When to Seek a Therapist: Five Signs

therapistTherapy is a remarkable treatment for many of life’s problems, and, in fact, thousands of studies confirm its use as an evidence-based treatment.[1] However, a person doesn’t always know when it is time to see a therapist, leading to the question: How bad should things get before you seek help?1 The answer is easy: the sooner you seek help, the faster you will feel better.1 Although it sounds like an obvious answer, sometimes it is difficult for people to recognize just how detrimental their problems are until it is overwhelming them.1 Therefore, here are five signs that it is time to seek a therapist’s help:

  1. Your problems are causing you significant distress. Nearly every diagnosis in the DSM-5 has a requirement that it cause you significant problems in your everyday life functioning, whether it be at home, at work, at school, or anyplace else.1 Maybe you have a difficult time concentrating, or you lack the enthusiasm and drive you used to possess.1 Maybe you are avoiding social situations, or you feel just, plain overwhelmed.1 If your problems are causing you to function poorly in any environment, it is surely time to seek help.1 It can only get better from here.
  2. You can’t fix it yourself. When people feel anxious, depressed, or generally overwhelmed, there often have certain coping mechanisms that they use to lessen their symptoms.1 However, although they possess the ability to use certain coping mechanisms that actually work, they may be unaware of the simplest ones.1 Therapists can teach you the simple skills you need to cope with any situation, and with a little practice, you will be back to your normal self.1
  3. You have driven your friends and family away. Friends and family are usually pretty great at listening to use when we are in need.1 However, continues talk of your own issues can cause them to feel some unrest, as well, causing them to pull away.1 They may stop returning your calls, texts, emails—all without an explanation.1 If you have overwhelmed your social support system, it is time to reach out to someone whose job it is to listen to you and help improve your life.1
  4. You begin to overuse something or someone to help alleviate your symptoms. With stress comes the risk of substance abuse: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs.1 However, this will most certainly only make your problems worse—you are self-medicating to cope, which is unhealthy.1 You may also begin spending your free time engaging in guilty pleasures, which become a habit: television, social media, online shopping, etc.1 Even worse, stress causes people to turn their anger towards people they love, as we believe they will understand.1 It’s not fair to them or to you. It’s time to seek help.
  5. People have noticed—and said something to you. Sometimes, people ignore the most obvious signs; however, if a friend pulls you aside and asks if everything is okay, that they have seen you struggling lately, you should take this as a sign.1 It may be time for some professional help.

[1] Grohol, J. (2014). 5 Sure Signs It’s Time to See a Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/18/5-sure-signs-its-time-to-see-a-therapist/

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