Am I mentally ill or expecting too much of myself?


This post is partly inspired by the ever increasing prescription of medications for depression and anxiety. It is also informed by clients who have been told, perhaps by friends or family, that they must be mentally unwell, given the symptoms they present with (fatigue, worry, low mood, tearfulness, etc.). This can be daunting for individuals who have perhaps watched relatives endure mental health problems, and naturally fear that they may be heading down a slippery slope.

I am not suggesting that changes in mood be dismissed; it is important to inform your GP if you are struggling with fluctuating mood that has gone on for some time with no obvious trigger. Anxiety and low mood often come to the fore when we find ourselves under pressure or faced with uncertainty. In some cases, we may be able to problem-solve issues resulting in an improvement in mood but this requires some detective work in the first instance to identify contributing factors.

Often, individuals are carrying enormous burdens that they have become accustomed to and therefore do not make the link between their responsibilities to others and their deteriorating mood. Exhaustion can have a profound effect on physical and emotional well-being and does not necessarily suggest an underlying mental health problem. In some cases medication can ease periods of extreme anxiety and low motivation but solving the cause of this exhaustion is the only real path to recovery.

I would advise people struggling with low mood to ask themselves if they are stretching themselves too thin, giving to the detriment of receiving, and asking of themselves what they would not ask of others. It can be tough to challenge our norms, especially if we have become accustomed to being the ‘strong’ one who never says no for fear of letting others down. However, the results could be surprising. When we reduce our desire to take on the world we may come to find that others have been dis-empowered by our input and can now start to develop their own coping mechanisms, freeing up more time to look after yourself.