How do I tell the difference between regular changes in mood and symptoms of a mental health problem?
Everyone has ups and downs so it’s normal to experience changes in your mood, stress levels, appetite, etc. Maybe you haven’t slept well this week because you’re stressed about soccer finals. Maybe you’re so upset about something you can’t think straight. Maybe you’re so full of grief that you’re not as hungry as usual. Everyone responds differently to major life events and changing circumstances, but we all go through ups and downs. It's completely normal for these feelings to come and go, and usually we are able to ride it out and get back to feeling like our regular selves.
That said, there’s reason to be concerned when you’ve noticed a change in someone that becomes really intense, lasts a long time and/or is having a big impact on their day-to-day life. Changes in mood, stress, appetite, etc. might be symptoms of a mental health problem if:
- The intensity of the change is disproportionate to the circumstances causing it (e.g. feeling so anxious about an exam that they’re nauseous and can barely eat all week.)
- The change lasts several weeks (e.g. feeling like a failure and refusing to go out or socialize for three weeks after being cut from the baseball team.)
- The change is significantly impacting daily routines, responsibilities, and relationships (e.g. refusing to leave the house, ignoring all calls and texts from family/friends, giving up on their schoolwork etc.)
These types of changes might mean someone is dealing with more than the regular ups and downs of life and needs some support.