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When Is It Time to Refer?

Characteristics of Typical Distress and Distress Requiring Professional Attention

Consider talking to a professional for help if:​
  • Your distress leads to dangerous thoughts or behavior, such as considering suicide or physically harming your body. If you have an emergency medical situation, call 911.
  • Your distress lasts for a long time (weeks, months or years).
  • Your distress seems out of proportion to your problems. 
  • You feel distressed frequently, and you are not sure why.
  • You continue feeling bad even when good things happen.
  • You find that distress interferes with your ability to live life the way you want to live it.
  • You feel a need to use alcohol or drugs in order to feel better. 
Typical Distress

Usually begins to subside after a few hours or days

 Usually has an identifiable cause, such as:

    - Having an argument with a friend or loved one

    - Performing poorly on a major test or assignment

    - Receiving disappointing news

    - Finding out a friend lied to you

Usually has a reasonable intensity given the circumstances: 

    - Crying for a few days after a romantic breakup

    - Feeling butterflies in your stomach before a major

      exam or presentation

    - Not talking to a friend for a time after he/she

      betrays your trust

Gets better, at least briefly, when something good happens

Distress Requiring
Professional Attention

Often does not subside for weeks, months, or even years

Might not have a clearly identifiable cause: 

    - Crying frequently without knowing why

    - Having angry outbursts at others for no apparent


    - Feeling anxious in situations that are usually    

      considered non-threatening

 Is often out of proportion to the circumstances: 

    - Feeling worthless or hopeless 

    - Angry outbursts over small problems 

    - Avoiding classes or social situations because they

      make you feel very anxious                     

    - Diminished joy toward things they once enjoyed

Might not get better even when something good happens

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