Health & Wellness

Your Mental Health Matters

Nearly half of Americans experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. The right support makes a difference. Here are resources and information that can help you help yourself and others.
Published August 16, 2018

At WW, we know that health goes beyond the body—it touches the mind too. So while eating nutrient-packed foods, getting restful sleep, and moving our bodies is key to taking care of ourselves, so is paying attention to how we feel. And we feel a lot! Happiness. Sadness. Worry. Hope. It’s all part of the human experience.

When the negative emotions become unusually intense or persistent, however, then professional support may be warranted. A good rule of thumb? If the way you feel has been getting in the way of your ability to meet responsibilities, maintain healthy relationships, just live fully, or all of the above, it’s time to ask for help.

WW doesn't provide mental health treatment or advice, but we care deeply about your emotional well-being. That’s why the WW Science Team developed this resource—to connect you with trustworthy resources, empower you to learn more, and encourage you to seek care when you need it.

Common Mental Health Concerns


Difficult emotions are part of life—learning about them can help you to better cope with the feelings, and support others to do the same. Below is a condensed guide to some of the more typical mental health concerns that affect millions of adults every year, from natural, short-lived bouts of trouble to true mental health disorders.

Eating and body image

People come to WW for support in reaching their weight and wellness goals, because the program is built on evidence-based approaches that help people make changes to how they eat, move, sleep, and think about the journey.

But we recognize that some people have experienced significant distress throughout their lives related to eating behaviors and how they think about food—and how they think about their bodies. Chronic feelings of guilt and shame around eating, excessive exercising, or overall preoccupation with weight or body shape are just a few symptoms that can indicate an eating disorder or disturbance. For people struggling with such distress, the weight-loss and wellness journey can be especially complex.

At WW, we believe that weight-loss programs are not appropriate for people who are struggling with disordered eating. Addressing eating disorder symptoms with a qualified care professional is critical for improving one’s health.

For this reason, people who have been diagnosed with or treated for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa in the last year are not eligible to join WW. Further, WW members who are experiencing disordered eating may be asked to suspend their WW membership until they receive medical clearance to return to the program.

More broadly, our body image—thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of our body—can evolve over our lifetime. And those thoughts, feelings, and perceptions aren't always exceedingly positive. If you are experiencing a preoccupation with it or a fixation on perceived flaws, that may signal the need for professional support.

Find more information on eating disorders.


Anxiety and stress

First off, stress and anxiety are totally natural feelings. But they’re not the same thing. While stress is a response to a specific external trigger, like a big work presentation, anxiety is an excessive, persistent worry that doesn’t go away—even when the trigger does.

Practices such as breathing exercises, reframing your thoughts, meditation, and being active can calm you in the moment. To maintain that calm over the long run, habits like maintaining a consistent daily routine, setting relationship boundaries, and connecting with your community can help.

All that said, if anxiety, fear, or worry persists over time and interferes with your daily activities or routines, then it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Among the most common mental health conditions, anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that refers to everything from obsessive-compulsive disorder to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder—often experienced as chronic worry. The good news is that these conditions are highly treatable—seeking professional help is the first step toward feeling better.

Find more information on anxiety and stress.


Depression

The blahs and the blues happen to everyone, either in response to specific life events or just…because. Like with the other conditions mentioned here, however, challenges can arise when such feelings don’t dissipate. If sadness, hopelessness, or a diminished interest in things one normally enjoys lasts for more than a few weeks, you may be experiencing a depressive disorder.

Depressive disorders—which include clinical depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and others—can have significant effects on how people feel, think, carry out relationships, and manage daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and working. What helps? Talk therapy, prescription antidepressant medication, or a combination of both have been found to be effective treatments.

Find more information on depression.


Self-harm and suicide

Nearly 10 million adults in the United States report having thoughts of suicide or self-harm at some point each year. These thoughts are often (but not always) accompanied by behavioral signs such as withdrawing from family and friends, talking about feeling empty or hopeless, using drugs or alcohol more often, or experiencing a change in eating or sleeping patterns. Suicidal thoughts or behavior are an alarm bell for extreme distress—they are not a bid for attention.

If you are thinking about harming yourself- or if you know someone who is-- it's critical to reach out for help immediately. You can connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7 by calling or texting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

Find more information on suicide prevention.


Grief

We often associate grief with the death of a loved one, but the reality is that people can grieve over any type of loss—a job, a home, a routine, or a relationship. And there’s no right way to do it. Though cultural and social norms may impact how some of us mourn, for the most part, it’s an extremely personal and unique process.

Among the more common symptoms: feeling sad, empty, angry, guilty, confused, or numb; changes in sleeping and eating patterns; difficulty concentrating; and no longer enjoying things you previously enjoyed. The grieving process can take a long time, and it may not follow a linear path. But talking about your loss, acknowledging your feelings, spending time with loved ones, and focusing on things that bring you joy can all support healing.

If your grief persists or worsens over an extended period of time, or leads to trouble taking care of yourself, reliance on drugs or alcohol, or thoughts of self-harm, then it’s critical that you reach out to a professional for help. It won’t erase the loss, but it can help you move forward.

Find more information on grief.


Loneliness

Loneliness describes a feeling of being alone and isolated—but you don’t necessarily need to be alone to feel it. While many people who experience loneliness are indeed physically isolated, others may have plenty of people around them but feel disconnected.

Common after certain life events—like losing a loved one or moving to a new place—loneliness is not a mental health disorder. It can, however, lead to a mental health disorder such as depression and can even impact one’s physical health.

If you are struggling with feelings of loneliness, know that there is help. A professional care provider or therapist can help you develop a plan, including learning new ways to connect with others.

Find more information on loneliness.


Alchohol and drug use

Many people use drugs and alcohol in a way that doesn’t interfere with their life—they’re still able to care for themselves and others and live a full and meaningful life. But for some 20 million adults in the United States, drug and alcohol use morphs into a substance use disorder, defined by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol, nicotine, narcotics, or drugs such as cocaine or marijuana.

A substance use disorder alters your typical desires and priorities, and it may interfere with your ability to manage responsibilities—with work, family, and other relationships.

The right treatment, however, can help you understand and change your relationship with drugs and alcohol. Behavioral counseling, medication, treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, and long-term follow-up care are all steps in the direction of recovery.

Find more information on alcohol and drug use.

Trauma

Trauma is a form of deep emotional distress caused by a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience. Examples of potentially traumatic events include natural disasters, acts of violence, and accidents like car crashes.

Survivors respond to traumatic experiences in different ways. Feelings like anxiety, sadness, or anger are common, as is difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and flashbacks or intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event. These responses can be immediate or delayed. They can be brief or prolonged.

In many cases, these feelings naturally abate over time—over a period of weeks or months. For a small number of survivors, though, these feelings remain and become chronic, a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many trauma survivors with and without PTSD find talk therapy helpful for processing their experiences. Medication is sometimes recommended, as well.

Find more information on trauma.


Relationship abuse

Everyone deserves to feel valued, respected, and safe in their relationships. Relationship abuse—also known as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence—occurs when one person in a relationship attempts to assert power or control over another. Relationship abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, financial, or all of the above. It can happen to anyone in any type of relationship and does not discriminate by race, gender, sex, sexuality, economic status, education, religion, or age.

Abusive relationships are extremely challenging to manage—and to leave. Along with physical harm, people who experience relationship abuse may experience emotional and psychological consequences that include anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation and helplessness. If you are in a relationship with someone who displays abusive patterns, know that the abuse is not your fault. Help is available.

Find more information on relationship abuse.


How to Find Help for Your Mental Health


So you’re ready to get help. (That’s awesome!) But now you’re thinking, “Where do I even start?” Consider the resources below; they’ll help you explore your options and find support.

Find a therapist

Many people have successfully navigated emotional difficulties by working with a psychologist or other licensed therapist. The American Psychological Association offers this beginner’s guide to therapy with more information on what to expect from the process and how to get started. Another useful resource is this National Institutes of Mental health guide to starting a conversation with your primary doctor about seeking mental health treatment.

Many professional groups and organizations offer location-based search tools to help you find psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors in your area. We’ve listed a few below.



Digital or online therapy platforms can be as effective as traditional in-person treatment and may be more convenient. Some popular digital therapy providers include:



The search tools and platforms above are just some possible starting points. WW is unable to endorse or verify the providers found on these or any other websites. As with all mental health treatment, it’s important to find providers who are licensed by the state in which they practice. Be sure to verify the credentials of any therapist before signing on. If you are insured, reaching out to your insurance carrier is also a great place to start, as many mental health services are covered by insurance.


National helplines

Many people have found that calling or texting a free helpline is conducive to working through hard feelings in the moment, and it can serve as an important first step in finding long-term support. Calls are generally handled by counselors or volunteers who are trained to offer suggestions and assistance for connecting with local resources.


Crisis Text Line
Text “Home” to 741741; in Spanish

Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 text messaging service for people who are experiencing any form of emotional distress, from grief to overwhelming anxiety. Crisis Text Line offers trained volunteers who will work to understand your problem, provide safety planning, and make recommendations for additional resources, if needed.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 988 or 800-273-TALK (8255); in Spanish, 888-628-9454

If you are thinking about attempting suicide or hurting yourself, or if you are worried about a friend or loved one who may be thinking about suicide, the lifeline network provides free and confidential support 24/7.


National Domestic Violence Hotline*
Call 800-799-7233; also in Spanish

This 24/7 hotline serves people experiencing relationship abuse, as well as people seeking to end their own abusive behavior. Trained advocates offer safety planning, emotional support, and resources for treatment providers and shelters across the United States.


*Internet usage can be monitored and is impossible to erase completely. If you’re concerned your internet usage might be monitored, call 800-799-SAFE (7233).


National Eating Disorders Association Helpline
Call or text 800-931-2237, in Spanish

Trained volunteers offer support, resources, and eating-disorder treatment information for people who may be experiencing disordered eating. Information is available for loved ones of people with eating disorders, as well. Check the information page for up-to-date hours of operation.


National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine
Call 800-950-NAMI (6264); in Spanish

The NAMI HelpLine is a free peer-support service providing information, local resource referrals, and support to people living with mental health conditions, as well as their family members and caregivers. Visit the website for up-to-date hours of operation.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline
Call 800-662-HELP (4357); in Spanish

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a confidential, free, 24/7 information service for individuals and loved ones of those living with mental disorders and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.


National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline
Call 800-656-HOPE (4673); in Spanish

Operated by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), this confidential, 24/7 hotline connects callers with resources in their communities. Based on zip code or the first six digits of a phone number, callers can find health facilities that offer specialized care for survivors of sexual violence, someone to help talk through experiences of sexual violence, referrals for long-term support, information about local laws, and more.


Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Call or text 800-422-4453; also in Spanish

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline offers 24/7 access to support and resources for every kind of child abuse situation. If you are a young person who is being harmed, if you know someone who might be hurting, or if you are concerned that you might harm a young person, call today.


Trevor Project Lifeline and chat service
Call 866-488-7386, or text “START” to 678-678

The Trevor Project provides crisis-intervention and suicide-prevention services to LBGTQIA+ youth, with trained volunteer counselors standing by 24/7. The Trevor Project serves young people who are in crisis, thinking about harming themselves, and/or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk.


WW’s team follows certain safety protocols in monitoring our member community, including our social network, Connect. In some cases, WW Coaches or other personnel may reach out to members who may benefit from outside support. While WW Coaches are not trained to provide clinical guidance on mental health concerns, they may guide members toward external resources, such as those above, when deemed appropriate.

--

This article was reviewed for accuracy in August 2022 by Ali Levine, LCSW, manager of behavior change coaching at WW. The WW Science Team is a dedicated group of experts who ensure all our solutions are rooted in the best possible research."