Urgent and Emergent Psychiatric Symptoms and Signs

Helping Yourself and Your Loved Ones

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Certain depression symptoms can lead to a hospital visit.. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

As you continue toward stability, there may be times when you need to urgently call your psychiatrist to set up an extra appointment or even go to the emergency room, but how do you know when?

Let's explore the symptoms and situations that may warrant either calling your psychiatrist or a trip to the emergency room, and how to also help loved ones in this situation.


Familiarize yourself with the toxicity and overdose symptoms of any medications you are taking.

If any of these symptoms develop, call your psychiatrist immediately. In addition, if medication side effects become intolerable or interfere with your everyday activities, contact your psychiatrist right away.

Psychiatric Symptoms

For those with bipolar disorder, it's important to see your psychiatrist right away if you are experiencing an acute bipolar episode, whether that's manic, depressive, or an episode with mixed features. Other urgent situations, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry include:

  • suicidality
  • aggression
  • legal difficulties
  • functional disability
  • work dysfunction and problems
  • marriage problems

Of course, this list is not inconclusive of everything. If you develop any new, worrisome symptoms or personal concerns, please contact your psychistrist.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If you are thinking of suicide or self-harm, seek immediate medical attention by going to the emergency room or calling 911.

It's important to know about a well recognized, excellent resource called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — which can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK.

Establish a Plan with Your Psychiatrist

Most psychiatrists have preferences regarding when to set up an appointment, when to have them emergently paged, or when to go directly to an emergency room.

Discuss these policies with your doctor at your first appointment.

Know Yourself

Get to know your warning signs — your personal red flags for an impending mood swing. Request a meeting with your psychiatrist as soon as possible if any develop.

For Loved Ones

If a friend or a loved one has bipolar disorder, together outline a plan now about how to handle emergency and crisis situations.

While the psychiatrist of a friend or loved one cannot disclose information to you, you most certainly can contact the psychiatrist to express concern and seek advice for handling a difficult situation.

If you suspect your loved one has any sort of mental health issue, please try to intervene and help them. According to the American Psychological Association, here are signs of an "emotional crisis."

  • Neglecting person hygiene (e.g. not showering)
  • Sleeping way less or more than usual
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Decline in performance at work or at school
  • Significant change in mood like feeling more irritable, angry, anxious, or sad
  • Withdrawing from usual activities or tasks and relationships

Other worrisome symptoms include paranoia or if your loved one is experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations — seeing or hearing things others do not.

This list is not inclusive though, so follow your gut if you are concerned a loved one is in need of psychiatric help.

If your loved one needs help finding a mental health professional, it's a good idea to persuade your loved one to talk with her primary care physician. Likewise, a person's workplace may be helpful if they have an employee assistance program, called EAP.


American Psychological Association. How to help in an emotional crisis. Retrieved November 2nd 2015.

Jain R. Managing bipolar disorder from urgent situations to maintenance therapy. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;69(3):e7.

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