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.
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
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
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