when to go to the ER for mental health help

When to Go to the ER for Mental Health Help

01 Feb 2023

When suffering from a psychological disorder, you might feel low, alone, and unable to make decisions. The situation is even worse if you’re isolated or it happens at odd night hours. If you or your loved one has a difficult mental situation, you might wonder whether to wait until the situation settles or seek urgent medical help. Generally, it’s essential to seek immediate care immediately if you aren’t sure what to do.

In this article, let’s learn about mental emergencies and symptoms that should prompt you to visit an ER or call for emergency care.

What mental health conditions are common in the ER?

According to a recent study, about 6% of adult visits to the ER are due to mental health issues, and 7% are pediatric visits.  The number of ER visits has increased significantly since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common mental conditions in the ER include:

  • Depression and mood disorder
  • Anxiety disorders like severe phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder

What causes mental disorders?

Sometimes it can be hard to determine the specific cause of mental disorders. In most cases, certain factors increase the condition, including:

  • Genes and family history
  • Life experiences like a history of abuse or stress, especially during childhood
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Abuse of alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Chronic medical conditions like cancer
  • Biological factors like a chemical imbalance in the brain

When should you go to the ER for mental conditions?

According to Isabelle Morley, PsyD, Boston, Massachusetts, you should go to the ER if you’re in a mental condition that threatens your safety. Therefore, if you think you or someone close to you might seriously hurt themselves or others, call your private doctor, go to a mental center near you, or visit an ER near you.

Common mental symptoms that should prompt you to go to the ER include:

  • Thoughts of self-harm and harming others
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Delusions or a false judgment or belief
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Mania or extreme changes in mood or emotions
  • Confusion
  • Hallucination
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression or assault behavior
  • Severe medication side effects
  • Severe insomnia
  • An obsessive-compulsive disorder that worsens

Mental emergencies can also cause physical symptoms that might require immediate care. These can include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Chest pains or heaviness
  • Shoulder, head, neck, and back pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained general body pains and aches

Once you get to the ER, they will examine your condition. They may begin by asking questions like your current symptoms when the symptoms started and whether they have happened before, your medical and mental history, and more.

Based on your symptoms and condition, treatment can include the following:

  • Physiotherapy and counseling
  • Medication
  • Support group
  • Hospitalization
  • Self-help plan
  • Peer support
  • Alternative medicine

If you need additional care or help, the ER team will refer you to the right specialized medical care.

How to prevent mental emergencies

There’s no sure way to prevent mental illness. However, the steps below can help you control your emotions, increase resilience, and boost your self-esteem to keep your situation under control and prevent severe symptoms:

  • Pay attention to warning signs. Your doctor or therapist can help establish some factors that trigger your symptoms and how to avoid or manage them. They will also help you know what to do if the symptoms return. Be sure to notify them if you notice any changes in your feelings or symptoms. You can also request close friends and family members to help monitor your symptoms and take action whenever necessary.
  • Get routine medical care. Sometimes mental problems can be caused by underlying health conditions. Frequent medical checkups can help diagnose and treat a new health problem before it progresses to severe stages.
  • Seek prompt treatment. Like most physical conditions, mental problems worsen if not addressed on time. Seek treatment right away if you have symptoms that indicate you might have a mental problem.
  • Take great care of yourself. Good habits like eating healthy, having enough sleep, and regular exercise can promote good psychological and physical wellness, lowering your risks of mental emergencies. Notify your doctor if you have trouble sleeping or need guidance on physical activity and diet.

Are you looking for an Emergency Room in Houston?

Do you need more information about mental health and emergencies? Or perhaps you’re looking for mental emergency care near you? Contact Memorial Village Emergency Room to book your appointment now!

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