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How Do I Know It's Time to Seek Therapy?

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

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We all go through tough times in life when we feel we could use a little extra TLC. But sometimes confiding in a friend or "toughing it out" on our own are not adequate options for what we're going through. Therapy has many significant benefits and more and more people—especially in our pandemic age—are finding there's no substitute for talking things through with a neutral, confidential person before, during or after a difficult period. How do we know when that time has come to seek a therapist? Here are some signs that it might be a good time to have someone there to help navigate distress.

1. Feeling overwhelmed, sad or confused

All of us experience difficult periods where we may be sad or stressed out. But when these periods seem to stretch on without any end in sight it may be a sign that we could use a little help. Even if you can't find the words to express what you're feeling, a therapist can provide a reassuring presence to help you identify and work through difficult emotions or challenging situations that don't seem to resolve on their own.

2. Having trouble managing or keeping relationships

Sometimes relationships just seem difficult. We might feel withdrawn or aloof or overly dependent or attached to someone. We may be having bouts of anger at work or at home that seem disproportionate to the circumstances. A therapist can help identify what's healthy and unhealthy in a relationship and work through the emotions that also affect those closest to us. A family or couples transition can also be hard to cope with or we may just want to learn the skills to strengthen our relationships. Therapy can help with all of these.

3. Experiencing sleeping or eating disturbances

Are you having trouble getting enough sleep at night or sleeping too much? Are you experiencing a loss of appetite or using food as a way to help you feel better? These are all signs that you may be experiencing a mental health issue. A therapist can help determine what's at the root of the problem.

4. Feeling hopeless, helpless or consumed with negative or suicidal thoughts

Persistent negative thoughts and beliefs can be debilitating and lead to a serious decline in quality of life. While no one is perfect, there is good in all of us and sometimes it takes an unbiased person to restore our sense of balance and proportion. When thoughts take a turn for the worse—or especially if they become suicidal—seeking help is an absolute must.

5. Struggling at work or school

Inability to focus, concentrate and other changes in our mental functioning can have a big effect work, school or home life. When we avoid tasks we once found easy or enjoyable or find they've become arduous or overwhelming that could be a sign you're struggling with anxiety, depression or undue stress. A therapist can help you figure out what's going on and get you back on track.

6. A significant or traumatic life event

Different people react differently to physical or sexual abuse and other traumas. Psychotherapy can help you explore these significant and often devastating events in a safe, supportive and confidential environment. Therapists can also introduce techniques to not only cope with trauma but to actually heal from traumatic experiences.

7. Using substances to get by

Turning to alcohol and other drugs as a coping mechanism not only exacerbates the symptoms we're trying to quell, it can lead to a dependence. If you or a loved one is turning to alcohol, drugs or sex as a way to deal with painful feelings, it's time to seek professional help.

No matter what brings you to therapy, a good therapist can help you develop the life skills, inner strength and resources you need to meet life's challenges no matter how big or small.

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