Deciding if it is time to seek out a therapist can be confusing and overwhelming, especially with the undue stigma surrounding mental health treatment. Most people can benefit from therapy at least some point in their lives. Sometimes the signs are obvious but at other times, something may feel slightly off and you can’t figure out what it is. So you trudge on, trying to sustain your busy life until it sets in that life has become unmanageable.
Thanks to said stigma, most people still don’t openly talk about seeing a therapist, even though way more people go to therapy than you’d probably think.
Few people feel anxious for weeks on end and do nothing to try and help calm their anxiety. Few people suffer from the symptoms of depression without having tried to reverse the lethargy, sadness, or hopelessness feelings.
Sometimes our own coping skills fail us. They simply stop working, or become far less effective than they were in the past. If you’ve tried a half dozen different things already — talk to a friend, exercise more, seek out support online, read up on various self-help techniques online — and nothing has made much of a difference, that may be a sign it’s time to talk to a therapist.
Your friends (or family) are tired of listening to you.
Friends and family members are usually pretty great. They are there for us when times are good, and they are there for us when times are bad. If you need to bend someone’s ear about the feelings or thoughts you’re having, a friend is often close at hand.
But sometimes a friend can also feel overwhelmed by your problems. They start to pull away from seeing you. They don’t answer your texts or don’t take your call. They stop returning emails, or spend days before you hear a reply (with no explanation).
These may be signs that you’ve overwhelmed your own social support system. It’s time to reach out and talk to someone who’s job it is is to listen, and offer tools and techniques to improve your life.While therapists won’t tell you exactly what to do, talking with a therapist can give you the tools you need to articulate, access, and change ways of thinking and behaving to be healthier and more functional.
Here are nine signs you might benefit from therapy:
1 Your relationships feel strained
If you’re struggling to maintain healthy, happy relationships (of the romantic, platonic, and familial varieties) in your life, talking with a therapist may help you get the bottom of why that is. Talking to an objective person about an issue as emotionally-charged as our relationships can help us better understand the kind of friend and partner you are to others — and the kind others are to you.
2 You need a place where it’s okay to focus on yourself
It is all too easy to push your own needs to the back burner while you focus on other things, be that your friends, family, job, partner, or other pressing issues. Therapy can offer you a place to mindfully focus on yourself, without any of those pesky, unfounded feelings of guilt that might come from doing so.
3 You’ve experienced trauma and keep thinking about it
Therapy is a safe place, ideal for working through traumatic events you’ve experienced in your life. “That’s sometimes one of therapy’s best uses, is for somebody to listen in an objective way, to give you a safe space to talk through your feelings,”\ “If you had a trauma, if you were abused, if you’re grieving, if you lost a loved one, if you had a serious breakup. It’s those times when therapy can feel very special. If you have a history of abuse, neglect or other trauma that you haven’t fully dealt with, or if you find yourself the victim of a crime or accident, chronic illness or some other traumatic event, the earlier you talk to someone, the faster you can learn healthy ways to cope. Grief can be a long and difficult process to endure without the support of an expert. While not everyone needs counseling during these times, there is no shame in needing a little help to get through the loss of a loved one, a divorce or significant breakup, or the loss of a job, especially if you’ve experienced multiple losses in a short period of time.
4 Daily tasks feel really hard
This was a big one for me: I struggled seriously with completing basic tasks, like getting dressed for the day or answering work e-mails. This can be a sign of an underlying issue or psychological disorder — but even if it’s not, therapy is a good place to address the issue if it’s started to negatively affect your life.
5 You don’t know how to express your feelings
For me personally, the most beneficial thing about therapy was learning to recognise certain emotions in myself, so I could then articulate those feelings and interpret what they mean. If you’re feeling something, that feeling is real and valid and deserves to be recognised as such.
6 Work is less than awesome
If you’re getting negative feedback at work, or are experiencing anxiety or depression while at work, or just generally hate your job, talking to a therapist can help you work out the root of the problem and address those issues.
7 You’re having trouble controlling racing, negative thoughts
If you have racing thoughts, assume the worst or experience a constant stream of negative feelings, those are signs that you may want to speak to a therapist about anxiety. Some popular proven practices, like cognitive behavioural therapy, can help you identify these thoughts and replace them with healthier, productive ones.
You just need to talk
Listen, therapy can be a really good thing, simply because it gives us the opportunity to talk without fear of judgement. This isn’t something you need to feel shame about. Therapy is normal, it’s healthy, and you should be commended for taking the time connect with yourself and move toward a healthier, happier existence.
9 Abusing drugs, alcohol, food or sex to cope
When you turn outside yourself to a substance or behaviour to help you feel better, your coping skills may need some fine-tuning. If you feel unable to control these behaviours or you can’t stop despite negative consequences in your life, you may be struggling with addictive or compulsive behaviour that requires treatment.
So if you have read this list and can recognise yourself in any of the items you probably should probably seek professional help. There is no stigma in getting therapy. It is the responsible thing to do.