How the Enneagram Helps You Recognize Your Mental Health Red Flags

I said that the next time I posted, I would talk about some of the things I find helpful when I’m in a mental health slump. But as I thought more about it, I wanted to be sure to first talk more about how to recognize your own mental health red flags. Before you can get help, you have to realize that you need it.

On my resources page, there are two different infographics that can offer some insight regarding this. One is from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) titled My Mental Health: Do I Need Help? The other is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and is called Common Warning Signs of Mental Illness.

Those infographics are a great place to start, but I also think each person has their own unique red flags and triggers when it comes to mental health issues. And learning what your own unique red flags are will be immensely helpful in making sure you don’t go too far down the path towards a mental health crisis before intervening. 

Another really amazing resource for identifying your own personal red flags is the Enneagram. 

I have found the Enneagram to be an absolutely amazing tool for helping me learn more about myself and try to grow into a healthier version of myself.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Enneagram, I recommend checking out the Enneagram Institute. Essentially, the Enneagram helps you to find your basic personality type out of 9 different options. Once you know your type, you can really start digging in to all the resources the Enneagram has to offer!

Enneagram chart with types listed

Each Enneagram type is associated with a basic set of general traits that describe them, and each type also has unique traits that they exhibit when they are in times of stress (disintegration) and times of growth (integration). 

I am an Enneagram type 1 – which is known as the Reformer (or Perfectionist). When Ones are in a healthy place, their growth arrow moves them towards the healthy traits of a Seven (the Enthusiast), which means they become “more spontaneous and joyful” (often hard for Ones who like having control of all situations.) But when Ones are in a state of stress, or disintegration, their arrow points them towards a Four (the Individualist), which means they might become a bit more “moody, irrational, or dramatic” (some of the less-healthy traits an Enneagram Four might exhibit.)

Over the years, I’ve started paying attention to myself more, and have discovered a few telling signs when I’m under stress. One of the big ones for me is that my tolerance for mess and clutter goes to zero. I like things to be neat and tidy on my best days, but when I’m under stress, every little pile of papers and dirty dish just grates on me like nothing else! So I find myself spending all my free time cleaning, and it’s never good enough. And then I see my family members doing things they enjoy, like playing games or relaxing on the couch, and I start to get angry that no one is helping me with all the chores.

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Sorry board game

“What’s the statute of limitations on apologies?”

Do you ever randomly find yourself wanting to apologize to people for things you did like 20 years ago?

HarryMetSally

There’s a scene from one of my favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally, where Harry asks the question, “what’s the statute of limitations on apologies?” He and Sally had met many years ago and had gotten off to a rocky start. Sally replies, “Ten years,” (the exact amount of time that had passed since they met). “I can just get it in under the wire,” says Harry, partly joking, but also partly serious.

Sometimes I’ll think back to elementary school or high school, and I’ll think about people I used to be friends with, but maybe I did something mean or stupid and we never talked again after that.

And now, looking back I’ll think, “why did I do that?” Sometimes it’s even more of an, “I can’t believe I did that!” kind of feeling.

I’ll admit, I’m occasionally tempted to find these people on social media and send them a message – but it just never seems right…

I recently rewatched The Office on Netflix for like the third time, and there’s an episode where Jim runs into a guy he hasn’t seen since the third grade. All during the episode Jim’s trying to avoid a conversation with this guy, and we eventually find out that Jim’s mom had told Jim he wasn’t allowed to be friends with this kid because he was in the “not-so-smart” kids’ reading group. Pam reassures Jim that he’s being ridiculous and that they are both grown-ups now so it doesn’t matter, and the scene eventually plays out where Jim is forced to confront his childhood friend.

Obviously, it doesn’t go well. Jim’s third grade friend is still mad that Jim considered him “too dumb” to be friends with. It’s overdone for dramatic effect, but I could totally see this happening in real life. There are certain people, who if I happened to run into them, their last memory of me might be from third grade. In their mind, I might still be that same person, instead of the person I am today – a person who has grown and matured to be more compassionate, empathetic, and socially aware – as probably almost all of us have since we were in third grade.

I tried to think of a person who, if I ran into them today, all I would remember when I saw them was something mean they did to me a long time ago. It wasn’t too hard to think of someone… there was this kid I knew when I was in 4th grade (he was in 5th), and we had an elective class together. His name was Patrick.

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