Collecting Data on Our Own Mental Health
One minute we might feel overwhelmed and stressed, as though we’re ready to snap at the first person we see, the next we may feel perfectly calm and relaxed, as though none of that really ever happened. Everyone experiences emotional highs and lows from time to time, but sometimes it can be hard to remember exactly when we felt a certain way or what motivated that emotional response. This is especially troublesome for those individuals who experience more extreme emotional shifts, or those who have been experiencing more lows than usual. In an attempt to move on, we may force ourselves to forget our emotional experiences, even if they were negative in nature. However, this is seldom helpful when it comes to working with a therapist. The therapist is there to help guide us through our thoughts and feelings. Through this constructive relationship, we aim, at least in part, to better understand why it is we are feeling the way we do, or why we are responding to those feelings in a particular way.
How to Assess Your Mental Health
Diagnosis for mental health can be extremely helpful. While some individuals find labels to be trapping, others may feel as though they are a relief. For many, mental health diagnoses allow a direct answer to a problem. With a proper diagnosis from a therapist or other psychiatrist, it will be easier to seek treatment for whatever condition the individual struggling with. Each set of circumstances requires a different approach based on not only the condition, but the individual’s unique needs.
In order to achieve a diagnosis, symptoms must first be accurately assessed to determine what exactly is going on with each patient. In order to do this effectively, we must learn to collect data on ourselves. What does this mean? If we want an accurate diagnosis we remember our experiences so that we can give our therapist the most accurate information on our symptoms. There are numerous sources from which we can collect data on our mental health status ranging from physical to psychological.
Below are a few key ways we can provide information on ourselves and what we’re going through to our therapists or any other healthcare professional from whom we are seeking help.
1. Physical Exams
Physical exams are often the go-to method of determining whether or not there is something wrong, or an illness to be cured. Even when it comes to mental health, a physical exam can be a good way to collect important data on one’s current state and overall well-being. Oftentimes, our physical health has a strong impact on our mood. If we’re feeling unwell physically, it will reflect in our mindset and start to show in our behavior. For example, if we’re feeling as though we’re catching a cold, we certainly won’t be very happy about it. However, for more prolonged or serious illnesses there can be a stronger impact on our emotional and mental states. Anything from a vitamin deficiency to physical illness or medication side-effects could be a culprit. Overuse of certain medications can also lead to depressive effects not unlike what is experienced when consuming substances like alcohol.
2. Record Daily Mood
The only way to determine patterns in daily behavior is to record one’s mood on a regular basis. We may feel inclined to forget our “bad days” in the hopes of moving past them. But the only way to truly move past them is to understand why they’ve happened and how we can successfully move forward. We must address our needs, not ignore them. Otherwise, they’ll simply linger in the backs of our minds, waiting to snag our attention yet again. Some questions to ask may include:
- Am I enjoying things as much as I used to?
- Does _____ cause me to feel the same amount of happiness/pleasure/fulfillment as it has in the past?
- Do I feel upset more often than I used to?
- Do I feel motivated today?
If the answer to these questions is more often “no” than “yes,” that may be a tell-tale sign of a mood disorder or mental health distress.
3. Keep Track of Other Observances
Some other things we might look out for as indications that something is wrong include:
- weight changes
- changes in sleep cycle
- changes in energy levels
- negative or impairing thoughts such as those of death or suicide
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- increased likelihood of agitation
Each of these markers can help our therapist determine whether or not we are in the stages of a developing condition like Major Depressive Disorder.
Therapy Can Help Improve Mental Health
Thankfully, there are a variety of therapy options available to suit our individual needs. The key is to form a new relationship with the thoughts and feelings that previously only seemed to cause us harm. We can accomplish this by either challenging or formally disengaging with these responses. However, in any case we must first have an idea of what we’re dealing with. By collecting data, we can acutely describe the symptoms we’re experiencing. From that, therapists and other healthcare professional can come up with a more accurate diagnosis. Only when we know what we’re dealing with can we determine what we need to move on.