Use This 'Pain Scale' To Assess Your Mental Health

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If you've ever been in the hospital recovering from a surgery, you know the health care providers will ask you to "rate" your pain on a scale of one to ten, so they can administer pain relief if you need it. But assessing mental-health distress doesn't have a simple scale, because mental health isn't as straightforward as physical pain.

But nonetheless, people suffering from depression, anxiety, or other disorders might find it helpful to take a look at this "mental health pain scale" to assess how they're feeling from day to day.

Image: Courtesy of The Graceful Patient

Rori, the blogger behind The Graceful Patient, created one for herself when she felt like patients needed a shorthand to communicate the state of their mental health, from level one ( "Everything is A-OK!") to level ten ("Contact a crisis line immediately.")

The tipping point into contacting a medical professional is level five: "Your mental health is starting to impact on your everyday life. Easy things are becoming difficult. You should talk to your doctor."

It's important to note that Rori isn't a medical professional herself — her blog is about her struggles with chronic illness. And there are, as she points out, other mental-health assessment tools, like the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, which can help you and your health care provider determine how worrisome your symptoms are. But for a shorter, to-the-point communiqué, it might be easier to say "I'm at a level eight."

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Now obviously this scale isn't in widespread use, but I think of it as especially helpful in articulating to yourself where you are in terms of distress. Is this a day when you're just a little frustrated, or is it a day when usually easy things are becoming difficult? Is this a day when you should reach out to your therapist or call a friend?

Mental-health issues can have a "frog in boiling water" aspect to them — sometimes you don't know how bad things have gotten, and a clear assessment can help. So if it helps you, keep the chart bookmarked for quick check-ins. And here's hoping for a good long stretch of level one.


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