When your life starts to feel out of control, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The American Psychological Association recommends you seek the help of a trained mental health professional if:

You constantly worry

You feel trapped

You aren’t getting any better with self-help

You feel as if you can’t handle things alone

Your feelings are affecting your job, relationships, and sleep or eating habits

Other reasons to seek help:

Someone who knows you well suggests that you go to counseling or you have an untreated problem with substance abuse

These are only some of the symptoms that may warrant seeking help; you may have others that concern you

Finding Help

The first person to talk with may be your family healthcare provider to find out if your symptoms may be caused by medical conditions.

If a medical condition is not the cause, your provider may be able to suggest a mental health professional.

The mental health professional you choose should be licensed by your state. These are the types of professionals who provide mental health services:

Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a medical healthcare provider with at least four years of specialized study and training in psychiatry after medical school. Psychiatrists can provide medical and psychiatric evaluations, treat disorders, provide psychotherapy, and prescribe and monitor medications.

Psychologist – A psychologist has a master’s degree in psychology or a doctoral degree in clinical, educational, counseling, or research psychology. Psychologists provide psychological testing and evaluations. A psychologist is also trained to treat emotional and behavioral problems and mental disorders, and provide psychotherapy and behavior modification.

Social Worker – A social worker has a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree and is licensed to practice social work. Social workers can assess and treat psychiatric illnesses and do psychotherapy.

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse – This is a specially trained nurse with a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. Mental health nurses can assess and treat illnesses and provide case management and psychotherapy. In some states, psychiatric nurses with advanced training can prescribe and monitor medicine.

Licensed Professional Counselor – A counselor has a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a similar discipline and has postgraduate experience. Counselors may provide services that include diagnosis and counseling.

The cost of counseling services depends on whether you choose a public or community-based practitioner, or one in private practice.

Where to Look

Finding the way to a solution can be as simple as a making a quick phone call. For example:

Consult your employer’s employee assistance program (EAP). Whether you want advice for relationship problems or financial difficulties, or you need help for severe anxiety or drug addiction, an EAP can connect you with services you need.

Contact your health insurance carrier, as it may or may not cover mental health services. Your health plan may have a special phone number you can call to find out if you have coverage, as well as what services are covered and any limit on the amount the plan will pay. There may be restrictions on where you are able to receive services.

Check with a community mental health center for guidance or a referral. These centers are listed in the telephone book and online and may be the most affordable choice for people who don’t have access to an EAP or who have no mental health coverage. These centers offer a range of mental health treatment and counseling services, usually at a reduced rate if you qualify.

If you don’t have health insurance or your insurance does not cover mental health, look for these resources:

Pastoral Counseling – Your place of worship can put you in touch with a pastoral counselor. Certified pastoral counselors are ministers in a recognized religious body who have advanced degrees in pastoral counseling and professional counseling experience.

Self-Help Groups – Another choice is to join a self-help or support group to learn about, talk about, and work on problems such as alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, family issues, or personal relationships.

An Informed Choice

Before establishing a relationship with any mental health professional, make certain the person has training and experience in your area of concern. This could include alcohol, depression, gambling, domestic violence, family therapy, or marriage counseling.

Also, you have the right to choose a professional who can meet your cultural concerns. For example, if you’re a woman dealing with domestic violence issues, feel free to ask for a female therapist. But a therapist doesn’t necessarily have to be like you to be able to help you. What’s most important is that the therapist is someone you feel comfortable talking to honestly and who seems to care about your well-being.

Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation

What is a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation?

A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation may be needed to diagnose emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders. An evaluation is made based on behaviors present and in relation to physical, genetic, environmental, social, cognitive (thinking), emotional, and educational parts that may be affected as a result of these behaviors.

What is involved in a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation?

These are the most common parts of a comprehensive, diagnostic psychiatric evaluation. But, each evaluation is different, as each person’s symptoms and behaviors are different. Evaluation may include:

Description of behaviors (when do the behaviors happen, how long does the behavior last, what are the conditions in which the behaviors most often happen)

Description of symptoms (physical and psychiatric symptoms)

Effects of behaviors or symptoms related to:

Work performance

Relationships and interactions with others (spouse, coworkers, family members, or neighbors)

Family involvement

Activity involvement

Psychiatric interview

Personal and family history of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders

Complete medical history, including description of the person’s overall physical health, list of any other illnesses or conditions present, and any current treatments

Lab tests, in some cases (may be used to determine if an underlying medical condition is present), including:

Blood tests

Radiology studies to look for abnormalities, particularly in the brain structures

Educational assessments

Speech and language assessments

Psychological assessments

When a Family Member is Being Evaluated

It’s natural, and quite common, for spouses and family members to question themselves when it becomes necessary for a loved one to be psychiatrically evaluated. You may have many questions and concerns as to his or her welfare and emotional well-being.

Common questions include:

What is wrong with my spouse, family member, or loved one?

Is he or she abnormal?

Did I do something wrong in my relationship with him or her to cause this?

Does he or she need to be hospitalized?

Will he or she need treatment?

Will he or she “outgrow” or stop performing these behaviors at some point?

Is this just “a phase” he or she is going through?

How can I help him or her get better?

What will treatment cost?

Where do we go for help?

What does this diagnosis mean?

How can my family become involved?

Once a diagnosis is made, family involvement and active participation in treatment are very important for any person with a mental health disorder.

The primary healthcare provider or mental health practitioner will address questions and provide reassurance by working with you to establish long-term and short-term treatment goals for your loved one.

Knowing When to Seek Treatment for Mental Health Disorders

Knowing when to seek treatment for mental health disorders is important for parents and families. Many times, families, spouses, teachers, or friends are the first to suspect that their loved one or their student is challenged by feelings, behaviors, and/or environmental conditions that cause him or her to act disruptive, rebellious, or sad. This may include, but is not limited to, problems with relationships with friends or family members, work, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness, and responsiveness.

It’s also important to know that people of different ages will show different symptoms and behaviors. Familiarizing yourself with the common behaviors of children, teens, and adults that make it hard for them to adapt to situations will often help to identify any problems early when they can be treated. It’s important for families who suspect a problem in one, or more, of these areas to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment for mental health disorders is available and usually effective.

What are the symptoms of a potential problem in an adult?

These are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral, or developmental problem in an adult. However, each person may have different symptoms. Symptoms may include:

Significant decline in work performance, poor work attendance, or lack of productivity

Social withdrawal from activities, friends, or family

Substance (alcohol and drugs) abuse

Sleep disturbances (persistent nightmares, insomnia, hypersomnia, or flashbacks)

Depression (poor mood, negativity, or mood swings)

Appetite changes (significant weight gain or loss)

Continuous or frequent aggression

Continuous or frequent anger (for periods longer than 6 months)

Excessive worry or anxiety

Threats to self or others

Thoughts of death

Thoughts or talk of suicide

Destructive behaviors (like criminal activity
or stealing)

Sexually “acting out”

Lying or cheating

Many physical complaints, including being constantly tense or frequent aches and pains that can’t be traced to a physical cause or injury

Sudden feelings of panic, dizziness, or increased heartbeat

Increased feelings of guilt, helplessness,
or hopelessness

Decreased energy

The symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral, or developmental problem may look like other conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Information for this article was provided by Halifax Health.