6 Ways to Know if You Need Therapy
Therapy is awesome. It can make a huge impact on you, your life, and relationships, but other good things in life can make an impact on you too… It can be hard to know when you need more than a vacation or a deep talk with a friend to solve your problems, but here are some signs you can watch for to know when it’s time to go find a therapist. (And if you need some help figuring out how to find a good therapist, I’ve covered that as well!)
1. If your problem is impacting your social life, work, or relationship.
When your mental health is always changing, it’s difficult to see when it’s reached the point of requiring professional support. We all have highs and lows with our mental health as life ebbs and flows, but if you’re seeing that your mental health is impacting your relationships with friends or your partner, it’s time to seek help. Things like anxiety, depression, and relationship problems can cause you to withdraw from your social support system and to isolate; other diagnoses can cause you to lean too heavily on your friends and family to the point you drive people away with your behavior. If you’ve found yourself isolated or driving people away in life, it might be a good time to seek help. Similarly, if your mental health begins to impact your work performance or ability to do everyday tasks like laundry or making dinner, it’s time to seek help from a therapist. Again, we all have highs and lows with mental health, and we all have days where work or household tasks are just too much to handle. If it becomes a pattern in your life, though, it’s a good indication that you’re not doing well.
2. If you notice changes in your physical health.
The body is deeply connected with the mind, and it gives strong clues when things are going seriously wrong. If you notice drastic changes in your sleep, appetite, weight, or other physical health that aren’t related to physical health changes, it’s time to seek therapy. Changes can look a variety of different ways: you might sleep more than usual and be tired for days regardless of how much you’ve slept, or you might have trouble falling or staying asleep and only getting a few hours of shuteye a night. You might find that your appetite is gone and your body is not getting enough calories (dramatic weight loss is a serious symptom!) or that you’re overeating and bingeing to soothe your mental health (dramatic weight gain is also a serious symptom). If you begin frequently vomiting, having extreme muscle tension, stomach aches and pains, and changes to your GI tract, these are all symptoms that can be due to poor mental health. If you’re noticing changes in your body that your primary care physician doesn’t diagnose, it’s time to find a counselor.
3. If the same problem has been around for a while.
Life impacts our mental health. Changes in our circumstances impact how we think and feel, and ideally, we’re able to get through them in a matter of days or weeks. However, sometimes things happen that causes a problem that lasts longer, and when we get stuck on one problem, it’s a good indicator that we need some professional help to get past it. Major changes like a loss, a breakup, or another change in mental health can cause bigger changes that obviously take longer to process. However, if one problem is following you persistently and hasn’t changed or gotten easier to deal with after 6 months, it’s time to seek therapy. Similarly, if there are old problems like childhood traumas, past relationships, or messages from years ago that still come to mind frequently after years, a counselor may be able to help you make some progress in moving past it.
4. If you’re trying to do it alone.
Life wasn’t meant to be lived alone, and we definitely were not designed to fight our own mental health battles alone. If for whatever reason, you find yourself battling a downturn in your mental health and have no support system around, find a therapist! I know therapists aren’t the same as friends and family, but it makes an incredible difference when you know you have at least one person in your corner encouraging you, listening to you, and helping you work through the hard things. A therapist isn’t a long-term solution to loneliness or having too little social support, but it can be a quick fix in a pinch and can teach you the tools you need to build a support system for the long run.
5. If people are telling you to go to therapy…
This tip makes an unexpected appearance on the list, because many times, other people’s opinions about your life are just irrelevant to your actual life. But when it comes to mental health, it can be really hard to see the problems, pain, and dysfunction building in our own lives until it’s really bad. That said, if there are people in your life who love you and support you and are encouraging you to go to therapy, you should take their advice seriously. And if more than one person who knows and loves you recommend it, that’s a good indicator that something about your mental health needs professional attention.
6. If you want to!
Therapy can be a meaningful and powerful experience for anyone who’s willing to dig in! If you’re interested in doing some personal growth, creating some positive change in your life, or just curious about the buzz about therapy, give it a try. Even if you don’t know why you’re going to therapy to begin with, you can be pretty sure that you’ll find a reason why along the way. Your curiosity about your mental health might bring some important things to light.
The reasons people seek therapy are varied, and it can be really hard to know if and when you meet the threshold for requiring a therapist to help you sort through your mental health. Hopefully this brief list has been clarifying, but if you have more questions, give a therapist a call. Most mental health professionals do a free consult phone call before meeting new clients, and would be happy to help you determine if you need to be in therapy or not. If you’re in Seattle, send me an email or give me a call and I’d be happy to help you sort it out!