Updated: Dec 23, 2022
Let me guess, you’ve thought about seeing a therapist, but you brushed it off, again. You probably think the problem will go away on its own. Or it’s too much of a hassle to set an appointment. Not to mention that painful dent in your wallet.
Our daily grind can make prioritizing our mental health challenging. After all, emotional hurdles are a part of life and we often bounce back eventually. But how about the times we don’t bounce back? How long should we wait until we reach for a little helping hand? And how do we identify when exactly those times are?
When Should You See a Therapist?
Therapy isn’t exclusive to those diagnosed with mental illnesses. Rather, it’s equally, if not more beneficial when you’re experiencing life changes that are new or stressful. These changes in our emotions, behavior, and thoughts directly impact our physical health, performance, and relationships. Hence, it’s essential to pay attention to them and seek help before things get out of hand. Here are some critical signs that it's time for you to seek professional help:
1) Difficulty regulating emotions
It’s totally normal to feel sad, anxious, or angry at times. However, be aware of how often or how intensely you feel these emotions. A therapist can help you recognize what triggers intense emotions and identify how you normally respond to such triggers.
For example, rage is often a part of a depressive presentation in men (1). However, their depression is often overlooked because their temper is falsely seen as a masculine trait. Uncontrolled rage can also reflect someone’s poor regulation of stress or anxiety.
2) Disrupted productivity
Poor mental health can impair concentration, attention, energy, and memory. All of which drain fulfillment and drive for work or school (2). Keeping tabs on our performance is helpful because a dip in well-being is often correlated to more errors and hazards at work (3).
For instance, if you’re a doctor, driver, or machinery operator, subpar performance can be risky for yourself and others. Therapy can prevent these accidents by teaching you adaptive ways to regulate stress and difficult emotions so that you can thrive safely at work.
3) Poor physical health
Our mental state is strongly related to our physical state. That's why mental health issues often profoundly impact our sleep and appetite (4). So, if you notice that you’ve been eating or sleeping either more or less than usual, it’s time to seriously assess the situation.
On top of that, psychological issues affect our central nervous system (5). This cascades further into other organs supporting our endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems. Research has even confirmed that poor mental health manifests into headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and colds (6). So, if you've been suffering from unexplainable physical ails for a while, do consult a trained health professional.
4) Shaky relationships
We tend to isolate ourselves from others when we’re down in the dumps. Anxieties relating to social situations may also arise from attachment issues, fear of confrontation, or poor boundaries. All of which can take a massive toll on our existing and new relationships.
Therapy can guide you to navigate social situations you feel uncomfortable with. For example, therapists begin by exploring problems interfering with your relationships. Then, they piece together skills and tools to help you establish healthy boundaries and communication styles.
5) Trauma, loss, and grief
People with a history of abuse, chronic illness or injury, or major loss will strongly benefit from therapy to process the distress that goes along with these events. Traumatic events can be both big and small. Whether it’s a breakup, divorce, or death of a loved one, overcoming these situations is indeed a painful process.
Nevertheless, professional support allows you to explore difficult experiences in a safe and compassionate space. A therapist can also help you reframe traumatic events and help you break free from the control past events have over you.
6) Lack of drive and enjoyment
The feeling of disinterest and emptiness is also known as anhedonia. And it's a common side effect of depression and grief. Additional signs include isolation, apathy, and even wishing they weren’t alive.
If you’ve been feeling disengaged from activities you used to enjoy, therapy can help you figure out what's causing this emptiness and reconnect with what brings you joy.
7) Indulging in unhealthy substances or behaviors
Some people turn to substances or behaviors that are numbing, stimulating, or distracting to cope with emotional stress. This includes overindulging in alcohol, drugs, and even food. Playing video games or binge-watching Netflix can also become unhealthy if you use them to avoid solving problems.
These coping methods may temporarily alleviate uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, irritability, and negative thoughts. However, it exacerbates these feelings in the long run, leading to dependence and substance abuse. Therefore, if you or a loved one is struggling with this, it’s encouraged to seek professional help as soon as possible.
8) Feeling stuck or lacking progress
From weight loss, and money management, to career goals, obstacles in these pursuits are unavoidable. Luckily, a therapist can help you overcome the emotional barriers as you head for the finish line. Even Olympic athletes need professional help to mentally prepare for a big match. And many successful entrepreneurs have mentors to prepare them for challenging business hurdles.
Psychologists are there to help you build more mental clarity, focus better, and be more task-oriented. They also address issues related to motivation, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome. Enlisting professional coaching can greatly enhance your progress and prevent you from feeling stuck.
So, if you’re still on the fence about whether to see a therapist, it’s probably an indicator in itself that you should. You may ease yourself with more affordable resources such as employee assistance programs and online therapy. Just remember that seeking professional support doesn’t mean you’re broken. Rather, you’re taking the leap to become a better and healthier version of yourself!
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