These Symptoms May Warrant an Evaluation by a Psychiatrist in Baltimore

Life’s changes and challenges often make many people feel overwhelmed. Obstacles and circumstances can cause a stir of emotions or changes in attitude that can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain. There is a chance that negative thinking and an overflow of mixed emotions will vanish with time. Then, there are instances where these feelings linger, perhaps even for months or even years. It is then that a closer look or examination of the mental state must be taken. Even one to two weeks of a number of symptoms occurring at the same time, like changes in mood, sleep, self-attitude, energy level, anxiety level, behavior, and mental sharpness can indicate a psychiatric condition amenable to treatment.

Self-diagnosis is not uncommon, as is the view that challenges or changes will simply rid themselves. Symptoms might be explained away, even when the person has had similar recurring feelings in the past under completely different circumstances. Failure to identify symptoms and diagnose the core of the problem can easily lead to more severe, recurrent, and sometimes dangerous consequences.

Mental distress is more common now than ever before. Research and treatment is widespread and ongoing. Psychiatrists have various approaches based on the dynamic of the illness. The key is to notice the symptoms and not ignore them, and then move forward to have them assessed.

Here are 5 signs that an evaluation by a psychiatrist is warranted:

1. Excessive fatigue or depression:

It is common for changes and unexpected occurrences in life to sometimes cause a downward shift in feelings. The need to compete for positions, attention and social status is a feeling that can easily get people down. This can contribute to becoming depressed or overwhelmed. These feelings can also come out of the blue, even when things objectively are going pretty well in the person’s life. Symptoms that come out of the blue can be associated with a family history of depression or other mental health conditions. The depression can be accompanied by low self-esteem, loss of appetite, decline in mood, hopelessness, irritability, and loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed. These are things that can lead to problems at work and with relationships, negative feelings about life, and much more. They make life feel difficult to enjoy, and everything may feel effortful. A psychiatric evaluation will assess these signs of depression.

2. Thoughts that life isn’t worth living:

Some who are depressed feel that they just want to run away or escape. This can take on a stronger tone of someone wishing they wouldn’t wake up the next morning, that they would just be taken in their sleep. Some express that they’re a burden and no longer feel needed on this earth. These are referred to as passive death wishes. While no definitive statement or intent may be made, the signs are there. Others have specific thoughts of ending their life by their own hands. It is important to take any mention of suicide (passive or direct) seriously. An evaluation by a psychiatrist would be recommended in this case. (*Of course, any discussion of this topic warrants noting that with any immediate safety concerns the person should seek out care in the emergency room or call 911).

3. Emotional distress, altered moods, risky conduct, and strong emotional actions:

People who display frequent or constant changes in mood, emotional turmoil, signs of distress, and engage in frequent self-defeating or risky behavior may be displaying signs of mental illness. These signs may be sporadic and brushed off by the individual, or have already escalated to obvious levels of severity. In either case, a psychiatric evaluation should be pursued to rule out or diagnose a mental illness.

4. Constant Worry, Anxiety, or Panic Attacks: These can occur in the context of different actual stress levels:

a) Regular everyday stressors but constant or disproportionate worry about them.
b) An elevated but not extreme increase in stressful circumstances but with an all-encompassing worry about them. There may have been a bothersome situation that others are telling the person to just put behind them but that they just can’t shake.
c) Objectively extreme high-stress levels causing constant fear and worry. This can be issues at work or in an individual’s personal life and can include traumatic events. Interestingly, a research article was just published showing that treatment with a well-tolerated group of medication, the SSRI’s, after a traumatic event can reduce the likelihood of certain general medical problems in the future. This certainly shows a mind-body connection, and further emphasizes the importance of psychiatric care.
d) Generalized anxiety and panic attacks can also come out of the blue. Anxiety or panic can even wake a person from sleep.

Regardless of the context, the symptoms of constant worry, anxiety or panic are treatable and an evaluation is highly recommended. Both psychotherapy and medication can be effective, and a psychiatric evaluation can best determine what approach or approaches would be best suited for the person.

5. Constant irritability or anger attacks:

Some people seem to have a naturally aggressive disposition that is easily set off by the simplest things. Others find they are constantly irritable out of character for them. Sometimes there are major things going on in the person’s life that are triggering these feelings and behaviors, and at other times they are in reaction to normal everyday circumstances. The reactions may seem warranted to the individual in response to others who have crossed them or unfair situations but are seen by others as unhealthy or disproportionate. Loved ones or friends may be afraid to point out the problem out of fear of becoming the focus of anger — they may find they are walking on eggshells. The irritable person may not recognize the problem because their reactions can seem justified to them. On the other hand, the person may hate that they are feeling irritable all the time. In any case, these emotions and behaviors can cause harm to relationships, or put jobs and careers at risk. And, the irritable or angry person, again, may themselves feel lousy most of the time and are not necessarily dealing effectively with situations. In addition, anger causes unhealthy physical stress reactions in the body, including in the cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems. An evaluation by a psychiatrist could identify if there is an underlying issue and determine what method of treatment would be most effective.

Of course, there are many other conditions that benefit from care from a psychiatrist, such as OCD and ADD/ADHD! Please see my previous blogs and information under “Conditions Treated” on the website for more info on these and others!

Unfortunately, it often isn’t until signs and symptoms such as the ones listed above have spiraled out of control that people begin to seek answers. This can be because of denial (recognizing but explaining away, or not themselves recognizing a problem) or stigma. It is obviously critical to seek care at that point, but it is also really important to proactively seek out an assessment by a psychiatrist before symptoms reach that level. We often refer to medical conditions as “disease,” that at its root means lack of sense of ease (“dis” “ease”), connoting that with these conditions there is a level of distress, or that things just seem so effortful. Psychiatric care aims to rectify this, alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life, and get to the root of the problem to prevent recurrences.

This article was originally posted on Dr. Neal Ranen M.D.

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