How to Spot the Signs of Hidden Struggles
27th Sep 2021
When somebody you know is having a difficult time, it isn’t always obvious. A hidden issue or illness doesn’t show clear signs or symptoms to other people, unlike many physical conditions. Some examples include mental health or chronic illness.
Because other people can’t see the struggles, they may be less empathetic and understanding towards the people suffering. However, invisible struggles are likely to be more common in your workplace than you might think. Learning how to spot the signs can be hard, but being able to can help you realise when someone around you is going through a challenging period. It’s just about knowing what to look out for.
How to become aware of invisible struggles
There is no ‘one solution suits all’ way of recognising the signs of invisible or hidden challenges. Depending on the person and the issue, the signs and the approach to take can be different.
Some people living with struggles can still behave or work just like they always have. But for others, a change in behaviour may be the first sign, no matter how small.
A change in work performance
If you think something may be wrong, consider their work. Has the quality changed compared to a few months ago? Perhaps they are taking longer to complete tasks or aren’t able to concentrate? Before speaking to them, think about possible reasons. Could they be under pressure, either at work or in their personal life? Maybe there has been a change in their home life that could be affecting their mental health or stress levels?
A change in behaviour
The more you get to know someone, the more you come to expect a certain temperament or behaviour. So, the more likely you are to notice when something is off. They could have different energy levels or suddenly be angry or impatient at work. You may notice they are eating more or less at lunch, or that they are late for work some mornings.
Maybe they are actually being very positive but it feels forced and unnatural to you. Toxic positivity, where people ‘put on a brave face’, has been a talking point during the pandemic.
A change in social interactions
This is often a common one. They may usually be talkative but are now quiet. Or, they may suddenly be very outgoing, which distracts them from other issues. Consider how they are with colleagues, on video calls and if you see them outside of work. People can be naturally quiet or loud, but it is changes to the way they are around others that could show something is wrong.
Encourage people to talk and be themselves
Being honest, open and true with people from the beginning can help them feel like they are able to talk to you if they need to. This may help them to discuss any problems as soon as they appear. Anybody with an existing challenge should also be made to feel they can be honest from the start, so you can spot changes as early as possible.
If you are somebody who struggles, no matter how, it is important to be yourself when at work and when getting to know your colleagues too. It’s common to hide personal issues, but having a work persona can make it hard for others to spot if something is wrong. It can also be tiring to not be your authentic self. Everyone must play their part so people can be genuine and open to both discussions and changes.
If you are suffering, or want to know how best to help somebody who you suspect is facing issues at the moment, there are places you can turn to for advice.
Chasing The Stigma has created the Hub of Hope for anybody who needs local help, or a charity for a specific issue.
CALM also has a list of similar charities that can help with specific causes.
Call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393 and visit their information and support hub.
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