Going to Therapy to Help Your Mental Health
Millions of people are affected by mental illness each year. Sadly, less than half of this group ends up getting help for it. Mental health issues left untreated usually only get worse. They can lead to an increased risk for health issues and pave the way for other negative impacts. Mental illness can impair your ability to go to school or work and maintain healthy relationships.
But let’s take a step back for a moment. If you have never sought out help before, how do you know if you have a mental illness to address? Well, you don’t always.
Determining things like diagnoses is better left to professionals. That said, you do know when something feels off in your life. Sure, you may have a specific mental health concern, but more often than not people seek help when working through life challenges or changes and emotional difficulties.
This, my friends, is the beauty of therapy. While a therapist can diagnose a mental health illness, you don’t need one to seek and receive help from therapy. Whatever you are struggling with, or even if you just want to improve your mental health, you can benefit from therapy.
Therapy is a safe, judgment-free space where you can share anything with a trained professional who can help you work through it. And you don’t have to know exactly what “it” is, but here are a few signs to look for and reasons why you should consider therapy:
- If the issue makes you want to avoid others.
- If thinking about the issue or coping with it takes at least one hour of your day.
- If you have formed habits or made changes to cope with the issue.
- If the issue is negatively affecting your job, school, or relationships.
- If you believe the problem has decreased your quality of life.
Having a clearer idea for why you might consider therapy is helpful, but that doesn’t make the thought of trying it for the first time any less intimidating. You might be feeling apprehensive, thinking to yourself, what will it be like to share my private thoughts with a stranger? What will I even talk about in therapy?
If you are dealing with any of the following feelings or emotions, they are all worth addressing in therapy:
Fatigue. Fatigue can be a sign of various mental health issues. Seek therapy if you are excessively tired, consistently sleeping in, or having trouble getting out of bed.
Anger. It’s okay to feel angry at times - everyone does. I can promise you that even the person you would least expect it from has at least experienced some shame or resentment. Anger is a healthy emotion in passing, but it’s harmful when it becomes excessive or even violent. Consider getting help if you feel controlled by your anger.
Anxious thoughts. If you feel like intrusive and worrisome thoughts are stealing your attention and energy throughout the day, therapy can help you understand your thoughts and how to cope with and challenge them. The sooner you get help, the better. If you have anxiety, it will likely lead to physical symptoms as well, and once those start, anxiety can become even harder to cope with.
Apathy or social withdrawal. If you are losing interest in the things you enjoy or value or feel distressed around others, it could be a sign of something more serious like depression. A therapist can help you learn more about yourself and offer guidance when you feel down or lost. They won’t tell you what to want to do but rather empower you to take steps forward.
Hopelessness. It’s common to feel hopeless at certain stressful times in life, but it can indicate depression if you constantly feel a lack of motivation. Persistent feelings of hopelessness can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Overwhelm and stress. Stress can be a dangerous emotion if it starts to take over your life. It can worsen mental health conditions and be a trigger for them. A therapist can teach you healthy ways to cope if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Even once you decide to try therapy, you should know that sometimes therapy is hard! Having a trusted someone to listen and guide the session is a wonderful feeling, but it’s okay if some things are hard for you to discuss. This is especially true if you seek therapy to work through trauma, PTSD, or other painful events from your past.
I don’t say this to discourage you (please don’t let it). Only to let you know that therapy takes time, consistency, and honesty. Sometimes I wish I could tell you that there is a single solution or quick fix for mental health, but there isn’t - and that includes therapy. But I can tell you that if you are willing to put forth the effort in therapy, healing and happiness await you on the other side.
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