Common Mental Health Issues: When To Go It Alone and When To Seek Help

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If you’re an adult (or trying your best to be one!) you know life gets stressful. We’re all guilty of habits and behaviors that aren’t exactly awesome for our mental health. Obsessing over something minor for no apparent reason, being too hard on ourselves because we can’t fit into those tiny jeans, having too many drinks at dinner… we’ve all been there. But how do you know if you’re just having a few tough days or if it’s turning into something serious?


“The key to knowing if a behavior is turning into a problem is to check yourself or your loved ones. How severe are the symptoms? How long have they been going on? Are they inhibiting the person from living their life?” says New York City neuropsychologist and teaching faculty member at Columbia University Dr. Sanam Hafeez Psy.D.


So when do you handle it yourself and when do you seek help? Here’s Dr. Hafeez’s take on six common disorders and when it’s time to find a pro.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


“A person is Obsessive Compulsive when they have constant unwanted thoughts, feelings and ideas that drive them to behave in a certain way,” says Dr. Hafeez “Some OCDs feel they NEED to wash their hands or clean their homes or check on things repeatedly, or else.” Needing to clean your home every day to feel at ease does not mean you should seek a therapist. Needing to wash your hands once every hour is not abnormal. “The moment to seek help is when the person feels intense feelings of anxiety or fear if they DON’T do something” advises Hafeez.


Eating Disorders


Eating disorders are tricky because they come in many variations. A common misconception is that only under-weight females have eating disorders, when in truth they affect men and women of all sizes. “Eating disorders all look different. Some people might exhibit bizarre behaviors like spending long periods of time preparing or cutting up their food, or pushing it around their plate and not having a bite, others believe they are overweight when they are at a normal weight or even underweight, others binge eat, others purge, some don’t eat at all,” says Dr. Hafeez “You should definitely seek help if yourself or a loved one exhibits any of these behaviors more than twice in a short period of time or on a regular basis.”


Body Dysmorphic Disorder


Dysmorphia is happening when an individual obsesses over a flaw that only they can see or obsess over a minor flaw that others do not perceive to be a big deal. Common symptoms are avoiding social situations because of the perceived flaw, constantly hiding or picking at the perceived flaw, or seeking multiple plastic surgeries with little satisfaction. “Body dysmorphia is serious because it does not go away on its own, therapy is needed. Untreated dysmorphia symptoms can lead to depression and anxiety and may even lead to suicidal thoughts,” counsels Hafeez.




Some people are natural heavy drinkers. We all know or are the friend who would go out every night if it were possible. The key difference between someone that enjoys recreational boozing and an addict is that the latter ignores reason and responsibilities to drink. “An alcoholic will drink when they can’t and shouldn’t. Before work, before driving, even when they are in a precarious medical situation” says Dr. Hafeez “You should seek help if you cannot stop once the drinking has started, if you drink to “numb” or “avoid” feeling stressed or upset on a regular basis and especially if your drinking causes problems at your workplace, school or with your friends and family.”


Dr. Sanam Hafeez