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How do you know when you need to see a therapist?

It might seem like everyone is seeing a therapist nowadays, but this perception couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2019, according to the CDC, less than 20% of adults received any mental health treatment in the past 12 months. While stigmas are decreasing, and usage of mental health services is increasing, there is still a long way to go. We know that almost half of all Americans will seek out a counselor at some point in their lives, but how do they know they need help, and at what point do they finally decide to seek out a professional?

Recognizing what we cannot heal on our own

If you got a small cut while chopping vegetables in your kitchen, nothing worthy of stitches, you probably wouldn’t go to the emergency room. If the cut were a bit deeper, however, even if you questioned whether or not you needed stitches, you’d probably go anyway just to find out. Because it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

When it comes to our physical health, many of us like to play it safe.

If you broke your arm, you would know to go see a doctor because you’d feel pain, and perhaps be unable to use your arm. Most of us like to use our arms. We don’t like it being broken, and we don’t like being in pain. We know that a broken arm will likely need a cast to help it heal.

Our mental health isn’t so different from our physical health. When we have a bad day, experience disappointment, feel exhausted, or like we just lack energy, we might be able to handle our mental health needs on our own. We can practice gratitude, cultivate hope and look forward to the future, talk to a friend, take a nap, exercise, or eat a healthy snack.

Other times, we may experience life events and moods that just leave us feeling off. We know we’re not ourselves, and wonder what’s going on, but can’t exactly pinpoint where the source of our “pain”—like with a cut. We may wonder if what we’re experiencing is “normal” or if our challenges will go away if we ignore them. It’s possible we may even think that our mental health isn’t a priority right now, and that it can wait.

There can be many reasons to seek out a therapist, and it is important not to compare one person’s life experiences to another. Their is no hierarchy of pain. An experience that may have had significant impact on one person may hardly phase someone else, even if the experiences are very similar.

If you’ve ever thought about visiting with a therapist, or are feeling a pain point in your life, consider the following reasons to seek out a therapist:

  • Your life feels overwhelming and constantly stressful. Some stress is good, but too much stress can lead to physical health issues and irritability. A therapist can help you learn stress management skills and problem-solve to eliminate some of the stress in your life.

  • You struggle to regulate your emotions. Rather than handling your feelings well, you feel subjected to anxiety or anger. It feels like your emotions rule you more than you rule them. Therapists can help you learn anger management techniques, anxiety reduction strategies, and plans to help your emotions serve you—rather than you feeling like a slave to them.

  • Your goals constantly feel out of reach. Have you been trying for years to lose weight, achieve financial independence, or another goal? There may be obstacles in your way, like motivational problems, perfectionism, or even self-sabotage. Talk with a therapist who can help you identify your barriers and strategize how to address them.

  • You engage in unhealthy coping skills. From drinking to illicit drug use, to overeating and binge watching, unhealthy coping skills often introduce more problems in your life that will backfire in the long-term.

  • You want better relationships. Therapists can help you learn all types of relationship skills from assertive communication, to reducing passive communication, to holding boundaries, to overcoming avoiding uncomfortable topics. Learn how to make healthier connections and how to repair relationships that have been damaged.

  • You want to be more self-aware. You’re curious about why you do the things you do, what motivates you, and how you can become a better version of yourself.

  • Your work is suffering. Are you absentminded or distracted at work? Do you feel burned out? Do you seek more “mental health days” or struggle to find the motivation to go to work? A therapist can help you build a healthy daily routine and address pain points to help you become successful once more.

  • You’re experiencing a major life change or event. Death, divorce, moving, becoming a parent, traumatic events, blending families, starting a new job, etc. The list of life-changing experiences is long. Thankfully, there are therapists trained to assist in healing trauma, processing grief, relationship repair, healthy parenting, and more.

  • You are seeing negative effects on your physical health. You overeat, don’t sleep, experience a lack of appetite, feel tension in your body, frequently fall ill, or experience other physical maladies.

  • You’ve lost interest in activities you used to enjoy. Of course, interests change over time, but if you’re feeling like nothing interests you anymore, it may be time to seek help.

How to talk to someone who can help

It’s tempting to wait and see if you’ll start to feel better on your own. But like that broken arm, would you really want your arm to try and heal without seeing a doctor and getting a cast? Likely not.

If your mental health symptoms do not resolve in two weeks, it is likely time to reach out to a mental health professional. Remember that mental health professionals are there to assist you in your journey—whichever direction you’d like that journey to go. They won’t see you coming to therapy as weakness, but rather as a sign of mental strength.

It takes a brave person to admit they don’t have all the answers, everything isn’t all together, and they need help.

If you’d like to connect with a therapist at Dr. Christy Kane LLC, please reach out to us. We can offer telehealth or in-person sessions.


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