Most of us have an idea where our physical health is at. But when it comes to psychological health, it can feel harder to gauge.
One might assume this is because we can’t ‘see’ the signs of psychological struggle like we can a scrape or bruise.
But many psychological struggles do have obvious and daily signs – it’s just that we are often not trained or necessarily encouraged to pay attention to our emotions and mental state.
The Daily Signs of a Psychological Imbalance
So what does one look for to figure out how well one is doing psychologically? In general look to inexplicable change in life basics like the following.
1. Your sleep is not good sleep.
It’s very normal to have a few nights or even weeks of disturbed sleep when life is suddenly stressful or exciting. And as for eight solid hours, it’s a myth that everyone needs this amount, so sleeping less isn’t necessarily anything to worry about.
But if life and your stress levels get back to normal but your sleep problem doesn’t, or your struggles with sleep have been going on for four or more weeks, it might be an indicator that more is going on than just trouble getting enough shut eye.
It’s not just insomnia to look out for, but also oversleeping but not feeling rested, being unable to wake up in the mornings, or restless and interrupted sleep despite following recommended sleep advice.
Depression and anxiety are very common causes of sleep problems. Even if you are calm in the day, waking up with a pounding heart might be anxiety. And depression and insomnia can be so interlinked it’s hard to tell what comes first. A little bit of depression can cause sleeplessness, but then not enough sleep can make you struggle to cope and make your moods even lower.
Sleep problems can also be a sign of serious psychological issues like bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia.
2. Food is not just about hunger.
A change in eating patterns, where you are under or overeating, is often a sign you are stressed or emotionally upset.
Have you instead drastically changed your eating patterns? If your ‘dieting’ or ‘healthy eating plan’ means you are thinking almost incessantly about food and that your social life is minimised (you stay at home rather than risk ‘unhealthy’ food), it might be that food has become about control for you, signalling you feel out of control with the rest of your life.
And if you have always had a bit of a binge problem and have decided it’s ‘no big deal’, think again. Binging has now clinically been recognised as it’s own eating disorder.
3. Your self-care routine is spotty.
It’s certainly not healthy to obsess on what we look like. And it is often a sign of low self-worth if we rely on our appearance to attract others instead of trusting that who we are is enough. But ignoring your appearance is also cause for concern.
Self-care is something we naturally invest in if we are feeling good about ourselves, but can be one of the first things to falter if we are emotionally struggling. It’s again about looking at your own personal spectrum. If you were always the one dashing out in jeans with wet hair and bitten nails, and never had an exercise routine, then it’s obviously not a sign of anything more if you are still doing so.
But have you gone from exercising three times a week to sitting around the house? The man who spent as much time in the bathroom as his wife who now has a scruffy beard? It might just be time to ask yourself if you are emotionally upset or have some issues to process.
4. Your relationships are increasingly like run-ins.
Relationships might be the best mirror there is for reflecting our issues back to us.
If you are always fighting with friends, family, or partners, or can’t maintain a relationship or strong friendship for too long, it’s not normal or something you have to ‘just live with’.
(Not sure you are any good at relationships? Read our article on authentic relationships for a better idea of what a healthy one looks like).
Don’t overlook work relationships as an indicator of mental wellbeing. Always disagreeing with colleagues, being the odd one out, and having a history of getting fired are all red flags of unresolved emotional baggage or confused core beliefs about yourself that have you overreactive.
5. Your finances are….uh-oh.
If you have negative core beliefs about yourself, such as believing you are worthless or bad, it can manifest as not allowing yourself to do well financially. It’s a way to keep yourself down, and a brilliant way to self-sabotage.
Troubles with money can also happen if we are struggling emotionally because it takes time and energy to repress emotions, meaning things like doing our expenses get ignored.
And of course, buying too much because you want to ‘feel better’ can leave you constantly broke. If you turn to shopping to make you happy you might have an addiction.
Debt and depression are often a chicken and egg situation. Struggling with finances causes depression, which in turn causes more struggle in life, including with money.
6. The libido is….
How much sex is healthy? It’s an individual thing. But much stress or anxiety lowers self-esteem. This can have you uninterested in sex and not realising why. Also look out for feeling depressed after sex, another indicator there are issues to look at.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you have suddenly increased your number of sexual partners, are practising unsafe sex often, or find yourself cruising pickup websites and apps when at work, it could be that you are creeping towards sex addiction and using sex to avoid emotional upset.
7. You’re just tired. All. Day. Long.
Tired all the time, despite going to bed early and getting several hours sleep? Tried everything, from better eating to taking supplements, and can’t feel the energy you used to? Find yourself dropping off at the most inopportune moments?
Or just feel like you can’t access your brain anymore, but are living life through a strange haze?
It might be your mind draining you (read more in our article, The Psychological Causes of Exhaustion).
8. Your days lack purpose.
Sure, we all change and grow, and so do our goals and what we want from life.
But if you struggle to know what the point of life is, and don’t feel that your days have meaning, it is generally a sign that you are floundering psychologically and need some help defining your values and deciding who you are.
9. Your mind won’t stop.
Nonstop worry about things you can’t control is a sign of anxiety, which can be bought on by too much stress.
Also listen for whether your thoughts match what you say. If you think judgemental negative thoughts but then say sweet nice things, you are lacking in congruence, which shows you could use taking time to get to know yourself better.
If your negative thoughts scare you, don’t panic. What we think determines cycle of actions, yes. But very dark thoughts are for most of us just that – thoughts. They can represent repressed parts of us wanting attention, such as an angry neglected child we once were. A counsellor or therapist can help you be more comfortable with your thoughts and help you process the difficult ones.
Are you worried?
If you do suddenly feel you might be struggling more psychologically than you realised, don’t use it to beat yourself or compare yourself to others.
The truth is that, jut as we all will get the flu or worse at some point, we all struggle psychologically at different points. It’s just that we don’t (yet) live in a society that talks as openly about emotional and mental battles as physical ones. This is thankfully, changing.
Seek help if you need it. The idea that one must wait until careening to rock bottom to get support is not only silly, it’s sad. Why waste years struggling when you can work on yourself now and use the energy you save to craft a life that inspires and uplifts you?
Do you want to talk about another sign of psychological struggle we didn’t mention? Share below.