Anger, rage, bitterness, thoughts of revenge, disappointment and hopelessness are self-destructive traits that can precipitate a downward spiral. Healthy individuals know how to recognize and anticipate when things are about to get out of control. This is a learning process, one that each of us can master. Knowing the signs that you’re approaching your tipping point is the first step.

  1. You blow up easily.

When anger isn’t dealt with, it tends to erupt. The angrier you are and the more you try to ignore it, the more likely you are to explode in a hotly-emotional tirade. This can be words and/or actions. If you’ve found yourself blowing up frequently, it’s time to take immediate action. Get professional help to deal with such anger, for left untreated, it will only get worse and possibly cause irreparable harm to you and those close to you, not to mention your job, finances and overall well-being.

  1. Everything bothers you.

If your nerves feel on top of your skin, the slightest shift in attitude, an expression, something another person says or does becomes magnified. It’s as if you can’t escape the overwhelming sensation that whatever it is, is unsettling, concerning, annoying or worse. You could be overstressed, overworked, fatigued, ill or a combination of these. This is a warning sign that you need to make some changes in how you do things. Learn how to space out tasks, enlist the assistance of others when things become too much, take some time for yourself. Like anger, when everything starts to bother you, it’s a sure bet you’re reaching your tipping point.

  1. Conversely, you don’t care about anything.

Not caring about anything sounds like merely existing. Yet it’s worse than that. Life is about experiences, interacting with others, pursuing your dreams, challenging yourself to do your best and going beyond that to reach new heights. If you care about nothing, you’re a hollow shell. That’s not a healthy way to live. You may be clinically depressed and could benefit from psychological counseling. At the very least, you need to talk with a trusted friend or other professional who can provide objective advice.

  1. Nothing you used to enjoy interests you.

Hiking in nearby parks or wildlife refuges, fishing with your kids, skiing or bicycling or participating in sports used to be your outlet, activities you once found exciting, relaxing and restorative. When none of your formerly interesting activities stir any desire to participate, you know you’re close to the edge. This is a red light warning to take seriously. Get out of your malaise. Force yourself to act, even if it feels awkward or you don’t have the heart for it.

  1. Instead of being with friends, you seek solitude.

Self-imposed isolation is a key indicator that something’s wrong. When you shy away from being with others, especially close friends, you’re hiding more than just your physical presence. You can’t or don’t want them to see you’re hurting, or you refuse to admit anything’s wrong, don’t want their criticism or interference. Yet, by choosing to be by yourself you’re denying yourself healthy human interaction. You may prefer your own company, but being with others is much healthier, especially during times of stress.

  1. Close relationships become difficult.

Those who know you best and care for you most are likely the first ones to recognize you’re reaching a tipping point. You can’t hide your emotions for too long in their presence. Sooner or later, conversation will become strained, you’ll look for reasons to stay away, opening up is harder to do and you’ll find yourself feeling more and more pushed to the edge. Sometimes the toughest conversation is with a loved one who only wants the best for you and is reaching out to help you when they see you struggling. Instead of pushing him or her away, accept the help that’s being freely offered.

  1. Alcohol or drugs are your way to escape.

Not prepared or willing to deal with your troubles, the quickest way to escape becomes consumption of substances. Alcohol or drugs or both may ease the pain, numb the conscience, blot out the troubles for a while, but it won’t last. The pain and problems will still be there when you sober up, perhaps even worse because of you checking out through substance abuse. If you find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, you may need counseling or rehab to overcome what may escalate to full-blown addiction.

  1. You make excuses for not showing up.

When it’s tough to put on a good face, to act as if everything is fine when you know it’s not, you start to make excuses for why you failed to appear at a family or business function or get-together. You shy away from activities with your friends, citing one lame excuse after another. While you may get away with this deception for a while, others will soon see through the lies. Rather than keep inviting you, they’re likely to surmise you don’t value their company and they’ll stay away. By not showing up, you’re depriving yourself the opportunity to do something healthy and effective to curtail the emotional tailspin you’re in.

  1. Your work suffers.

Once you’ve begun to lie about why you can’t show up, use alcohol or drugs to cope with stresses or numb your feelings, refuse to be with friends, find it difficult to relate to others, lose interest in activities you previously enjoyed, are bothered by everything and blow up easily, your performance at work will take a hit. There’s no way you can continue to be effective with so many emotional problems going on. At this point, you’re dangerously close to disastrous consequences. It’s time to get professional help to reverse the downward trend.

  1. You abandon your goals.

When you’ve decided that life isn’t what you expected, determine that you’ll never achieve your dreams or make any difference in the world, you’re at the lowest ebb possible. You abandon your goals and find little reason to continue. You may even entertain thoughts of suicide or think about ways to carry out a plan to end your life. You’ve passed the tipping point and need immediate help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911 if you believe you’re about to harm yourself. You need psychiatric help to get past this enormously self-destructive and potentially fatal emotional decline.