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Identify Symptoms

Identifying your symptoms is the first step in finding the most effective treatment for your problem. However, this can also be the most difficult step. Sometimes people recognize that they don’t feel well or aren’t functioning well, but they don’t know why.

If you’re having trouble identifying your symptoms and don’t know how to start using this website, we suggest using one of the following strategies to identify your problem:

First, seek help from a medical or mental health professional if your problem is overwhelming, causing you physical distress, or is related to thoughts of suicide or hurting someone else. Some problems are difficult to identify or too severe to be self-diagnosed or self-treated.

Second, keep a pen and some paper with you for a few weeks. Whenever you recognize that you’re not feeling well or something is wrong, record what’s happening, but be specific. Record as many of the details as you can:

  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What were you doing or what event was taking place?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How were you feeling (both physically and emotionally)?

Over time, note any patterns you observe. For example, does your problem only occur when you’re with a certain person or group of people? Does your problem often occur at a specific place or involve a specific type of behavior? Does your problem involve specific thoughts, like self-critical thoughts or worried thoughts? Or, do you mainly struggle with emotions that are distressing or unstable?

Once you recognize a pattern, you’ll be better able to choose from the categories of problems on the previous page.

Third, ask someone for help with identifying the pattern of your problems. This should be a person you trust and who knows you well enough to honestly evaluate what’s happening. This could be a good friend, loved one, family member, spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, close neighbor, or someone else who knows you well. But remember that it should be someone whose opinion you trust and value, not someone who doesn’t know you well or with whom you have difficulties.

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