How do I know if I need professional counseling?

It can be difficult to know the difference between having a bad day (or week) and needing to seek help from a behavioral health professional or counselor.  Bookstores are filled with “self-help” books designed to fix everything from relationship problems to eating disorders, and the internet has thousands of quizzes that supposedly can help you “diagnose” various mental health or chemical dependency disorders that you may be suffering from.  But how do you really know that you or someone you care about needs to seek help from a professional?

The first place to start is to understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness.  These are widely varied, and some may not apply to you.  However, if you are noticing that you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms that are occurring over a period of time (not just a day or two), and severe enough that they are causing problems in their daily life, it is probably a good indication that they should seek help from a behavioral health professional.

The following are signs that you or your loved one may want to speak to a mental health professional.

In adults:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression, sadness or irritability (2 weeks or more)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Disinterest in activities that were previously sources of enjoyment
  • Inappropriate reactions to stimulus (i.e. laughing at a funeral, indifference to crucial situations)
  • Sudden shifts in personality
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits (too much or too little)
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Deterioration or abandonment of normal hygiene
  • Substance use or abuse outside the individual’s normal patterns

In older children and pre-adolescents:

  • Substance abuse
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Decline in academic or athletic performance
  • Disinterest or refusal to participate in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Inability to cry or excessive crying
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In younger children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to cry or excessive crying
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

What About Chemical Dependency?

How do you know if you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol?  Look over these simple questions – if you find yourself answering “yes” you may need to speak with a professional.
  • Do you use more drugs and/or alcohol than you intend?
  • Do most of your friends use drugs and/or alcohol regularly?
  • Have you used drugs and/or alcohol alone?
  • Have you gotten in trouble with work or school because of your drug and/or alcohol use?
  • Do you keep secrets from your family about your drug and/or alcohol use?
  • Have you been arrested for crimes associated with drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Do you become stressed when you do not have any drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Have you lost interest in the things you used to be involved in?
  • Do you use drugs and/or alcohol to deal with difficult feelings?


It is important to note that these lists are not exhaustive, and are not intended to replace an evaluation by a professional.  They are simply a guide to help you recognize some of the indicators that may point to a need to seek help.

If you believe that you or your loved one is in need of professional assistance, call us to speak with an assessment professional.

Adult Mental Health Assessments                           206-545-2354
Children/Youth Mental Health Assessments         206-461-4544
Chemical Dependency Assessments                     206-632-5009

Mental Health Services at CPC
Chemical Dependency Services at CPC


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