they symptoms will pass on their own, as in most cases the sooner you get onto you symptoms, the quicker your recovery towards okayness will be.

 

  1. Your level of functioning is not as okay as it used to be

You know how when you notice your car isn’t running as well as it used to be? Perhaps its timing belt is a little out or the breaks aren’t as responsive. Well, the same sort of idea can be applied to our own level of functioning when we are experiencing a mental health issue, except in the case of humans our functioning relates to things like how we are performing at work, in relationships and in everyday tasks. If you notice that one of these areas of life has been out of kilter and you are struggling to fix it alone, then as you wouldn’t hesitate to see a mechanic, don’t hesitate to get things checked out with a GP.

 

  1. Your body doesn’t seem to cooperate with sleeping, eating, and (eh hem) having sex.

It’s ok to experience less than optimal sleep, appetite and sexual appetite from time to time, but if you have noticed that you are not getting as much satisfaction from these normally pleasurable activities for some time, then this alone is enough to get support. This is because disturbed sleep, lack of or increased appetite and lowered libido are common symptoms that co-occur with several mental disorders, and often stick around until the underlying mental disorder is treated.

 

  1. The idea of someone asking whether you are ok scares you

For many people, the idea of admitting that you are not ok is a really scary thing. And many people go through years of their life avoiding this conversation, to the detriment of getting the treatment that they need. For people who think they may not be ok but avoid discussing it in hope that this may make it go away, it is important to know that it is well established in scientific research that using avoidance as a way of dealing emotions almost inevitably makes things worse, while acceptance and reactiveness inevitably makes things better.

 

So, let’s try again – “R U OK”?

 

Sophie Mattingley

Doctor Of Psychology (Clinical) Student

Deakin University

 

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