Sick or Serious

Our health can be a huge guessing game sometimes. When’s something off with our bodies, like an ache or irritation, do we just let it run its course, or is it something we need to raise with our doctors? Is it a natural occurrence or something more serious?

You shouldn’t take risks when it comes to your health, but it’s also important not to panic and inflate an already upsetting situation. Doing so might actually aggravate your anxiety, which would be pointless if all you needed to do was drink more water.

So how do you know? As with any guessing game, you use the information available to you and make your best inference. At the end of the day, however, it all boils down to asking for expert advice from a medical professional.

What is “My head hurts”?

A headache can mean a lot of things. It can be a simple migraine that you get after a particularly stressful meeting. It could also result from the exact opposite after you’ve overslept.

Before anything else, take a break from what you’re doing, drink a glass of water, and relax. Sometimes, this alone can already be a relief. If you not, you can start assessing the possible triggers. Was it something you ate or drank? Were you performing an activity that could have caused it?

When to ask for a clue:

Some headaches could be signs of something more serious, like if it’s a persistent headache that hasn’t gone away in days, a sudden headache that is extremely painful, or a headache after a head injury or accident. Watch out as well for headaches that come with neurological effects like numbness, paralysis, dizziness, and confusion. These headaches could be severe, so bring yourself to the doctor when these things happen.

What is “I’m tired”?

We’ve all been there—that feeling of general lethargy. You’re tired, uninspired, and no amount of rest seems to solve things.

Fatigue is a normal part of life, a daily occurrence even. Especially for the working adult, being tired is often part of the job. Depending on what’s getting you exhausted, the best way to address it is to really take breaks from whatever is tiring you out. If it’s a physical activity, make sure to take proper breaks and hydrate. If it’s mental stress from work, give yourself time to breathe and refocus. And as always, drink water.

When to call a lifeline:

As with most illnesses, one way to tell if it might be something more serious is if it is chronic or repeatedly happens for a prolonged period. While we might be quick to dismiss tiredness as just a part of adult life, an illness called chronic fatigue syndrome does exist.

Chronic fatigue can have many possible causes—from viral infections to hormonal imbalances and psychological trauma. It may be hard to pinpoint if it’s something serious, but if you’ve been experiencing headaches, fatigue, or non-restful sleep for far too long, now might be a good time to have yourself checked because you might need treatment for chronic fatigue.

What is “I’m sad”?

We all go through a case of the blues. For most people, there is a reason why we would feel depressed. Maybe you received bad news, or something tragic and traumatic occurred. These kinds of situations, though sad, are explainable.

There are depressive episodes, however, that seem to have no explanation whatsoever. There seems to be no specific trigger, which makes them even more difficult to overcome. For some people, it’s seasonal—a depression that comes and goes with the changing of seasons. For others, however, it’s a state that lasts for years.

Called major depressive disorder, this mental illness affects 16.1 million American adults. It’s a disability that requires serious attention and long-term treatment. But the good news is precisely that–there is hope. Help is out there. There are tons of resources available for anyone, and so many people have felt better through medication and therapy.

Your health isn’t something to play around with. We shouldn’t panic, but we also shouldn’t take things lightly. It’s always good to err on the side of caution and consult with a doctor. If it’s nothing serious, you at least got yourself a regular checkup. If it’s something that requires more attention, then you’ve just taken your first step on the road to recovery.