Risk factors for mental and emotional problems
Your mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped by your experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed by experience.
Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:
Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life. Feeling lonely, isolated, unsafe, confused, or abused as an infant or young child.
Traumas or serious losses, especially early in life. Death of a parent or other traumatic experiences such as war or hospitalization.
Learned helplessness. Negative experiences that lead to a belief that you’re helpless and that you have little control over the situations in your life.
Illness, especially when it’s chronic, disabling, or isolates you from others.
Side effects of medications, especially in older people who may be taking a variety of medications.
Substance abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse can both cause mental health problems and make preexisting mental or emotional problems worse.
Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and emotional health, it’s never too late to make changes that will improve your psychological well-being. Risk factors can be counteracted with protective factors, like strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions.
When to seek professional help for emotional problems
If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and you still don’t feel good—then it’s time to seek professional help. Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can motivate us to do things for ourselves that we were not able to do on our own.
Red flag feelings and behaviors that may require immediate attention
Inability to sleep
Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life
Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions
Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control
Thoughts of death or suicide
If you identify with any of these red flag symptoms, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional.
Health and Wellness Associates