Coronavirus: When to Seek Professional Help for Your Mental Health
Coronavirus has dumped us all into a new and harsh reality.
Our lives have changed dramatically and quickly, and we have no certainty about when things will return to normal. Collectively we’re processing an unbelievable amount of change and loss – loss of a job or financial security, loss of privacy, loss of freedom, loss of face to face connection. All of the spheres of our life have collided together in the same physical space. Home has become the place where we work, parent, socialise, exercise, chill out, freak out, do our hobbies, eat and sleep.
It’s all a bit of a mess really, so it makes sense then of course, that many of us are noticing the impact of this on our mental health.
What many people are describing right now actually mimics the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of depression and anxiety, as well as grief and loss, which include:
- Feeling flat, sad, overwhelmed, disconnected and irritable
- Low motivation or lack of interest
- Difficulty with normal routine and daily tasks
- Low energy/feeling fatigued
- Not enjoying things that you normally would
- Withdrawing from the people around you
- Problems focusing/concentrating and making decisions
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Loss of appetite or increased appetite
- Feeling teary
- Reduced libido
- Racing and/or excessive thoughts and worries
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Feeling scared about the future
- Feeling panicky
- Physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, racing heart and stomach problems
- Avoiding things that make you feel anxious
- Denying reality
These are normal human responses that make sense right now.
If you can relate to any of the experiences above, instead of thinking of them like symptoms or problems to fix, it can help to frame these as normal human responses to the extreme challenges, changes and losses we’re facing as we navigate a new type of normal.
So, when should you be seeking professional help then?
The answer varies for each of us, but here a few suggestions to consider when deciding if it would be useful to seek professional help:
- If you’ve been feeling flat, anxious or out of sorts for more days than not for a few weeks
- If you or others are worried the changes you’re experiencing
- If you’re feeling stuck or finding it tricky to shift these thoughts and feelings on your own
- If you’re noticing that how you’re feeling is getting in the way at home, at work or in your relationships
- If you’re thinking about suicide or self-harm. Please click here for some steps for staying safe if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
- If you’re wanting some practical suggestions to help you to cope
- If you have a history of mental health issues
What if you’re not sure about how your mental health is being impacted?
If you’re unsure, or just wondering about the impact of coronavirus on your mental health, it can be helpful to do some monitoring so that you can track your mood across time and pick up on any patterns.
A really simple way to do this is to rate your mood out of ten each day, where 0 = I couldn’t feel worse and 10 = I couldn’t feel better. It’s useful to make a few notes about the key things that were happening for you each day, to give your rating some context. See what you notice when you piece together your daily ratings over 1-2 weeks. Track them on a graph even. If you notice that your mood is getting worse over time, this indicates that it’s a good idea to seek professional support.
What if you’re noticing just a handful of signs, or just some mild changes – is it worth seeing a psychologist?
Of course, as psychologists, we’re big fans of therapy because every day we see the positive impact it has on people’s lives and relationships. So naturally, we err on the side of thinking it’s a good idea to reach out.
We also believe that therapy isn’t just about addressing symptoms. It’s also about having a space where you can speak freely and honestly about what’s going in on your life. It’s about being able to understand yourself better and learning tools that you can use for times when you’re overwhelmed, flat or struggling. Therapy is an empowering space and its purpose is to help you feel stronger and more resilient as you face the challenges of life.
Coronavirus is a challenge for us all. So, if you think you could benefit from having a space to kit yourself up to feel more armoured against the inevitable impact of isolation and all the other changes coronavirus has us faced with right now you might want to:
- Visit your GP to see if you’re eligible for a Mental Health Treatment Plan/Medicare referral. A Medicare referral will significantly reduce the out-of-pocket costs of seeing a psychologist. Bear in mind most GPs now offer Telehealth appointments too.
- Book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists.
- If you’re not sure if you’re ready to see a psychologist or you have questions, take a look at our eBook which walks through FAQs and myths about seeing a psychologist.
- We also have plenty of self-help resources on our website. We’ve collected together a few new and old resources that are specifically helpful for navigating coronavirus.
Image by @josefin via Unsplash.