Warning Signs

The earlier we recognize that a family member is in distress, the earlier we can act to assist him or her to get help. Early diagnosis and treatment improves the chances of a successful recovery. Delayed diagnosis and treatment allows the illness to progress, causing more harm, making it more difficult to treat and sometimes finding there is no insurance or other ability to pay for treatment.

All too often the warning signs of substance abuse or mental health problem gradually show themselves over time, only to periodically retreat into remission – giving us false hope that he or she is well. Unfortunately, these illnesses are chronic and progressive – that is, they only appear to get better then reemerge with a vengeance. Sooner or later the individual is in crisis and we are forced to act.

Although we are not clinicians trained to diagnose a substance abuse or mental health problem, we can recognize when someone is in distress and in need of help. Have you observed a pattern involving changes for the worse in appearance, behavior, mood swings or performance? For example, is he or she increasingly:

  • unreliable and irresponsible
  • difficult to talk to or to be around
  • irritable and impatient
  • using poor judgment
  • acting in an indifferent or reckless manner
  • having trouble sleeping
  • using alcohol or drugs to relax or to fall asleep
  • acting impulsively
  • having financial problems
  • isolating
  • experiencing marital or relationship problems
  • eating in an unhealthy manner
  • engaging in Internet or video game activities in an unhealthy manner

If you see any of these warning signs and they either persist for two or more continuous weeks or they periodically reemerge and seem to be getting worse, he or she may have a substance abuse or mental health problem that requires professional assistance.