Friday, September 17, 2010

Mental Health Checkup: Mood, Concentration, Balance, Energy

By Gina Duncan, M.D.

I’m rounding out my list of topics to consider in a personal mental health checkup. Keep in mind, this list is not exhaustive. It’s meant to provide a starting point to help you examine how you’re doing emotionally and mentally.

Mood — Do your moods feel pretty stable, or are you experiencing significant mood swings (either highs or lows)? Are you crying more than usual? Feeling persistently depressed for two weeks or more and any thoughts of suicide could indicate clinical depression.

Concentration — Are you able to focus on the task at hand, whether at work or at home, and get it done in a timely manner? Or, do you find yourself overrun with missed deadlines and undone chores? Often the first sign that our concentration is waning is when our productivity goes down. Poor concentration is a hallmark of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but it can also be a symptom of depression and anxiety and should not be overlooked.

Balance — Is there an appropriate balance between your home life and your work life? Between family time with your kids and “date nights” for you and your spouse? Are you getting in some “me-time”, including physical exercise and spiritual pursuits? Achieving perfect balance in your life is probably not possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth striving for! Juggling too many responsibilities is a prime way to end up stressed out and unhealthy.

Energy — Do you feel that you have the energy to do the things you need and want to do? Fatigue can be a sign of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, but it can also be a symptom of many physical illnesses including cancer, diabetes and sleep apnea. If you find that you are feeling unusually fatigued or have other concerning symptoms, it is important that you contact your doctor right away.

In my next blog entry, the last in this series, I’ll provide a statement to help you consider whether you are thriving or just coping.

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Comments are reviewed before posting, and comments that include profanity or other inappropriate material will not be posted. The comment section is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with your treating physician. If you need help with a mental health issue, please visit our resource page.