A mental health crisis is a sudden and overwhelming experience of severe mental health symptoms.
Experiencing a mental health crisis is a medical emergency and can lead to catastrophic or fatal consequences if left untreated. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to get free, confidential support from mental health crisis experts.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis can be the first step to getting help. If you know that you’re not at risk, but you’re still struggling with mental health symptoms, familiarizing yourself with sources of support and treatment options can help you de-escalate the situation, find healing, and prevent a future crisis.
The Many Types of Mental Health Crises
A mental health crisis can come from any number of mental health concerns, catastrophic events, or even substance or medication use. They often stem from underlying mental health conditions, such as:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
There is no one set of mental breakdown symptoms that define a mental health crisis. Even people without any diagnosed mental health conditions can experience a mental health crisis and may need the support of mental health professionals in order to recover.
Signs of a Mental Health Crisis
Quickly identifying the signs of mental health crises can help the person experiencing the crisis get the treatment and support they need to stabilize their symptoms and start feeling better. However, recognizing mental breakdown symptoms isn’t always easy, as many symptoms are contradictory.
The important piece to recognize is that a mental health crisis is a set of mental health problems that run out of control and can lead to a person causing harm to themselves or others. Some warning signs may include:
- Intense irritability or anger
- Physical violence
- Delusions, which are false beliefs
- Visual or auditory hallucinations, or seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Threats of harm to self or others
- Verbal or physical abuse
- Not eating or sleeping for days
- Sudden and extreme withdrawal
- Having no energy or motivation
- Extreme energy levels
- Rapid mood swings
- Rapid or uncontrollable speech
- Increasing drug or alcohol use
- Putting affairs in order or writing a will
A crisis extends beyond baseline mental health symptoms. It is not necessarily a crisis if a person living with depression has low levels of motivation or if a person living with PTSD becomes suddenly withdrawn after experiencing an event that reminds them of their traumatic experience.
But when distress levels are far out of line with typical experience, it can lead to a dangerous situation for the person experiencing a crisis.
How to Deal With a Mental Health Crisis
In the midst of a crisis, there are two main pathways to get the person the help they need, both involving seeking help from professionals. Don’t try to handle a loved one’s mental health crisis on your own.
If the person is an immediate danger to themselves or others, meaning they are violent, threatening violence, or putting themselves into harm’s way, call 911. Police and paramedics can help protect the safety of the person experiencing a mental health crisis and prevent harm from reaching anyone in the vicinity.
Law enforcement should be considered to be a last resort for people who are a direct danger. If the person experiencing crisis isn’t a direct danger, the better option is to call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.
This service is explicitly designed for people experiencing significant emotional distress, for those considering suicide, or for family members who need help finding crisis resources to help their loved ones.
Alternatively, you can use the live chat function on the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website.
While waiting for help to arrive, it’s essential to stay calm and supportive of your loved one experiencing a crisis. Don’t attempt to invalidate their experience, challenge their delusions, or physically restrain them. All of these actions can lead to an escalation in severe mental health symptoms.
Symptoms of Common Mental Health Issues
Mental health crisis is a very real danger for people living with common mental health concerns. While many people living with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other common mental health diagnoses may never experience a mental health crisis, leaving these issues untreated can lead to a worsening of the condition, making a crisis more likely to occur.
Of course, different mental health conditions have remarkably different symptoms. But there is a connecting thread between mental health concerns that may indicate that you have an underlying mental health disorder:
- Your mental health symptoms interfere with your ability to work or go to school
- Mental health symptoms cause rifts in your relationships with others
- You feel mental health concerns pressing on you more days than not
- Your mental health symptoms have gotten worse over time
- You’ve experienced your mental health symptoms for a period longer than two weeks
If your mental health challenges meet any of the above criteria, seeking out mental health treatment can help you start paving the way to recovery.
How to Know if You’re Experiencing a Mental Health Disorder
It might be tempting to self-diagnose a mental health disorder by reading articles online, but there is incredible complexity and overlap between differing mental health conditions. If you’re experiencing emotional or mental health symptoms that are harming your quality of life, seek out an assessment and diagnosis by a professional.
You may start by contacting your primary care physician, who can refer you to a mental health specialist. Or you can reach out to Plus by APN directly, where our clinical team can provide detailed diagnosis and assessment procedures to help you determine the source of your mental health challenges.
Any mental health challenge that causes a reduction in your quality of life is worth treating. There are several evidence-based methods that can help reduce your symptoms and prevent future mental health crises from occurring.
How to Deal With Mental Health Problems
The vast majority of mental health problems are treatable through evidence-based therapies and treatments. Disorders like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and ADHD have well-established treatment protocols that can vastly reduce your symptoms and help you live a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Traditional Treatment Options for Mental Health
Conventional treatment for mental health disorders typically falls into one of two categories: psychiatric medications and talk therapy. Either form of treatment can be used as a stand-alone, but most people achieve much better results when these treatment methods are combined.
Medication management of mental health disorders is typically performed under the supervision of a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can work to help diagnose your mental health disorder, prescribe medications that have been shown to be beneficial, and monitor your progress with treatment over time.
Effective medication management may mean working with a psychiatrist for a few weeks or months to determine which medications work for you, which dosage provides the most symptom relief, and to help you transition to new medications if your first medication doesn’t provide the assistance you’re looking for.
Medications are often used in conjunction with talk therapy for even more effective results. There are dozens of different talk therapy styles, but some of the most commonly used therapies for mental health treatment include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Determining which style of therapy is right for you depends on your specific diagnosis and personal preference. All of these therapy options are considered evidence-based for the treatment of certain mental health disorders, which means that they are proven to provide a reduction in symptoms in both clinical and research settings.
What to Do if Therapy Isn’t Working for Mental Health
As effective as therapy and medications may be, these two conventional treatment options don’t always work for everyone. However, recent clinical and scientific investigations have uncovered a number of innovative treatment methods that can help people even after therapy has not provided satisfactory results.
Ketamine is a dissociative psychedelic that has recently shown remarkable results in helping treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Ketamine acts as a therapy incubator, helping people make breakthroughs in therapy that would take months or years without the assistance of this medicine.
Ketamine-assisted therapy is provided in our clinic by a specially trained team of medical and mental health professionals. During the ketamine experience, you’ll work directly with a therapist to work through your issues. Most people see results almost immediately, but several treatments can enhance and solidify the progress you’ve made during treatment.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) uses advanced technology to target regions of the brain associated with certain mental health disorders. By mapping your brain with advanced neuroimaging technology and providing brief magnetic impulses to targeted brain regions, people can experience lasting symptom improvement in just a few short dTMS sessions.
dTMS is truly the intersection of neuroscience, medicine, and psychology, providing treatment directly to regions that are underactive in disorders such as depression or PTSD. While the treatments are brief, the new neural connections made in dTMS are incredibly durable, providing lasting improvement in functioning.
Stellate Ganglion Blocks
Stellate ganglion blocks are a novel treatment for people living with post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorders. The stellate ganglion is a bundle of nerves located in the neck, which is connected to the sympathetic nervous system.
By using a small dose of local anesthetic, a stellate ganglion block prevents the sympathetic nervous system from becoming overactive. For people experiencing the symptoms of PTSD or anxiety, this can greatly diminish the physical symptoms of either disorder and help the nervous system remain in a calm and relaxed state.
While a stellate ganglion block may not be a cure for either disorder, it can help people who are seeking recovery to find much-needed relief and to progress further and faster in other forms of therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a technique that exposes you to high levels of oxygen. Oxygen is an essential component of healing tissues in the body and the brain. HBOT can accelerate the recovery process involved in a number of mental health concerns.
Neurofeedback uses real-time brain data to help you understand how your brain reacts to certain thoughts, behaviors, or emotions. By tracking your brain activity in real time, you can learn to control your anxiety or stress, regulate your own brain activity, and discover the coping strategies that work for you.
Contact Plus by APN to Start Mental Health Treatment
Plus by APN is a comprehensive mental health facility that delivers targeted treatment options for people living with the symptoms of mental health disorders. While treatment at Plus by APN can help with preventing future mental health crises, we are not an emergency mental health facility.
If you or a loved one is in a mental health crisis, call 988 or visit the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website to speak to a crisis specialist and get the immediate care and services you need.
But if you’ve just experienced a crisis and want to find treatment to help you recover from your symptoms, the services at Plus by APN might be right for you. Our team can help develop a personalized recovery plan that helps prevent future crises.
- Li, Yan, and Hannah Loshak. “Stellate Ganglion Block for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety.” Canadian Journal of Health Technologies, canjhealthtechnol.ca/index.php/cjht/article/view/rc1339. Accessed 23 Dec. 2023.
- Khan, Arif et al. “A systematic review of comparative efficacy of treatments and controls for depression.” PloS one vol. 7,7 (2012): e41778. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041778