Determining What The Problem Is When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Feeling off, unhappy, or not yourself can be a difficult and confusing experience, especially during an emotional year. It might be hard to understand why you're feeling this way and even harder to know how to improve your mood. The root causes of these emotions can vary widely, from school problems to personal issues, and attempting to understand what may be behind these feelings  can often be an important first step in figuring out how to feel better.

Let’s examine a few common causes of feeling off, along with strategies you can try to address these emotions.

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Struggling with unhappiness and unsure of the root cause?

Common reasons for feeling unusual

The reason you’re feeling unusual or unhappy could have many different causes. Some common causes that you may identify with are listed below.

Mental health conditions

Having a mental health condition can affect your emotional state and how you see the world. With depression, for instance, you might feel unusually hopeless, worthless, sad, and withdrawn. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you might feel irritable, hypervigilant, and emotionally detached. Even high levels of stress can affect your body and mind, leading to you feeling dazed, forgetful, and easily angered. Learning more about common mental health conditions and their symptoms or seeking out a mental health professional for evaluation can help you identify if you may be experiencing a mental illness.

Challenging life circumstances

Another common cause of not feeling like yourself is facing difficult life circumstances. If you’ve recently lost your job, are experiencing relationship challenges or financial troubles, or are otherwise going through a difficult time, it’s not unusual to not feel like yourself. Situations like these may cause ongoing high levels of stress which can impact your mental health and lead to sleepless nights and questions about the future.

Past trauma

Trauma and other difficult past experiences can also impact how a person feels today, even if the events took place years or decades ago.

In some cases, these memories may have been with you since the event occurred. In others, strong feelings associated with the memory may surface later in life because of a trigger. Either way, coping with the effects of past trauma can be difficult and may make you feel off or unhappy in the present, especially on certain days or anniversaries.

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How to identify why you feel off

Pinpointing the root cause of feeling off may be challenging, especially if multiple factors are playing a role. However, understanding where these feelings might be coming from can help you understand what steps to take to help yourself feel better. One way to try and uncover the source of your feelings is through self-reflection and introspection. This process may involve taking time to reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and behavior to identify any patterns or triggers that may be contributing to your unhappiness. Journaling might also be a helpful tool for self-discovery. Additionally, seeking the support of a mental health professional or joining a free support group may help you uncover valuable insights. Other people may be able to help you examine feelings and patterns and provide you with strategies to address any underlying concerns.

Tips for addressing unhappy emotions

Whether you’ve been able to precisely pinpoint the reason you feel off or not, there are still steps you can take to try and improve your mood and well-being. For instance, you might consider the following list of strategies:

Manage stress

If you’re experiencing high or ongoing stress levels in your life, developing healthy coping skills such as eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly can help. Research also suggests that cultivating a mindfulness meditation practice can help individuals manage stress. You may be able to reduce your stress by dedicating even just an hour a day to self-care, like going for a quick run.

Build a support system

Having loved ones you can lean on when you’re not feeling like yourself can be helpful. Building a social network of friends, family, and people who you can talk to and be supported by can be invaluable when you’re going through a tough time.

Find meaning

Unhappiness can sometimes result from a lack of a sense of purpose in one’s life. If this factor resonates with you, you might try exploring new passions or hobbies or joining an open group or club to find new avenues of joy and fulfillment.

Set goals

Sometimes, feeling stuck or stagnant can make us feel unhappy. If you’re looking to change something about your life or achieve a long-held dream, you might set “SMART” goals to help you take meaningful steps in a structured order to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

Be wary of social media

Using social media excessively and comparing yourself to others can worsen feelings of unhappiness, so consider setting limits or taking breaks to prioritize your mental health.

Use available resources for mental health

Don’t hesitate to reach out to various organizations and local resource centers for support. Mental health organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness offer various tools and resources to support well-being. If feelings become too overwhelming, consider reaching out to a Suicide Prevention hotline for immediate help.

The above are just some examples of ways to manage mental health. However, they shouldn't replace professional medical advice. Any advice, diagnosis, or treatment should come from a qualified professional. In some cases, you might also want to consult a healthcare provider who can provide medical solutions for physical ailments that may be contributing to poor mental health.

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Struggling with unhappiness and unsure of the root cause?

How therapy can help

Meeting with a therapist is another way you can examine what might be making you feel off and work towards developing strategies for change. They might help you identify situations or thought patterns that may be contributing to your unhappiness and uncover ways to manage or shift them. They can also assist you in setting realistic goals, devising self-care strategies, and developing a new, more balanced perspective on your situation that might benefit your healing process. Rest assured, therapists are committed to safeguarding identity and discreetness in every session.

If you’d feel more comfortable meeting with a therapist online instead of in person, there are options available. Research suggests that online therapy can offer similar benefits to in-person sessions in many cases, which means you can generally choose the format that feels right for you without compromising on quality of care. With a virtual counseling platform like BetterHelp, for instance, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who you can speak with via phone calls, video calls, and/or online chat to address the challenges you may be facing. All you need is a wi-fi-enabled device and a stable internet connection, making this type of therapy more convenient and reachable for many.

Takeaway

Each person’s journey toward health and finding happiness or contentment or feeling like themselves again is different. Examining why you might be feeling off, whether it is due to external factors or something internal like a mental health condition, can help you figure out what steps to take to help yourself feel better. If you’re looking for guidance and support in this process, you might consider meeting with a trained mental health professional who can offer advice, diagnosis, or treatment options, such as therapy or medications. Remember, mental health concerns are not your fault, and help is available.
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