One of the givens of human life is suffering – everyone goes through pain, struggle and unbearable grief in their lives. At the same time, all of us have the ability to find some way out of our problems. Yet, at times, it can get too difficult to work through our concerns on our own. When this happens, it is important to seek help – whether from our loved ones or from trained professionals. We must remember that we are built to seek out support and guidance from time-to-time; humans are, after all, pack animals! As human beings, it is in our nature to need others.
Of course, there are reasons we don’t ask for help for mental health concerns. There is still a significant lack of awareness about the normalcy and prevalence of mental illness in our country, even though more than 150 million people are estimated to suffer from some form of it. There is also a stigma attached to seeking help for emotional distress – it is perceived as a mark of weakness or laziness.
Moreover, at times, it can be difficult to know if it’s the right time to seek support. Many of us might not know our own emotional states well enough to be able to decide when to seek professional help. If this is the case for you, here are a few signs that indicate it’s time to go to a therapist:
Extreme changes in your moods: Inexplicable and/or uncontrollable sadness, anger or lethargy can mean that all is not well. If you experience mood swings that take place without any easily identifiable reason, you might require support from a professional.
Changes in your biological functioning: Mental health and physical health are intricately linked to each other. When an individual is experiencing mental health concerns, biological functions almost always get affected. Sudden changes in your sleep schedule, appetite, sexual urge, or energy levels are also things to keep an eye on.
Excessive use of substances, food or sex: If you find yourself turning to some kind of substance – or even food – in an attempt to alter your mood, it may be an indication that your coping skills need some work. Being unable to stop this behaviour even when there are negative consequences in your life could even result in an addiction down the line. It’s important to address such an issue before that happens.
When you undergo a major change: Any kind of change – big or small – can cause significant distress. It can be grief over the death of a loved one, or stress from moving to a new city, or even the start of a new relationship, or something else. Change is always stressful as it requires us to adapt to a new reality and to relate to ourselves and the world differently. Such a change can also cause serious distress and it is perfectly okay to need help with that.
When something traumatic happens: People who go through abuse or neglect as children, a crime/accident or major or chronic illness, are more susceptible to mental health difficulties. If you feel like you have experienced trauma, it is a good idea to seek expert help so that you can learn the most effective ways to cope with your problems.
You no longer participate in previously enjoyable activities: This is usually an indicator that something has changed. Perhaps a painful experience has started impeding your social life or a hobby you used to enjoy. If so, it is a good time to seek help because this sort of change is typically the start of a downward spiral that will make reaching out harder over time.
While all these things make us feel like we are never going to feel better, the truth is that a professional can help. A therapist can help you formulate plans to deal with your situation in healthier and more effective ways. There are multiple treatment options available – including medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two, which works better in some cases. Amidst the lockdowns imposed due to the global pandemic, you also have the option of reaching out to a therapist online. It is always up to you to seek the kind of help that you feel would work best for you. It is also always possible to modify it, if you feel your needs have changed.
The key to dealing with a difficult issue is to keep an open mind, try out new and different strategies for coping, and to accept that while it may be hard, it is not impossible to tackle the problem. Should you need it, professional help is also always available and you can explore that option as well.
While there is no doubt that talking about intense and painful things is quite difficult, it is also the first step in healing. And no matter what you’re going through, it is always possible to heal and to move on, if we give ourselves a chance at it.
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