One of the most common questions people ask me when they find out I’m a psychologist is, “How do you know when it’s time to see a therapist?”
We all experience periods of feeling sad, stressed out, anxious or depressed, but these are usually short lived. If you’re experiencing any of the signs below, it’s probably time to seek professional help.
Your mood or emotions are extreme and getting in the way of living the life you want to be living.
A tell tale sign that you might need a mental health diagnosis is when your mood is causing problems in your ability to function in your everyday life.
This might mean that you don’t have the energy or the interest to do the things that you used to find enjoyable. Or you might find that you’re having trouble concentrating or performing well at work or school.
Is your usually tidy apartment a total mess? Or have you uncharacteristically started missing payments on your mortgage? These might be signs that you need help getting a handle on your emotions.
You experienced a trauma or a loss and can’t stop thinking about it.
Coping with grief can take time. But if you find that thoughts about your experience are regularly interfering with your life it might be time to see a therapist.
Or if you find yourself withdrawing or avoiding things that remind you of the loss, this might mean you need help putting it behind you.
Your friends or family have told you that they’re worried about you.
Sometimes the very nature of how you’re feeling makes it hard to recognize the negative impact it’s having on your life.
The people around you are often better able to recognize when you’re struggling with an emotional problem than you are. Many of my patients have come to therapy at the urging of their family members.
However, the impact an emotional problem can have on relationships can show up in the opposite way too.
Has your irritability has begun putting a strain on your relationships? Or if you find that you’re losing relationships because you’re isolating yourself, these are also signs that the problem is more serious.
You’re using substances to cope with how you feel.
Having a drink to relax or de-stress from time to time isn’t a problem. But if your substance abuse is getting more frequent or intense, this might be a sign that you’re using it to cope with difficult emotions that you don’t want to feel.
If a loved one has told you that they think you’re drinking too much, you might be inclined to ignore them and chalk it up to nagging. However, it’s actually one of the best indications that it’s really a problem.
You’re thinking about death a lot or you’re thinking about hurting yourself.
When depression and anxiety get severe, it can sometimes feel hopeless. But it’s important to know that treatment can help you feel better. (If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, you can read more about how to deal with them here.)
If your self-destructive thoughts become very intense, and you feel you’re not safe, it’s important to call 911 or go to your local Emergency Room.
One of the best ways to find a therapist is to ask your friends or family members for a recommendation. You can also ask your family physician for a referral. There are also many good organizations that have hotlines and offer resources to help you find a therapist in your area, and you can find some of them here.
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