October 6, 2022

Do I Need Therapy?

If you’re asking yourself this question, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing some kind of distress. But can you benefit from professional support? Should you try therapy

As you may know, identifying a problem is the first step toward changing your circumstances. Therapy offers a safe environment to cope with various stressors. And while there is never a bad time to work on your mental health, here are some key signs it’s time to seek help. 

You Feel Depressed

Depression can include a large spectrum of symptoms, including irritability, sadness, restlessness, fatigue, appetite changes, and general themes of apathy. Clinical depression can worsen progressively if left untreated. But even if you don’t meet all the criteria for a mood disorder, you still may struggle with feeling down or “off” for most of the day.

Therapy can help you understand your emotions. It can also help you identify specific triggers that exacerbate mood changes. You and your therapist will work together to develop healthy coping skills for managing stress. 

You Feel Lonely

Whether you feel disconnected or misunderstood- or you’re consciously isolating yourself from others- loneliness can be incredibly painful. It often prevents people from living authentically, and it can erode your concept of self-worth. Loneliness isn’t always about physically being lonely. Some people have many friends but still struggle with feeling like they’re on their own.

Therapy can help you explore the barriers impacting this loneliness. If you struggle with social anxiety or feeling connected to others, your therapist can offer practical guidelines for improving these relationships. 

You’re Self-Medicating 

It’s estimated that nearly 8% of American adults have a substance use disorder. Even if that statistic doesn’t apply to you, an overwhelming amount of people misuse drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, or shopping to cope with stress or avoid certain emotions. 

Self-medication can provide temporary relief. But compulsive behavior often coincides with lying, fear, and shame. It can also spiral into other issues and cause serious financial, health, or relational consequences. Therapy can help you reduce or eliminate your unwanted behaviors and replace them with healthier coping responses. 

You Don’t Know What You’re Doing in Life

It’s normal to feel directionless or confused sometimes. But if you feel entirely lost, that may be a sign of something more serious. If the days all seem to blur together, you may be struggling with apathy, depression, anxiety, or stuck in a trauma response.

Therapy can help you reorient yourself with your values. You and your therapist can establish appropriate goals and create an action plan for meeting those goals accordingly. 

You’re Struggling With a Major Transition 

All change can be stressful, even when the change is desired and positive. For instance, many people find themselves struggling to cope after getting married, having a baby, or changing jobs. Events that disrupt your typical routine can also impact your emotional well-being.

Therapy provides a safe outlet to explore your emotions surrounding a significant change. And if you’re on the cusp of trying something new, a therapist can help you outweigh the risks and benefits before making an important decision. 

mental health during transitions
Featuring psychiatrist, Dr. Kristy Lamb

You Feel Anxious

Anxiety can affect every part of your life. It can cause you to doubt yourself, overthink situations, and experience immense panic. Likewise, anxiety often prevents people from taking important risks and living authentically. 

Therapy offers relief and tools for anxiety. These tools may include cognitive restructuring, relaxation exercises, integrative self-care, and exposure techniques. 

You Are Grieving 

While loss and death are inevitable parts of life, the grief process isn’t always straightforward. You may feel confused, angry, or extremely sad. You may also feel entirely numb, and that can feel disturbing, too.  

Therapy offers a safe environment to share these feelings. While there aren’t any magic tricks for healing or expediting the grief process, your therapist can act as a companion guiding you through the pain. 

You Consistently Lack Motivation

Motivation isn’t static, and it’s normal to experience fluctuations in how dedicated you feel to completing certain tasks. But if you can’t seem to finish anything- or you’re in a perpetual state of stopping and starting different projects- it may be worth speaking to a therapist.

Motivation problems can stem from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Feeling like you’re doomed to fail may stop you from even starting. Talking to a therapist can help you work through these barriers and find other solutions for taking the initiative. 

Featuring neuropsychologist Dr. Judy Ho

You Have Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can result from so many variables: trauma, mental illness, abusive relationships, and perceived or real experiences of failure. Unfortunately, this problem often perpetuates more issues with relationships, work, and emotional well-being. Subsequently, people with low self-esteem tend to struggle with self-care and self-compassion, making it harder to change the cycle. 

Therapy won’t automatically make you love yourself. That is a lifelong journey that requires time and effort. But it can provide a path for exploring your strengths and practicing more acceptance for who you are. That work, in turn, can help you feel more confident and empowered. 

You Feel Stuck in Past Trauma

Trauma can include significant, life-altering stressors like surviving a war or natural disaster. But there are many different types of traumas.  In addition, trauma can be acute (single incident), chronic (repeated and prolonged), or complex (including multiple types of stressors). Research shows that trauma impacts brain development, and it can significantly affect physical and emotional development.

Processing trauma isn’t easy, but trauma-informed therapy can help. A therapist can safely explore what happened while also giving you strategies to cope when you feel activated. And even though you won’t forget what happened, you can eventually accept and feel more desensitized to your past events. 

You’re Finding it Hard to Manage Your Time 

We’re all busy, but do you feel like you’re drowning with all that you need to do? Do you feel like you can’t catch up or stay on top of things? 

If life feels packed and unmanageable, therapy may seem like another item on an endless to-do list. It’s easy to dismiss taking care of yourself. But, paradoxically, exploring your impacted schedule may shed insight onto other underlying problems like perfectionism, the need to escape, or difficulties with asking for help. 

You Struggle With Profound Shame

Guilt is a normal human reaction. When you feel guilty, you reflect on the notion that you did something “bad” or inappropriate. But when you feel shame, instead of separating yourself from the event, you internalize that you, yourself are bad. 

Shame, in many ways, keeps people feeling stuck. It can exacerbate depression and anxiety, create wedges in relationships, and perpetuate self-doubt. When you feel shame, it’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to trust that others can love you for who you are. Therapy can help you unpack themes of shame and practice more self-compassion.

You Have Chronic Pain

Millions of Americans live with chronic pain each day. Pain can make even the most basic tasks difficult. This, in turn, can trigger sadness, frustration, and fear. It can make life even feel unbearable. 

While therapy can’t erase the pain, it may help reduce its intensity and its overall toll on your mental health. Therapy for chronic pain focuses on interventions like relaxation, acceptance, and making healthy lifestyle changes. For this reason, many healthcare professionals recommend therapy as a critical component in any pain management treatment plan. 

You Keep Having the Same Arguments With Your Partner

All relationships have some conflict. But if you feel like you and your partner can’t move on past certain stressors, it may be worth seeking therapy. Couples therapy can help you both improve communication and restore a sense of intimacy.

If your partner refuses to attend treatment, you can still seek your own support. A therapist can help you identify your part in a dynamic. They can also provide you with support in learning how to cope with relational stress. 

You Want to Be a Better Parent 

It’s no secret that parenting is challenging. Many well-intentioned parents want to do everything right for their children, but they struggle with boundaries, patience, and letting go of control. Furthermore, some parents often find themselves repeating undesirable patterns from their own childhood.

Therapy can help you identify the kind of parent you want to be. With that, a therapist can support you through postpartum stressors, issues with co-parenting, and tension with your child. 

You Constantly Feel Indecisive

Is it hard for you to commit to making a decision? Do you rely on reassurance from other people instead of depending on your own intuition?

There’s nothing wrong with soliciting feedback from time to time. But autonomy is important, and if you struggle to trust yourself, there may be more to the story. Therapy can help you understand the root of your indecisiveness and encourage you to safely expose yourself to making proactive choices. 

You Want to Understand Yourself Better 

It’s a misconception that you need to wait until something is “wrong” before seeking help. It’s also untrue that therapy is just for treating specific mental illnesses.

Many people seek therapy because they want to learn more about themselves. Some want to understand why they do the things they do. Others want deeper clarification into their fears or values. 

You Want More Support

We are social creatures, and we value feeling secure, connected, and validated by others. While it’s important to build a support system, a therapist can offer warmth and safety as you navigate the circumstances of your life. 

Unlike with your loved ones, you don’t have to worry about burdening your therapist or offending them. You also don’t have to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing- their job is to listen and understand you without judgment. 

You’re In a Crisis 

A crisis can be defined as any unstable, difficult situation. Crisis can happen suddenly and without warning. If you have preexisting mental health issues, you may be more susceptible to the impacts of a crisis. 

In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to seek professional help if you:

  • Feel like you are in imminent danger of hurting yourself or someone else
  • Can’t distinguish your thoughts from reality (may be a sign of psychosis)
  • Can’t seem to improve how you feel despite self-help efforts 

If you believe you are in grave danger, do not wait to consult with a therapist. Contact 911 or visit your closest hospital. 

Final Thoughts

It’s a big step to seek therapy, but most people feel immense relief once they get started on their process. The right therapist can help you feel understood and supported. They can also give you effective tools for living a more fulfilling life. 

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Disclaimer: This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your healthcare provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or lifestyle choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.

You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.

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