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Guide to Identifying Emotional Crisis

Are you wondering whether how you’re feeling is considered a crisis? Not sure if these feelings are “normal” or warrant a call for help? Often times, a crisis is a response to a significant life event such as a sudden relationship break up, receiving news about the death of a loved one, or experiencing an assault or robbery. Crisis can also be a response to a culmination of a series of stressful experiences or events such as ongoing family/relationship conflict, academic stress, chronic illness, and work stressors. Emotional crises are not rare and reportedly are more common than heart attacks. Fortunately, an immediate response to the crisis situation can help to address the emergent need of the individual in crisis.

You know an emotional crisis is occurring when emotions are taking over to the extent they are affecting your functioning. A person in crisis may experience one of more of the following symptoms:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Body aches, headaches, backaches
  • Weakness, dizziness, fatigue
  • Heart palpitations, sweating and chills
  • Changes in your sleeping pattern (can’t sleep or oversleeping)
  • A decrease or increase in appetite
  • Increase in frequency of colds and other illnesses

Emotional symptoms:

  • Intense anxiety
  • Fear, shame, anger
  • Numbness
  • Depression, hopelessness, worthlessness
  • Flashbacks (re-experience or recurrent thoughts of the traumatic event)
  • Nightmares
  • Wishing you were dead
  • Wishing you did not exist
  • Thoughts of wanting to kill yourself

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may find it helpful to speak with someone from a crisis hotline. If you’re feeling unsafe and/or are having thoughts of wanting to kill yourself, please call 911 and tell the operator “I am having thoughts of killing myself”.

The 911 dispatcher will ask you for information to help the police identify your location. You will not get in trouble for doing this. Upon arrival, the police will help get you to a safe place, most likely an emergency room, where you will speak with a crisis counselor. This crisis counselor will help evaluate the current situation based on your reports, help soothe you, and provide a recommendation for future services.

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