It’s very normal to go through periods of your life where feelings of stress, anxiety, or low mood are more present than usual.
If you’re struggling with challenging life events or mental health issues, it’s important to ask for help if you need it—whether that’s getting in touch with your doctor or talking to a mental health professional such as a counselor or psychologist.
Knowing the right time to seek therapy is a very personal decision—you’re the expert on how you feel.
Sometimes, all you need to get through a difficult time is to seek support from people close to you or look after yourself a bit better. But if your usual ways of coping aren’t alleviating the problem, you may benefit from therapy.
If you’re unsure whether therapy is the right path for you, it might be worth thinking about:
- whether you’re experiencing distress
- the impact of what you’re going through on your daily life
- any symptoms you’re experiencing
To break this down, here are 10 signs that therapy might be the right next step for you.
1. Difficult life events
Sometimes life throws us challenges that are out of our control and hard to manage alone.
You might be going through a relationship breakdown, have recently lost your job, or have received some bad news about your health. Perhaps you’re living with a chronic health condition which is impacting your quality of life. In these times, you may benefit from speaking to a therapist to help you navigate your way through.
2. You’re finding it difficult to work or study
When thinking about how much a problem is impacting your life, you might weigh up the amount of time the issue is taking up and the extent to which it’s affecting your decisions, behavior, and ability to function.
Perhaps you’ve noticed your capacity for work or study has taken a hit. Or maybe the issue is stopping you from doing things you normally do, such as self-care, seeing friends, or making time for hobbies you enjoy.
3. Thoughts and feelings are hard to manage
Thoughts and feelings can sometimes get on top of us and interfere with our everyday life.
If you’re regularly experiencing negative thoughts, excessive worry, or intense emotions such as sadness or fear that you find difficult to cope with, you may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional.
4. Relationships are suffering
Often, when we’re not doing well emotionally, our relationships can feel the effects. Maybe you’re seeing friends and family less often. Perhaps your interactions with people have changed, or you’re withdrawing more from social events.
In the short term, this may not be particularly disruptive—we all have times when we’re more or less social. But relationship issues could be a sign of a problem if this pattern continues over a longer period and is affecting your sense of connection to others.
5. Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you are not alone, and it’s important to get the support you need—you can speak to your doctor to explore any options for therapy or contact a mental health professional yourself.
If you’re feeling suicidal, in crisis, or unable to keep yourself safe, you should seek emergency help. You can also contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 to get 24/7 free and confidential support and information about suicide.
6. Sleep and appetite changes
Our mental health can impact on our body’s rhythms and functions—particularly sleep and appetite.
Are you sleeping more or less than usual? Maybe you just don’t feel like eating or you’ve noticed your hunger levels have shot up. It’s worth keeping an eye on these changes, and to discuss any symptoms with your doctor or mental health professional if you’re concerned.
7. Coping with loss
People can respond to the death of a loved one in many different ways. Grief can be a complex and painful process, and many people will visit a bereavement counselor. Sometimes we experience loss in other ways too, such as losing a career or an aspect of our physical health.
If you’re finding it hard to cope with emotions or thoughts, or are concerned about any symptoms you experience after a loss, you can get in touch with your doctor or mental health professional to talk things through.
8. Dealing with trauma
If you’ve gone through trauma in your life, such as war, abuse, or discrimination and this is causing you distress or impacting your life, speaking with a therapist could help you feel more able to cope.
People experience trauma in unique ways and may differ in terms of what they need from therapy. You can often find organizations that specialize in specific kinds of trauma, which may be particularly useful.
9. Not enjoying your life
If you’re finding it difficult to enjoy your life, this could be a sign that you may benefit from seeking support—particularly if you’ve been feeling this way for some time.
Your enjoyment of life is fundamentally related to your quality of life. You may have noticed that music or food is not giving you the same joy it once did, or that you get less pleasure from doing things you used to find fun or fulfilling.
10. Severe or long-lasting symptoms
Stress and mental health issues can bring about a range of physical symptoms, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For example, you may have noticed you’re crying more often, getting heart palpitations, or having more negative thoughts about yourself.
If your symptoms are distressing, intense, frequent, or present for several weeks or longer, it may be worth talking to a doctor or mental health professional to explore them more fully.
This is not an exhaustive list of signs or symptoms. You don’t need permission to seek therapy, and only you can know if you’re not feeling yourself.
If you’re interested in seeking therapy, there are numerous types of therapy available nowadays, and it’s important to find what’s right for you.
Many people find online therapy to be effective, affordable, and easy to schedule into their life.
BetterHelp is one organization that offers personalized matches with licensed and accredited online therapists, counselors, and psychologists. Its matching process makes it possible to speak to someone with specific expertise to help you, wherever you are, at a time that suits you.
If you don’t feel comfortable exploring your options for therapy on your own, you could confide in someone close to you and ask them to help you make that first step.
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