In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s safe to assume that we’re all under more stress than usual. Coping with isolation, loss of employment, and COVID-related stressors have hit all Americans hard. These days, many of us could benefit from reassurance and introspection. Therapy is an excellent way to get in touch with your emotions, address problematic coping mechanisms, and protect your mental health during these unprecedented times. Today, we’ll explore the benefits of therapy and explain a few key signs that you should seek professional counsel.
Who Needs Therapy?
Unfortunately, mental health care is steeped in stigma and misconceptions. Many people believe that in order to go to therapy, you need to experience severe mental health concerns; popular culture paints people receiving professional help as desperate, depressed, and disoriented. In reality, psychotherapy is something that everyone can benefit from. It can even be an excellent preventative measure to protect your mental health in the long run.
Put simply, we all experience life’s ups and downs. These trials may feel overwhelming or create feelings of hopelessness, and it can be challenging to deal with each event. For example, dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one can cause significant trauma and distress. On an everyday basis, some of us may struggle to cope with relationship issues, stress in the workplace, or family disagreements. Others may find themselves enmired in a deep depression or a constant state of anxiety. In short, therapy is useful for anyone who is dealing with general life stressors, major traumatic events, or symptoms of mental illness.
Unfortunately, only about 40% of people with mental health concerns actually receive the help that they need. This could lead to difficulty functioning at work or school, increased risk of health issues, and problems in one’s relationships. Today, we’ve put together a list of signs that it’s time to go to therapy.
1. You Spend a Lot of Time Thinking About a Specific Problem
It’s normal to dedicate some time to processing a life event or stressor. For example, if you’re frustrated with an inconsiderate roommate during quarantine, it would make sense to vent to another friend, think about how to improve your situation, or journal about your feelings every once in a while. As another example, dealing with the death of a loved one can be an everyday event for weeks or months after the fact. However, beyond a certain point, it is not healthy to dwell on the things that upset you. There is a clear distinction between useful processing and unhelpful rumination.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says that if you spend a significant amount of time thinking about or coping with a problem every week, it is probably time to seek professional treatment for this concern. With the assistance of a therapist, you can work through your difficulties and create adaptive solutions.
2. It’s Embarrassing or Hard to Talk About Outside of Therapy
In life, we all experience things that are traumatic or uncomfortable. One of the most challenging aspects of living through such events is that it seems impossible to talk about them after the fact. For example, if you’re dealing with addiction, assault, or abuse, you may feel unable to discuss your situation with friends and family members. This is when you should seek out therapy.
In a therapeutic relationship, your counselor is bound by privacy regulations. They cannot discuss what the two of you speak about in your sessions except under very specific circumstances. In therapy, you can feel confident that you have a safe place to find solutions to your problems.
3. It Has Affected Your Quality of Life
Some problems worsen over time. For example, some people begin drinking to de-stress at the end of the workday, but then they find themselves pouring more alcoholic drinks earlier in the day. Eventually, the progressive disease of addiction has taken hold, and they are sneaking drinks on the job, or facing financial troubles because of their drinking.
Addiction isn’t the only example of this. Anxiety can also be progressive, especially during times of stress like COVID-19. What starts off as a tinge of worry can actually dominate your day, reducing your ability to make decisions, maintain relationships, and function at work.
Looking at your quality of life is perhaps the best indicator that you should seek therapy. If your problems have escalated over the past few months, it’s time to get help.
4. You’re Rearranging Your Life Around It
If you find yourself changing your lifestyle to accommodate a problem, you should seek professional help. Developing habits to cope with an issue, such as a substance use disorder or phobia, may feel helpful in the moment. However, these coping mechanisms can actually harm you over time. If you feel controlled by the symptoms of your mental illness or unable to handle an average day, we recommend that you find a counselor as soon as possible.
5. You’re Experiencing Symptoms
Mental illness can come with a host of uncomfortable and confusing symptoms. Often, people discount these emotional and physical problems, unaware that they are a sign that it’s time to go to treatment.
Emotional signs of mental illness include extreme worry or sadness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, exhibiting disproportionate rage, resenting others, fear of leaving the house, isolation, intrusive thoughts, loss of interest in usual activities, and feelings of hopelessness.
Physical symptoms include muscle tension, fatigue, pain without physical cause, muscle aches, headaches, stomach pain, and digestive issues.
Individuals experiencing the above signs of mental illness should go to therapy as soon as they are able.
We’re Here for You | Washington Therapy
At Lakeside-Milam, we understand the challenges associated with mental health care. We make the process confidential and easy to navigate. Guided by credentialed experts, you may begin to make significant progress from the first session. To learn more about our evidence-based approach to mental health, please contact us today.