Depression & Anxiety – When To Seek Help

By Susan Kinross, Professional Counsellor

Depression and anxiety are the two most prevalent mental health conditions in North America.  Knowing when to seek help is vitally important for both the depressed or anxious person, and extremely helpful for their families and friends.  Receiving the proper support as early as possible helps prevent unwanted suffering.  It offers the person a foundation from which they can learn tools, skills and ways to not only cope, but to thrive.


Everyone experiences feelings of unhappiness, sadness, grief, guilt, loss & failure from time to time in their life.  These emotions happen with the ups and downs of life, and usually pass after a short time.  For a person suffering from depression, these feelings are lasting.  If the following signs are ongoing, this indicates that it is time to seek help:

–        Feeling worthless, helpless or hopeless

–        Overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief

–        Feeling unreasonably guilty

–        Sleeping more or less than usual

–        Eating more or less than usual

–        Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions

–        Loss of motivation for daily self-care tasks

–        Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

–        Avoiding other people, isolating

–        Loss of energy, feeling very tired

–        Thoughts of death or suicide     Seek help immediately!  Resources include – Call the local crisis line, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), go to someplace safe, ie: therapist’s office, hospital emergency ward.  If not possible, call 911 


Although everyone experiences temporary anxiety at times, the person with an anxiety disorder suffers from prolonged feelings of fear and distress for no obvious reason.  Their life becomes a difficult and fear-filled journey, affecting every area of their life including relationships with family, friends, co-workers and colleagues.  Seeking help is an opportunity to learn new and different ways to cope and live, providing skills and tools that one can use for a more relaxed approach to life.  The following signs indicate that it is beneficial to seek help at this time:

–        Feeling anxious all or most of the time

–        Panic attacks – sudden feelings of terror without warning, accompanied by heart           palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, feelings of unreality or dying     

–        Anxiety attacks – feeling overcome by intense feelings of anxiety

–        Agoraphobia – avoiding situations which could trigger a panic or anxiety attack

–        Post traumatic stress disorder – may include flashbacks, nightmares, depression, anger or irritability

–        Obsessive compulsive disorder – having obsessions such as unwanted worry thoughts, racing thoughts, compulsions such as over-checking, organizing or counting

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