In poker, a “tell” is a sort of behavioral or observable change that, usually unbeknownst to the person, can reveal information that can be used for another player to get the upper hand. Smirks, scratching of the nose, looking away, smiling- expert poker players work hard to conceal these (why many wear sunglasses).
Notice Something Before It’s a Problem
For those who experience more than just passing feelings of anxiety, depression, or any mental health domain, one of the most essential components of treatment is to be able to quickly and proactively notice signs and symptoms so that a problem doesn’t have to get out of control (or a person who’s done treatment doesn’t relapse). In other words, identify it as quickly as you can.
Examples of mental health “tell”:
- One patient told me they always knew their depression was back when they didn’t want to brush their teeth.
- Biometrics (heart rate, breathing, etc.) can sometimes let us know something is up. Sometimes it just is what it is.
- Sleep changes.
- I personally notice when I get indecisive with minute things (which item to pick in a grocery store or where to eat or what show to watch)- this is usually a clue that I’m getting more anxious.
- What about you? _________________________________
Use Symptoms as Reference, Not Reassurance
As an Anxiety and OCD specialist, I also want to say to take care in using the above for reference, not reassurance. If you overly check and seek reassurance through your symptoms, you will get stuck. However, if you let your body and brain and experiences offer you information that you notice mindfully, the beauty of the brains we have is that we can utilize our executive function (EF) to sift through all the information and determine what to act on.
What Are Some Other Tells?
I am super curious about other “tells” you have experienced (or seen) in others. Help me learn from you by sharing in the comments! Also, for considerations specific to catching OCD, check out my other article, “Time-Saving OCD Shortcuts.”