man holding two masks with different moods

How do I Know if I have Depression, Anxiety or Mental Illness?

If you are asking this question, it’s a sign that you could benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. October is Mental Health Month with 10 October being World Mental Health day. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health and where to get help.

Warning Signs of Depression or Anxiety

Difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, loss of libido, pessimistic outlook, restlessness and agitation, feelings of panic, unusually suspicious, muscle tension without a cause, catastrophising…

It’s not necessarily that you are in the grips of a severe mental illness, but you’re probably getting the warning signs that your mental health is deteriorating. And just as you should pay attention to physical well-being, maintaining your psychological health is wiser than letting it go. As the proverb goes, prevention is better than cure.

Linked here is a quick mental health checklist you can do. If the results page recommends you see a GP or mental health professional (mental health social worker or psychologist), you can get help through Beyond Blue or contact me to make an appointment. If you are in Sydney Australia, I can provide you with the details of doctors who can assist you with a mental health care plan and you can receive a Medicare rebate if you choose to consult me or find another Medicare provider of focussed psychological strategies. If you are elsewhere, find out about online therapy.

The Power of Dialogue for Mental Health

Mental health apps and self-help books might be useful but they are not the same as having a conversation with a real person or being in the presence of someone who cares. At the same time, I know it can be hard to find a therapist, to make contact and turn up for an appointment the first time. It’s quite common that people leave it up to 6 months between reading my website and contacting me. And then it’s often another 6 months or more before they manage to book a session. So if you are putting off doing something about persistent worries or low mood, make a promise to yourself to do something during Mental Health Month.

Psychological problems can be quite debilitating if left untreated. A therapist I admire, Harlene Anderson, talks about the power of conversations to dissolve problems. That’s one reason I started offering online counselling. Appointments over webcam or through email exchange can feel easier to attend and I also offer phone sessions for those who prefer to be heard but not seen. Many who have met me online have made an in-person consultation in Sydney or elsewhere once they have felt more at ease. For others, those who live in remote places or are expats in non-English speaking countries, Internet based sessions mean they can still talk about what might be affecting their mental health when there are no professionals close at hand.

The foundations of good mental health are:

1. Getting enough sleep
2. Eating nutritious food regularly
3. Sufficient exercise
4. A balance of work, rest and play
5. Talking about your problems

Mental health counselling is an example of the fifth point and often assists in recovering the fourth. What might be helpful for you, right now?

Skills and Strategies for Recovering Mental Health

As an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, I’m qualified to assess and provide focussed psychological strategies for anxiety, depression, relationship problems, adjustment issues, suicidal thoughts, life crises and trauma as well as a range of other presentations. A course of treatment can involve mindfulness practices, cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation techniques, problem solving, developing skills for managing feelings and increasing capacity to interact with others. Previous experiences of therapy or counselling must be taken into account as well. So if you’ve had a bad experience with a psychologist or psychotherapist we can try to ensure that doesn’t happen again by looking at what went wrong or using a different therapeutic approach.

It’s worth keeping in mind that prevalent attitudes to mental ill health start from the perspective that the person is deficient, defective or disordered in some way or comparisons with what is ‘normal’. I question that. It is important that we also consider how ‘healthy’ behaviour has been constructed by our culture and upbringing. For example, many of the ideas we have about sex or masculinity have been passed down by religious traditions or parental conditioning. Feeling ashamed of your body or mannerisms or guilty about your sexual desires doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything ‘wrong’ with you. It might just reflect conditioning by family, schooling or unpleasant experiences.

Contact me now to find out more about my services or make an appointment.

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I wish you good mental health for October and beyond!